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Outperformance: Curating Influence to Fuel Personal and Professional Growth

Today's market is more competitive than ever. Across people, processes, and technology, companies must leverage AI to drive strategic innovation and drive future growth and development. In this keynote, a powerful group of women is set to delve into how people, teams, and companies are carving out sustainable paths for personal and professional growth, demonstrating how strategic influence can become a powerful catalyst for change.

Full Transcript

Please note that this transcript was generated by AI and may contain errors. We apologize for any inaccuracies.

Suzanne Grimes: Now, I'm super excited to welcome to the stage a powerful group of PROS customers who will share their experiences with us on how they have curated influence to, excuse me, to fuel both their personal and professional growth. Ladies, come on up.


Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Welcome ladies, and thank you for joining us today. We're super excited to get to hear from you. So we are going to start with introductions and hear a little about each person's role in their companies. So Christie, would you like to get us started? ...

Christie Pruett: Yeah. Sure. Thank you, my name is Christie Pruett. I am the CIO at SP Richards Company, which means I'm responsible for all things IT and security. SP Richards Company is a business wholesale and distribution company. We have 28 distribution centers nationwide, and we've been around for 176 years.

Suzanne Grimes: Wow. [laughter] Thank you. Hessa.

Hessa Alnajjar: Good morning everybody. My name is Hessa Alnajjar. I'm a senior manager of revenue optimization at Emirates Airline. I've been with Emirates for the past 13 years, specifically in revenue management. I've held several roles including pricing, demand, inventory. I actually started my journey at Emirates with PROS. We adopted PROS 12 years ago during the time that I joined. So it's been quite close to me working with PROS very closely.

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Thank you. And thank you both for being here once again. So I can't wait for you all to share your experiences with our audience, and I'm sure they're excited about it too. So, with that, let's hear a little bit maybe about a moment or an experience that helped shaped you into the leaders you are today. So, Hessa, would you like to maybe get us started on this one?

Hessa Alnajjar: Sure. Personally, I think that challenging moments and these hard times that we face really help us achieve the type of leaders that we want to be today because it pushes us to tap into that potential that we usually don't tap into when we're comfortable. If I take you back to 2020 when we were going through the pandemic and everyone was struggling, not just to go through the day-to-day things, but also to maintain businesses to survive. So we all had to wear our creative hats and do things we've never done before, think of creative ways to manage our days in a way that has never been done before. So I think that when you go through a challenge, it helps you discover another side of yourself. And I think there are important takeaways over here for you when you're going through a challenge is that you need to be adaptable because you can never try to predict what moment will come to you or what situation you'll be in.

Hessa Alnajjar: So you need to be that type of person that could adapt to any situation so you could not just survive, but also succeed through your journey. In addition, I think that the most important thing in any challenge that will help you be the leader that you wanna be is communication and collaboration. In today's world, you can do things on your own because you are a big part of, not just a team, but a network and ecosystem. So you need to communicate with people, you need to collaborate because you're gonna learn from others more than just by doing things on your own. And another important takeaway that we learned and helped us be the leaders that we are today, not just me, as I would say innovation. And this is the theme of today's conference, GenAI.

Hessa Alnajjar: So in a world that's moving fast with technology, it's important to be innovative. And if we look back to COVID times where people could not meet, airlines could not travel, how could you survive if you were not innovative? So we looked at TEAMS, for example, instead of flying or meeting people, we had to meet people online. Until today, that's been a great resolution for many companies. And if I take a look at the times that we could not carry passengers during COVID, we had to be creative and innovative in a way that, okay, what can we do now? So we relied heavily on cargo, and we filled all our flights with cargo and, our sky cargo teams here, but they were the superstars during COVID. So that was part of us being innovative throughout that challenging time.

Suzanne Grimes: I have to say. Go air cargo.


Suzanne Grimes: Awesome.

