Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

In this episode, Tuvy Le, Manager of the Alteryx ACE Program, sat down with her mentor (and frienemy) David Norwood. David is VP of Commercial Sales at Alteryx, was named the 2019 Sales Executive of the Year, and is a funny and warm presence at Alteryx headquarters. Tuvy and David had a chat about how having difficult conversations can ultimately lift people up, and why embracing diverse perspectives on your team is a key ingredient to a rich, fun and successful culture.




Tuvy Le - @TuvyL, LinkedIn, Twitter

David Norwood - @DavidN, LinkedIn







Learn more about gender in the future of data science in @SusanCS's blogLearn more about gender in the future of data science in @SusanCS's blog



Episode Transcription

TUVY: 00:02

[music] Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Tuvy Le. My gal pal Maddie graciously passed her hosting mic to me so I could have a chat with my mentor David Norwood.

DAVID: 00:15

Thanks, Tuvy. Appreciate that. David Norwood, I am the VP of commercial sales here at Alteryx. I've been here five years, and it's been an incredible ride. So I'm glad to be on.

TUVY: 00:26

I'm glad to have you here. We talked about how having difficult conversations can ultimately lift people up and why embracing different perspectives on your team is a key ingredient to a rich, fun, and successful culture. You'll also hear some funny stories from behind the scenes because while my guest David is truly beloved at Alteryx, we actually consider ourselves frenemies. I'll get into that later. And a quick note about the audio quality, it's always a challenge when recording from home. But stick with us, it gets really good. Let's get started. [music]

TUVY: 01:05

Glad to have you here. It's funny we're not-- I'm not in sales, so we're not in the same team really, but we've been friends for quite some time now. You know friends, frenemies, kind of interchangeable I would say. So I don't really quite remember meeting you. I do remember when I first started at Alteryx about two and a half years ago, a friend of mine was there who worked at Alteryx, Tunille, if you remember her. And I remember when it was her last day of work. She was really sad. She was saying goodbye to everyone but still really composed. And then at the end of the day before she left, she walked up to my desk, and she had tears in her eyes. And I was like, "Why are you crying?" I thought everything was going well. You had happy goodbyes. And she was like, "Yeah. I did until David Norwood walked by me and gave me a hug, and I just lost it and started crying." So I don't know if you recall that, but I think that's how I first even heard your name, didn't know who you were prior to that.

DAVID: 02:16

Yeah. I really like Tunille, and that was a heartbreaking moment for me about Tunille. I think that's one of the unique things about, I think, Alteryx and having a really great culture here is you really build these strong bonds. But more importantly, you build relationships that last a long time. And I got to really get to know her. And when she left, I just told her what she meant to me and our relationship. And that's really what it's all about. And the first time I heard of this that she was moved by it, but I was actually moved as well. And it's just being really authentic with people and building those relationships. And that makes me feel good, but that is really-- nothing is more important than that.

TUVY: 03:00

I agree. I mean, I think as human beings, relationships are one of the things that we can actually communicate into words, and it can be such a deep and important thing. I don't know if I take after my dad in this, but I just love watching people's relationships, whether it's in movies where it's a love story or the love of like a son and a dad or those videos of animals that are like a puppy and a duck are best friends. Just any kind of relationship, stories like that really get me. So you obviously made a huge impact on Tunille, and she also wasn't in sales. I'm not in sales, but you have a way of naturally becoming people's sort of mentors. Maybe not official mentors, but I feel like a lot of people really look up to you at Alteryx, and you really go out of your way to ask about how people are doing. And I remember you doing that with me when I was in the Irvine office. And that really meant a lot. So how do you even do that? How do you start that? I think a lot of people think that having a mentor is maybe your boss has to be your mentor or someone in your direct sort of team. But I feel like you do that really well with everyone, people in your team and people outside of your team.

