From sails to sales: An interview with Senior Account Executive and Olympian Lucy Whitty

Three women dressed in matching yellow and teal outfits hold the Australian flag in front of sailboats with the Olympic rings on the sails

Before Senior Account Executive Lucy Whitty started winning new customers alongside her Collibra team, she won a silver medal in Sailing for Australia at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

She says the lessons she learned while navigating to the highest level of her sport and representing Australia on the world stage continue to help her succeed today. Though her goal may have shifted from crossing finish lines to closing deals, her path to success has the same requirements: perseverance, resilience, and teamwork. 

We asked her to share more about what she does at Collibra and how her Olympic experience has shaped her journey. 

What is your role at Collibra?

I am a Senior Account Executive, which means I’m ultimately responsible for bringing in new business, managing our pipeline, and expanding existing accounts. To do that, I work with a team of Collibrians to help both existing customers and new prospects understand how Collibra can add value to their organizations. 

What does it take to effectively communicate Collibra’s value to an organization?

First and foremost, you have to have a great team. Sales is very much a team effort, and I’m lucky to have a great team around me. I work every day with business development, sales engineers, professional services, customer success, field security, legal, and so on. 

We use our combined expertise to understand each customer’s unique pain points, where they are in terms of data maturity, and what data governance capabilities they need to develop. Depending on the customer, we employ a variety of discovery activities, workshops, and demonstrations until we can recommend a solution that will maximize the customer’s ROI. 

Sales is very much a team effort, and I’m lucky to have a great team around me.

Depending on where the customer is in their journey, the whole sales process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more. Regardless of where the customer starts, we are always willing to work with them to make sure they get what they are looking for from their data intelligence solutions — whether that’s a productivity uplift, revenue gain, risk reduction, etc.

Have you always been in sales?

No, I started with Collibra as a Customer Success Manager. That role was customer-facing, but I was solely working with existing customers to implement Collibra and increase adoption within their organization. While I worked with account executives when customers were considering expanding their work with Collibra, selling our solutions was not my primary focus.

I eventually realized I was interested in sales, and our leadership team was very supportive. They provided me with the opportunity, training, and mentorship that helped me successfully transition to the account executive role.

What inspired the move from Customer Success Manager to Account Executive?

Lucy Whitty and another Collibrian stand at a Collibra-branded event booth

As rewarding as it was to help customers mature their data intelligence capabilities and use our products, sales really suits my life experiences. It’s a lot like a competitive team sport. You win together, or you lose together. Everyone has a role to play, and you can achieve much greater success when each person does their job well than you ever could by working alone. 

Win or lose, each opportunity is a rush. Sure, the losses can be tough, but we learn from them. And there is nothing better than celebrating a new customer coming on board with Collibra. Our value of #OneCollibra really resonates with me for that reason. 

Let’s dig into your experience with team sports. Tell us about your journey to the Olympics.

I started sailing as a child growing up in Sydney, Australia, which is one of the best places to learn to sail. I got really competitive in high school and represented Australia in the Youth Olympics. I continued earning opportunities to represent Australia on the world stage, and, eventually, I made it my goal to represent Australia in the Olympics. 

The whole London experience was a rush. We went into the final undefeated but ended up losing to Spain and taking home silver. I’m still really proud of my team to this day, and I learned a lot from the process of getting to that level. 

What are some of those lessons? Do you use any of them in your work at Collibra?

There are many lessons that translate. For example, I got plenty of practice managing my adrenaline and communicating effectively with team members in high-pressure situations. I got used to that pressure while competing at the elite level, and now I honestly enjoy the high-stakes situations in my current role because I can really challenge myself. 

Another thing I learned is that talent can only get you so far. To get to the very top level of a sport, you have to be relentless and resilient. By the time you reach the Olympic stage, everyone is enormously talented. Hard work is what gets you across the finish line. I saw that in my teammates, in myself, and in everyone I competed against.

I find myself leaning on that experience when we run into problems that seem impossible to solve. I also see it in my fellow Collibrians. Our founders Felix and Stjin are great examples. They’re incredibly collaborative and accessible, and they lead by example when it comes to helping our customers succeed. 

In today’s terms, four years is a long time to spend with one company. What keeps you at Collibra?

Lucy Whitty holds her infant daughter, who is wearing a Collibra-branded onesie

There are a few big reasons I stay. As I’ve already mentioned, I have felt immensely supported during my tenure. Not only have I felt support during career moves, I had a baby last year and felt supported through that life transition by my team and the larger Collibra organization. After taking paid parental leave, I used our return to work program for new parents to gradually phase back into my responsibilities. That made returning so much more manageable for me and my family. 

I have grown so much — personally and professionally — during my tenure at Collibra, and Collibra has grown tremendously as well. I’ve seen our APAC team double in size, and Collibra’s valuation has quadrupled. And that’s all thanks to our amazing customers. They are the biggest reason I stay. 

Every opportunity I have to watch a customer advance along their data intelligence journey is another reminder of the impact our technologies have on the world. From banks to government agencies and major retailers, I get to work with some of the world’s most influential organizations. It’s a privilege to play a part in their success.  

What makes you excited for your future with Collibra?

Again, it’s our customers. Organizations are becoming much more data-savvy. It’s not only the data stewards who recognize the need for data intelligence anymore. Leaders at every level and function realize how important trusted data is for the future of their organizations. It’s a really great time to be in the data intelligence space. 

Within Collibra, we are making some important updates and additions that will improve our customers’ time to value and ability to drive adoption, such as rolling out our new design system and integrating Husprey’s SQL data notebook platform into Collibra’s Data Intelligence Platform. 

These new features are good examples of our “Be the customer’s champion” value in action. While I can’t know exactly what the future holds, I do know we will continue to champion our customers in every decision we make. And that gives me confidence that our future is bright.

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