Christie Pruett: Yeah, and I would say to elaborate off that a little, I absolutely agree. I think that accepting risk and pushing yourself outside of that comfort zone is really what helps you grow and what helps you to learn. It's not about failure. It's about learning new experiences, about learning how to interact with others, learning about yourself. And those are the opportunities that really help you, inform you to be the person you are, to build that confidence within you. I agree during COVID, we also had a special challenge as an office products company. No one was coming to the office. So we both experienced that. So we had to come up with what was, how do we address that challenge? And for us, it was in the sanitation and janitorial. Everybody wanted Clorox, everybody wanted gloves. Everybody was looking for wipes. And we had recently purchased a company and that's what they had. So for us, it really helped us. We shifted from your typical pen and paper and office products to things to clean their environments and started focusing on that. And so we've come out of COVID and that's a part of our business now. It's part of our product Wix.

Suzanne Grimes: That's awesome.

Christie Pruett: So it was good.

Suzanne Grimes: Very cool. Very cool. Okay, so stepping outside of our comfort zone is never easy. Never. Never, never. But Kristy has a wonderful story, very impactful story around an experience to tell us about where she had to do just that. And by doing so, it truly influenced change. So, Kristy.

Christie Pruett: Yeah. So it was July 19th of 2019, and I just got home from work. And what do we all do when we get home from work on a Friday night? Well, we look at our email on our phone. It's the first thing we do. And I see an email that says, building is on fire. We're running out of here. And I'm like, no, that can't be possible. And so I call a colleague and they're like, oh, no, yeah, building's on fire. And it's not looking good. So I said, okay. So I called my team, again Friday night, everyone's hanging out with their family, and I said, I need you all to get on a phone call real quick. And they got on the phone and I said, look, the headquarters, our distribution center and our production data center, what that means is all of the company's servers that ran the company are all on fire, and it's not looking good.

Christie Pruett: So I need you to stand by and I'll call you back if we have to go and meet at our local disaster recovery location, which was about an hour away. And I vividly remember. So we should not have that second glass of wine. I said, not yet, [laughter], not yet. And sure enough, it turned out to be the largest fire in that town's history. And the entire corporate headquarters, my production data center and a distribution center all burned to the ground. So I got everybody together, we rallied together to our disaster recovery location, which was about an hour away. And I told them, when I called 'em, I said, I don't know what you need to tell your spouses 'cause I'm not sure how long this is gonna take. And we got there and fortunately, DR had always been important for us, and we did annual DR test.

Christie Pruett: I highly recommend those. If you don't do them [laughter], you just never know. So we had a playbook, so we knew where to start. So we all got in, we had to figure out what the priorities were. Again, we had a playbook, so we had an idea. And the priority was how do we get the company running? How do we get the revenue coming in? So we focused on that. We came together, we were locked in a very icy cold data center. And we were there. And by Sunday at four o'clock through teamwork, collaboration, working together, we were able to get the company back up and running and accepting orders by four o'clock on Sunday afternoon. And that was just amazing. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. We still had a few weeks to go. And we also had the realization of, oh no, we don't have a disaster recovery anymore.

Christie Pruett: 'Cause now that's production. So what do we do? So we had to build a data center. Fortunately we built that data center and went live in February, right? A month before COVID hit and shut the world down. So, it was really good. We had everybody stepped up. Everybody was individual leaders, team leaders, collaboration. It really just, you left that thinking, wow. And you didn't get caught up in the moment. You just focused on the end goal. And the end goal was how do we get the company back up and running? And then a week later we were just sitting around talking about what we still needed to do and we all, it kind of hit us all. Like we had the livelihoods of every employee in this company and our customers, but we didn't think about that. And so then it became overwhelming, but it was not an experience I recommend, but it was a very powerful and learning experience and a lot of lessons learned, At one point we would send old equipment to the DR location. So we don't do that anymore, [laughter] We need to have newer equipment over there. So lots of lessons that you learned as well, but definitely one of the most timed I'm proud of is being able to, to help lead us out of that.

Suzanne Grimes: Well, kudos Kristy to you and the team, and I bet they earned, quite a few glasses of wine. [laughter]

Christie Pruett: Oh, lots of wine afterwards. Yes.