DAVID: 04:35

No. I appreciate that. I think early on in my sales career as an AE, if I had to be very candid with you, we just have a tendency to just focus on ourselves and our own career and those milestones, and those are very, very important. But as I get older, things that really are motivating to me is building those type of relationships. I have the pleasure of working with some SDRs that are kind of newer in their journey and then some AEs that have been in sales for a couple of years, and I really thrive of watching their career kind of grow. But also talking to them about life, whether it's how they're doing in their personal life or finances or just a lot of guidance and mentorship. It's important to me because when I was younger, I really didn't have that, especially as a new manager. For the first two years, my joke was that I really wasn't that good of a manager. And that's the honest truth until a dear friend of mine named Martell Bland who actually mentored me and really taught me how to be a good leader. And I'll never forget the impact that had in my life. So I am really, really a huge advocate of being a mentor to others for not only younger people in their journey or anyone in their journey but--

DAVID: 06:00

This sounds sappy, but I think about a lot of times you're not going to remember the year-to-year stuff, but when you look at 10 or 15 years later, hopefully I made a big impact in their life. And that really starts with building a great culture. But the thing that really resonates with most people is taking the time to really get to know them, the human aspect of that. And I know that that sounds silly, but that is really the difference. And we see a lot of these type of leaders at Alteryx, which is great, but when you-- I always tell my leaders when they genuinely and authentically believe that the leader cares more about you and your success versus theirs, there's nothing greater. And as well as watching these AEs or people grow throughout their career and you're mentoring them on a lot of different levels, that's just incredible, so.

TUVY: 06:59

That's great. I mean, it's awesome that you had a really impactful mentor and you yourself are now one. How do you think-- if somebody didn't have a really great mentor, if they didn't experience something like that, how do you think the best way for them to learn is? And I think people have their strengths and some people-- mentoring is not one of theirs. And so how would you, I guess, guide them to become better mentors?

DAVID: 07:36

Yeah. I'll answer it in two ways. For me, one, as an African-American in software sales, there are very few that are in the position to really mentor, and there was-- when I was growing up, there was really not many that I can look up to. Martell Bland is African-American. He was one of them. But besides that, there were very few. So if I was going to get in this position, I knew I wanted to give back and make a big difference because I didn't have that. I would also say that there's still a huge challenge that we have to do better with more people of color so the future generations have someone to look up to. I would say the same with women. We need to do a much better job of getting more women in leadership position so these young ladies have someone to look up to in sales; and different backgrounds or whatever, religions or whatever it may be. So I would say that's why that's important.

DAVID: 08:36

And the second part of that is-- I think there's a few things. Whether someone becomes a sales or marketing or whatever it may be, especially when they start a new company, they should find someone who's really, really successful and learn from them. And it could be kind of a mentor. So with these new AEs, no matter what, I always ask, "Do you have a mentor?" And you should have one. And it's important because it's going to help you learn through experience. And it's going to help you when you have those tough days to lift you up. All that stuff really helps and makes a difference. One of the things I would say is-- I always tell people is once you've come to a job and you've shown success, the last thing that you want to do is hold all that knowledge. You want to give it back. So I always challenge the boot camp and new people, "Once you have that success, make sure you give it to others because that's really what makes the culture great, and that really defines you as a leader or maybe just an individual contributor to give back to make people better." So that's something I absolutely believe in.

TUVY: 09:44

I love that. It's kind of like what we say in the community a lot is when you know a lot, when you are a top contributor and you're doing a lot because you've learned so much throughout the years, share it. Share it with the rest of the community and elevate other people because just having all that knowledge to yourself won't really help. It kind of ends there. Another thing you said earlier about having more women in leadership positions and more people of color in leadership positions, it reminds me of a panel that I was a part of not too long ago, and we were talking about women in leadership. And I feel like one question that always comes up in panels like this is how do we-- as women, it always seems like it's a challenge to go for that promotion. It's a challenge to ask for what you think you deserve. It's a challenge to put yourself out there to ask for the things that you want. And I just want to ask you for your mentees, and whether it's at Alteryx or other organizations that you worked for in the past, how do you answer that?

DAVID: 11:09

That's a long one. There's a few different ways on that. I have noticed that, yeah, sometimes I have seen some women that-- it's funny. Men and women ask for promotions differently. And a male who's maybe not completely qualified will always ask for promotion. And then you'll find sometimes a female who is probably overqualified maybe is hesitant. They're hesitant to do that. And I don't know. There's probably some reasons for that. But I do challenge the women that I know to definitely to stand up and use your voice and go for those promotions because, guess what, you're just as good, if not better than most. And you have a different perspective. That's why I'm really huge on diversity and different voices. It's so important.