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome.

Christie Pruett: Absolutely.

Suzanne Grimes: So thank you for sharing that. So in many roles, we must work hard to influence change, whether that's at an executive level or within our teams that we manage. So how have you all approached driving change at each level? Hessa? So would you like to start us off on this one?

Hessa Alnajjar: I think to begin with, it's really important for you to segment your target audience and know your key influential stakeholders, because when you're looking towards influencing a change or driving a decision, you're not going to send the same message to your top management in a similar way to your team. You know, your team would need a different kind of message that will be detailed, that will be giving them more clarity on what needs to be done. But you can't send the same detailed message to your top management because that's not what they're looking for. You know, they don't have time to go through essays of, directions and how to do things. You know, you have to be really concise and straight to the point and you summarize things to them. So you need to create different kind of messages depending on who your audience is.

Hessa Alnajjar: And especially for big companies, when you have a lot of influential people, you need to understand who's your key influential stakeholder when you're driving a decision, because you could be talking to someone and that someone won't really be a person who will influence a change in whatever you're trying to achieve. So you need to be focused and you need to target your audience in a way that you can create effective messages to them. And I would also, you know, recommend choosing the right time to do that. When you're sending a message or trying to influence someone. Don't do it at the wrong time. You know, don't do it when they're having lunch or something. That's not a time you're gonna get their focus. And also where you do it is really important. Try to have a place where you can have some private talks, one-on-one, so you can establish your message in the right way and get them to listen to you not have them getting distracted with other things, because no one's gonna listen to you if you know they're distracted and they have other things going on.

Hessa Alnajjar: And it's really important that you also understand the topic that you're discussing with them. Because if someone asks you a question, you should be ready to answer it. You shouldn't stumble, because then you'll show them that you are really confident with what you're saying and you're ready to go ahead with this decision. So that will also boost their confidence in giving you what you need.

Christie Pruett: Yeah, well said. I think it's also important to give clear and clear goals and indicators and measurements for success factors. And once you have that, once you establish those clear success factors, then you, as you said, you tailor that communication to the audience, right? There's certain levels that you're gonna explain to each person that will help you. Once you're doing that and you're communicating with them, then it's about listening, right? You wanna not only communicate and communicate your message appropriately, but you also wanna listen. And I think as you're listening and that communication, you're establishing that rapport and you're building that confidence and a relationship between the two of you that helps you to then establish the steps forward.

Suzanne Grimes: The most important thing about communication is listening, [laughter]

Christie Pruett: Yes.

Suzanne Grimes: So, yes. Awesome. So, as many of you know, it is no small feat to adopt a digital pricing, revenue management, or even a sales platform, especially across global teams. I'm certain our audience Would find it very helpful to hear insights into your change management process. Where did you start? What challenges did you have to overcome? And do you have any tips that you would like to share? And Hessa, I know this one's near and dear to your heart leading a global team. So if you start us off.

Hessa Alnajjar: Well, it's really important in the beginning to understand why do people resist change? And one of the reasons is that change usually leads to unknown results. And as someone mentioned in yesterday's session, people are afraid of the unknown. So how to overcome it, eliminate the unknown, be very clear, communicate with people, and be transparent on why are you going ahead with this change? Whether it was a challenge, a threat, or an opportunity. When people understand the real reason why you're going ahead with a change, they're going to be less scared. And then you will see that the resistance will also drop. And when you bring them on board, people will be, will feel that they're relevant, that it wasn't just a top down decision. And they're also included in the change process. So they'll be on board faster than you thought.

Hessa Alnajjar: And I think one of the best ways when you are tackling a change globally is create a common goal for everyone to move towards that goal. Because you will see that everyone is just changing their processes. They're changing, their workflows to work together to achieve that goal. And you don't have to tell them what needs to be done, they're just gonna do it on their own way. They're going to amend everything and work together closely to achieve the goal that you set for them. And I think throughout the change that you're leading, it's really important to be positive and optimistic because your energy is contagious and it radiates.