DAVID: 12:03

I have two-- actually, I have four women under my leadership team and one in particular-- an example that we were looking at interviewing someone, and right afterwards we were going to go with this one particular person. But she said that he would be better in this different group. And at first, I didn't understand it because I thought he would be perfect for this particular group. But she was right. He was perfect for this other group. And if she wasn't there, I probably would have gone with this other. And it's just a perfect example of why that diversity and that other opinion makes a big difference. [music] And that's why it's important that we surround ourselves with diversity and different people of color and women. It is everything.

TUVY: 12:58

Speaking of diversity, our data science journalist Susan Currie Sivek wrote a piece for our data science blog titled Is the Future of Data Science female? We'll link to it in the show notes.

DAVID: 13:12

So I will just say that's why partly is really nice for even the mentorship to kind of coach on when people ask for promotions, what does that look like? And all of that is so important for women, people of color to not only know that they are great and they're really good and they deserve these promotions. Secondly, that they can do it. And third, that for us we need to always surround ourselves with these different points of view and different diversity.

TUVY: 13:42

So that's really awesome, David. I really appreciate, and I'm sure that everyone else that you have mentored in the past also appreciate the fact that you take time out of your busy schedule to check in with us, to ask us if we're okay. And I remember even one time when you asked me, "How's everything?" And I said, "Fine." And then you gave me almost this dad look, and you're like, "No. Really, how's everything?" And I think it just means a lot to have somebody especially who you don't necessarily have one-on-ones with every week or work with a ton to really care and take the time out of their day to ask how things are going and to really genuinely want to know. And I was talking to-- I think it was Maddie or-- I forget who I was sitting next to at GKO, but it was that night where sales was giving out awards and talking about [crosstalk].

TUVY: 14:42

In January, Alteryx had a global kick-off where we brought together the entire company. And our president and CRO Scott Jones took the stage to announce sales executive of the year.

TUVY: 14:55

He was saying really nice positive things too. He was saying how this individual takes their time and mentors people and is such a great example and just really awesome things about this person. And I was sitting there, went back, and I thought, "Hmm, who is he talking about?" And then I was like, "Oh my gosh, he's talking about David Norwood." And whoever I was sitting next to at the time, I remember nudging them and saying, "This award is going to David." And they were like, "Yeah. Okay. Whatever [laughter]." And I even texted you. So I grabbed my phone, and I texted you. And I said, "It's you, isn't it?" And two seconds later, Scott Jones said, "It's David Norwood." And you came on stage, and it was just such a nice moment and--

TUVY: 15:41

Oh. And by the way, he also got a standing ovation.

TUVY: 15:45

Honestly, I know everyone says this whenever someone gets an award or a promotion, and everyone says, "Well-deserved." But honestly, I really felt like that was 1,000% so well-deserved and just so awesome to see that you got that recognition because a lot of times I don't think that people do. It's just like the silent work that goes-- not unnoticed but unrecognized. And so I thought it was amazing that you got that award.

DAVID: 16:19

But gosh, to me, that's very nice of you to say. Yeah. That definitely meant a lot. What you didn't see is when Scott said that, I was in tears because it was very overwhelming. I was focusing on Anu probably getting Leader of the Year, which she definitely deserves. So that was really my focus. So I was honestly surprised. But I will tell you-- this might sound cliche, but that is many people investing in my career here at Alteryx, from Scott Jones to Jake to Stew to Dean to Libby to many of my pears that help create who we are today and HR and just sales ops, and there are so many people and SEs that kind of help us define who we are. So I have to thank everyone that really contributed to that. But it was very overwhelming and very humbling, and that was definitely the highlight of my career.

TUVY: 17:24

Yeah. I mean, it felt like a very emotional and amazing moment. And I'm saying all these nice things about you, but like I mentioned at the beginning, we're more like frenemies [laughter]. And this is very unnatural [laughter].

DAVID: 17:44

Yes. Okay. Yes. If people knew how we normally talk to each other, it would be a completely different thing [laughter].

TUVY: 17:50

I don't know if anyone who listens that episode if they saw but--

DAVID: 17:54

No [laughter].

TUVY: 17:55

No. But seriously, I think it's nice to have this conversation. It's nice that we can also be really candid and joke at work and-- I feel like that's how even our mentoring relationship really became what it did because we had this very joking, funny relationship at work where I immediately felt very comfortable around you, probably because you picked on me so much. And I love that, and I feel like the people that I'm closest to at work are people that I can joke around with and feel really safe with. But this is also something that is such a weird line to walk because, on the one hand, you have this really safe space where you can be yourself and joke around and feel comfortable with someone. And then at the same time, I think-- especially recently with everything that's been going on, I've been doing a lot of self-reflecting into how do I perceive things, how do I communicate with others, and are things that I'm saying inappropriate? Or even if I'm joking, is that really okay? And I don't know. This is something that I've been thinking about for the past, God, like month or so. And I still don't really have an answer to it. So I want to ask you if you've ever thought about that, and how do we make-- how do we create that perfect space of being really comfortable but then also very appropriate at the same time? Because how I joke with you or with Maddie might be different to how I would speak to somebody else.

DAVID: 19:52

Yeah. No. It's a good question. I'm glad you asked it because what's been going on in the last two, three months have been unprecedented. If you look at, obviously, COVID-19 and the effects of that where it's just literally taken our lives and turned it upside down and everyone working from home and not-- and I'm a hugger. I love to hug people, and I have to change that and-- it's just been very difficult, obviously, for everyone being isolated and frustrated, and a lot of things not happening the way we want them to because of COVID-19. Then you have this other element of what happened to that poor man, and you see the frustration come out with a lot of civil disobedience, a lot of marching, which is really, really nice.

DAVID: 20:55

From a personal front, if there is one thing, I think, that I would like to take away is awareness. And I think we have to really kind of get to know each other because when you look at-- when you look at Black Lives Matter, when you look at a lot of these-- a lot of people around the US that had no clue that people are getting pulled over multiple times; you have to change your behavior in front of people if you go to the ATM or job-related stuff. That's real. And I think people can look at it on TV, and it's kind of far away or it's a movie; it's fictional. But this is real to really a lot of people, and it's affecting their lives. And I think the bubble from COVID-19 and people just frustrated with all this has really bubbled up. And so if awareness can happen where people can see this is really, really happening and we need to change fundamentally a lot of things, that will be the good from all this, and that's what I would really hope. I would also say it's important for me, a person of colors, to have more diversity in our top leadership, more diversity with different voices. And I think I talked about it earlier, but it's so pivotal.

DAVID: 22:27

But also, let me give you just a different example. Years ago, I worked for an Israeli company, and I had the opportunity to go to Israel with my wife. And when I was there, I got to meet with-- well, one of the coworkers is a dear friend. We were just talking and having a drink, and somehow it got on around the Holocaust. And this particular person talked to me through his grandfather's eyes about what the Holocaust meant to that family. He was in tears, and I was in tears. And I can see any movie in the world. I can read about this in history books. But when you hear someone talk about that, it was so impactful. It moved me for days. And these are conversations that I have with people who are from, let's just say, Mexico City, Venezuela, Puerto Rico who have relatives here in the US, some migration stuff. You hear about some of those stories that I have-- [dear?] friends. I also talk about-- obviously, I talk to my dad about what's going on, and he was telling me as a VP of marketing that the challenges that he had even-- he's driving to his work and having cops follow him for two or three weeks. And he finally had to stop them or some of the challenges that he had to have. And then hearing from relatives and my own stories, it is real out there. [music]

DAVID: 23:59

But when we really get an understanding of other people's backgrounds, that's where we begin to understand and begin to change. And the last thing I will say is my uncle Bill Norwood was a Tuskegee airman, and he was also the first African-American pilot-- captain, excuse me, for United Airlines. And--

TUVY: 24:26

Oh my God, that's amazing.

DAVID: 24:28

--he talked to me about the struggle it took to get to that point. And that's a really, really good thing. And then how he got there and how he overcame it and everything, which was really, really nice to-- so I have a lot of these different people in my life that I can pull from. But the last thing I want to say is a lot of times-- I want to make it really clear that sometimes-- I have an uncle who's a policeman. And not all policemen are bad. There are really some bad eggs, and we need to fix that. And sometimes people get painted with a different brush of how they are, and there's a lot of good people out there. And when I see an example where-- when there was some looting going on, there was one white cop that was pulled in the corner, and African-Americans - I don't know if you heard about this - but put a line together so people wouldn't hurt him.