Hessa Alnajjar: So if you're going ahead positive with that change, people will feed from your energy and they'll also be positive and optimistic towards it. And also be mindful that when you're tackling any change, it's important to be organized. You know, you have to set timelines, milestones, proper processes, because when you're going, even if it's like a small change, when you're going through a change, whatever sort it is, you could get, things could get messy. So if you don't have clear processes, you might not achieve the goal that you desire. And throughout the change, some changes happen in a short time, some changes happen after a while. Longer time, like years, be flexible during change. You know, you might start off with an idea or a point, but you'll get feedback, you'll get best practices, you'll get more opinions. So be open and be flexible to changing your plan along the way as long as you achieve, your goal and what you want to change.

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome.

Christie Pruett: Yeah, I think those are, I think the other big thing with change management, those are great, is patience. I still have to learn that piece, but, because of what you said, everyone, they're uncomfortable with the unknown. They're not sure what to do, and they're very maybe timid by that. So if you're patient with them, you listening, you're understanding their fear, and you've got that good rapport and that communication, you're more likely to win them over to help them understand and more willing to adapt and learn. So definitely those are some great qualities and I think if you add patience to that, it'll help.

Suzanne Grimes: Absolutely. Yeah. Patience is a virtue, [laughter]

Christie Pruett: We all work on it, [laughter]

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Okay, so the tagline for our conference, as you all know this year, is Welcome to Generation AI and well, everyone everywhere is talking about AI. So I wonder if any of us, any of you can actually remember the first time you used AI and well, did you even realize it was AI? So that's where we're going next. Kristy, what about you? [laughter]

Christie Pruett: Well, AI's really been around for a while. I think we just finally now have a name for it. I think the early days of AI, I remember looking back as Microsoft products, when Word tries to be smarter than you [laughter] and you're trying to write that document and it says, oh no, you should indented it this way, or you should have something here or there, and you don't want that, but it's auto-correcting you. And there's many forms of AI. So we've been using AI throughout the years. We've used it to read clear text and insert data into applications. We've used it in customer service for the interactive voice response systems. We use it in Excel. So AI has really been around for quite a while. It's now evolved to this GenAI that has really brought the attention to it in the forefront, and now people understand it and they wanna know, what can AI do for me to improve my capacity, to help me be able to take care of the things that are maybe redundant or the things that will free me up and allow me to work on the more important things, the strategy, how to improve revenue, how to focus on the more important aspects of the business.

Hessa Alnajjar: Awesome. Yeah, and you know, as Kristy mentioned, AI has always been there, whether we knew it or we don't. I mean, a lot of us just go into Google and when we're trying to type something, what is, we get a list of recommendations, right? That's AI, but we never realize it's AI. And when we're traveling, what do we do? We open Google Translate, that's another AI. And if you think about it, Google Translate actually launched in 2006, so that's already 18 years of AI, not to count the previous AI. So it's not something new, it's just that we, it just got labeled and it became cool and fancy, as you guys mentioned, but it's always been there in our lives assisting us with the basic daily transactions. I mean, everyone here uses Siri, right? You will just say, Hey, Siri, call Suzanne. And it Siri will do the job for you.

Suzanne Grimes: You hope. [laughter]

Hessa Alnajjar: Yeah. So I think it's been around us. It, it really didn't change much of our lifestyles. It just helped us and assisted us in ways we don't think about because it just became part of our day.

Suzanne Grimes: Yeah. Awesome. So continuing on the AI topic, I'm hopeful that outperform has sparked some ideas or will spark some ideas for you all in terms of how AI could help you. So turning to our panel, what opportunities do you think AI will help you and your teams further grow and develop? Kristy, would you like to start us on this one?

Christie Pruett: Yeah. So for us, I've recently, we're starting an AI committee. AI is one of the things with AI is it's really focused and targeted towards the business. For me, in the, IT, there's many different ways I can see it, but I'm not the expert on how it's gonna really help the business. So we're starting a committee where I've got a representative from each of the businesses, and meeting one is actually in a couple of weeks, but meeting one is just what is AI? Kind of what we just went through. What does it mean to you? How do you see, how do you understand AI working in your business? And my goal of this committee is for each of the areas to identify where AI can improve in their settings, where can it help in their efficiencies, where can it provide more capacity?