TUVY: 25:24

I did see that. Yeah. He was like lost from his squad or something.

DAVID: 25:30

Correct. So when you hear those stories, you know-- it's everyone wants to really change, and everyone wants to support each other. So those are the stories I love to hear, so. Anyway. Sorry. Long answer.

TUVY: 25:44

No. Well, I love hearing about all those stories, and it really is amazing about that being your uncle. And I agree that awareness is probably the largest step. I do feel that there has to be action after that awareness, and it's-- I'm glad the conversation is still happening, and I hope that it continues. And I think we've both proven that it's not just something that was a quick story and that people were excited about for two days and done. And yeah. It's very, very heartbreaking but also so necessary to continue to talk about.

DAVID: 26:30

Yeah. You're right. It is heartbreaking and watching somebody's images early on where it just breaks your heart. But the optimist in me is-- the good from this is the awareness, and that will change a lot. The protesting, the civil disobedience, what Martin Luther King has done will change things. It will change. Will change it in the light speed that we want to in one week? No. But awareness is a very powerful thing where people begin to think differently and implement different changes that are thoughtful and measured. That will make a difference. Changing a heart sometimes takes a little bit, but because of the awareness out there that people like "Oh, I never really thought about that," that will change things. And I see how people have reached out to me, others where that's where you really begin to see the change. So I'm very optimistic because we live in the best place in the world, and we have a lot of opportunity. But we have to just make sure that-- the last thing I want to say is-- I call it blind love. Think about if we were all blind and if I met you Tuvy, or if I met Joe or Bill or whatever it may be, I have no idea what they look like. Nothing. It doesn't really matter. But I have to learn to get to know who they are. And that's really where we have to have that blind lobe.

TUVY: 28:05

I agree. That's true. And I am also an optimist. So you're right. I mean, I think it's lately I've been a little down and maybe not as optimistic, but you're right. It's probably the best time to be optimistic, so.

DAVID: 28:26

Yeah. We have to. All the way we have to be very optimistic because just we're blessed in so many ways that there are people that are still struggling in a lot of different ways with COVID, whatever. But people do have a lot, and they have a tendency to focus on the negative but must focus on all the right things that we have and with that how we change. [music]

TUVY: 28:53

Thanks for listening. And if you've experienced a career hardship due to COVID-19, check out our ADAPT program. It's free and you'll learn analytics skills with Alteryx. We'll include the links to ADAPT and other resources from today's chat on our show notes at Catch you next time. [music]

TUVY: 29:21

So you know I used to work in the Irvine office, and now I'm in the Broomfield office. But one funny story [laughter]-- one funny story that I wanted to share with everyone, and this is-- David is an amazing person, and I remember just-- I really enjoyed-- lunchtime at the Irvine office was always really fun. We'd always eat as a team sitting there. And I remember one day I went to-- I think it was like catered lunch or something, and I had my plate of food. I had a bag of chips, and I got up to go get a napkin or something. And when I came back to my seat, my bag of chips was just completely crushed. And I looked around the room, and I was like, "What happened here?" And there you were sitting at the other table just mad-dogging me as you do. So yeah. I really miss that. I miss being in the office around you. So everyone in Irvine-- I mean, I know right now we're not in the office, but I think everyone is really lucky to be in that office with you because there's no one like you. And there's no one in Broomfield that has picked on me as much as you have, so.

DAVID: 30:41

Well, Tuvi, the nice thing is no one here misses you, so it's a good [laughter] thing to have that-- no. We all miss you. I miss you. I do miss crushing your chips. But continue to do what you do and thank you for this and thank you for-- some of these topics are a taboo to most people, but we have to have an honest conversation. So thank you for taking the time to do this, and you're doing amazing job, you and Maddie also. Thank you for everything and thank you.

TUVY: 31:08

Of course. And thanks for being my mentor. I didn't ask for it but here you are. So I really appreciate it [laughter].



This episode of Alter Everything was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ).
Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track for this episode.