Christie Pruett: And the goal is as we're partnering with the business and the IT we're really able to come in and implement these processes and really help the business to be more productive, help the employees to feel more productive and to give them that capacity that they're looking forward to. Because let's face it, we don't all have large, robust teams. So any kind of assistance that we can get to help us through some of those things is definitely warranted. So I'm real excited to look forward. Everybody has a different viewpoint of AI, so just hearing how everybody sees it, what they think about it, and then learning it, be it with each other and educating each other. So that's how we're gonna go about it.

Hessa Alnajjar: Awesome. Yeah, and it's great that you touched upon productivity because I think today AI is going to work with us, not against us to achieve productivity and efficiencies. And we've heard in all of these sessions earlier, that AI is not here to replace us as human beings is here to help us. And it... Today, many of our tasks are either time consuming or redundant. So if we have AI to take away that and free two hours in a day, we'll have more time to look at strategies, problem solving, looking for opportunities that will help us all achieve the revenues that we want, the goals that we want. And even if we didn't do that, it'll give us time to develop ourselves as leaders, because realistically, how many of you over here have enough time to just sit and say, I'm gonna take this course and develop myself? We don't really do that because we're always busy. We're always doing one task or the other, and it's always coming. And for companies that are expanding at a really fast pace, but people are still not we're not hiring as many people to accommodate these expansions. People are, could be taking additional responsibilities. So if you have AI to assist you with that, it'll be easier for people to take on additional responsibilities. So I believe that AI is going to help us, and it's not going to be working against us.

Hessa Alnajjar: Yeah. Absolutely.

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Awesome. So thank you both. So PROS actually started, our own team as well within the organization. It's led by Tom, so that's great. It's really cool.

Christie Pruett: I think it's very important to get others involved within the business.

Suzanne Grimes: Yeah.

Christie Pruett: 'Cause there's more opportunities than one or two people can come up with.

Suzanne Grimes: Absolutely. Absolutely. And to talk about the team, I have a wonderful team member, Marcus, and he is educating us all on AI and how we can be using it. So look to your team because they have great ideas too.

Christie Pruett: Yes.

Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Awesome. Okay. So as we end, as we get close to the end of our discussion, can each of you maybe share a tip or something that might help our audience drive influence, that could grow, help them grow in their careers?

Christie Pruett: Okay, sure. That sounds good. For me, it's trust yourself and take the opportunity and opportunity can sometimes be risk, but with risk comes growth. It's not about failure, it's about expanding your knowledge. It's about learning different lessons, seeing what's out there, and you never know which opportunity is gonna be that opportunity that propels you to the next level. So don't be afraid or hesitant of that opportunity. And a lot of times what holds us back is that fear and that comfort zone thing again, but step out of that, take that opportunity that comes your way because again, that opportunity may be exactly what you need to help propel you to that next level.

Suzanne Grimes: You never fail, you always succeed.

Christie Pruett: You never fail. You're just always learning and learning and growing and enhancing your skillset.

Hessa Alnajjar: Yes, that's a great tip, Kristy. [laughter], what I would suggest that know your brand, every person over here has unique skill sets and strengths that no one else has. And I would say just develop yourself Know what you're really good at, and let other people know what you're really good at. Because there's no point in you trying to compare yourself to the person sitting next to you. The person sitting next to you could be great at technicalities, you could be great in communication, and together you create a great team. So it's important for you to just work on your own strengths and develop them and let everyone know what you're really good at. Because tomorrow you're gonna be part of that team. And when you have a combination of skills that compliment one another, that what creates great synergies.

Suzanne Grimes: So success comes from a team.

Hessa Alnajjar: Yes, of course. Always.


Suzanne Grimes: Awesome. Okay. Well thank you ladies so much for sharing your experiences. I hope you all enjoyed listening to them today. So thank you very much.

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