WOMEN IN TECH: Q&A WITH LUCY LENTINI, VICE PRESIDENT, SALES & MARKETING AT MONTREAL-BASED TOTEM ACOUSTIC

By WiFi HiFi

The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Lucy Lentini, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Totem Acoustic

Name: Lucy Lentini

Job Title: Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Totem Acoustic

Years in the Industry: 21

The Quote That Most Inspires You:

“I think women rule the world, and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.” – Bob Dylan

What drew you to a career in consumer electronics?

I can’t say that I was originally drawn to the industry. It was by serendipity that I found my calling.

I’m a music lover, and music has always been an integral part of my life. Wherever I am, whether at home, in the car, or on the go, music accompanies me, and it has always been that way. As much as I appreciate it in every form it’s delivered, a concert experience created a profound, emotional bond with the artist that other mediums simply couldn’t; a feeling they were sharing something intimate with me, and in its purest form.

Despite music being my passion, the education I pursued was in graphic design, and my prior work experience focused primarily on business management.

I started at Totem with a short-term contract to provide professional guidance on managing and growing the brand. Then I sat in a listening room to hear the speakers. Several hours later, I knew that I wanted to be a more integral part. I had never come close to the passionate connection of experiencing music exactly as the artist intended outside of a concert until that moment. It was a revelation that led to my career in consumer electronics.

Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?

Every woman in every business has encountered roadblocks because of her gender. It’s up to you on how you let them effect you. These roadblocks can be giant obstacles if you allow them, but with the proper attitude and approach, every one is surmountable.

I do not mean to diminish the effects these roadblocks can have. They can be absolutely demoralizing and thoroughly emotionally crushing. But you can never show the effect it has on you. You must analyze the offence and determine the best counterstrike to not only overcome the obstacle, but to change the mind and opinion of the offender.

These roadblocks are essentially valuable opportunities presented to lead you to greater success. Like Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?

Men and women have evolved to have distinct characteristics that provide different perspectives. When this is acknowledged within an organization, it can be worked to great advantage.

It’s been acknowledged that a woman’s brain is wired to perform better at tasks involving the bigger picture and situational thinking. For sales and marketing, I operate at an international level, and considering all the shifting elements means I have to take a global scope. Products or promotions that work in North America do not necessarily work worldwide, and vice versa, so I must evaluate every angle to properly determine the right execution for the right market. I feel I bring our organization the perspective it requires from this position.

Women are also recognized as superior multi-taskers, and possessing this trait allows me to wear many hats at our head office in Montreal. My title is Vice President of Sales and Marketing, a title that comes with a lot of responsibility and obligations throughout a regular working day. But I’m also the visionary of Totem, which requires me to guide product development, motivate my staff, and oversee the multitude of day-to-day manoeuvres. The men of Totem do not envy my position.

Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?

The industry needs to show that the opportunity is there, at every level, and it is moving in that direction. Perhaps not at the speed it deserves, but as you say, it has been historically a male-dominated industry. The women featured in this series are all high-profile professionals in high-level positions, showing that the winds of change are blowing. I hope we can inspire the next generation as we change the opinion of the current generation.

Now that women are the primary buyers of technology, we are being recognized for our importance in the market at many levels. Women are more prevalent in advertising, make up a larger part of the work force, and retail environments in our industry are more female-friendly. The industry needs to continue this trend, because greater than our current status is our growth potential. To fully maximize this potential, which translates directly to increased sales, the market needs female insight and perspective. Companies that recognize this will grow and flourish. Those that do not simply won’t.

If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?

It’s a daily challenge that requires the discipline to consistently improve my professional, personal, and emotional skill set.

Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you? If so, why? If not, why do you feel that is?

Women make up half the population, but are in the minority when it comes to occupying positions of authority; and even more of a minority in the tech industry. For these reasons alone, I am inspired by every woman at every level of the tech industry, because the challenges we all face are the same, and no less difficult whether you’re in a junior or senior position.

I’m sure I’m inspired by everyone participating in this series, so I’ll mention a few outside our immediate industry and less likely to be included here. 

Ruth Porat, Senior Vice President and CFO of Google, inspires me. I like that she focuses on creative investment and product development within the company to grow profit margin rather than cost cutting. Under her guidance, Google went from everyone’s favourite search engine to having cutting-edge, category-leading products in our industry. You must respect anyone with the nickname “Ruth Vader,” which supposedly she loves.

Ginni Rometty, President and CEO of IBM, has been facing adversity and criticism as IBM revenues have shrunk. I really admire how she is directing the company away from its deteriorating original business categories to new revenue streams like cloud, mobile, and security. It’s very gutsy, big picture, long-term thinking, and it’s inspirational.

What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?

I’d like to dispel every misconception and myth about women working in the technology space. No one specific misconception is worth highlighting – it would only lend credence to perpetuate it. There’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t, and every woman participating in this series is beautiful, living proof.

What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?

Marketing is close to my heart, not only because it’s one of my specialties, but also because I’m a firm believer in its unrivalled ability to deliver results. I wish the industry did a better job of marketing because it would be mutually beneficial to all.

Experiential marketing is the premise of creating a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by engaging them in a fun and memorable experience. It’s very effective with Millennials, and is a powerful, effective marketing approach with all demographics. The industry should embrace it.

If a brand-sponsored event stirs genuine positive emotions within people, then they are more likely to associate those emotions with that brand. That translates to sales.

For retail environments, obviously Apple stores are a notable example of engaging the client, allowing them to interact with the product. An inventive campaign was launched by Sunwing Travel Group, which opened a pop-up concept store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre promoting for travellers to experience a potential vacation. They partnered with the Jamaica Tourist Board to create an immersive Caribbean experience with a Jamaican-inspired departure lounge, complete with authentic jerk cuisine, and screens showing the enticing sights seemingly just outside beach in the distance.

“Brand” isn’t specific to a product. Branding extends to everything from a product to a boutique to an individual. Watch an interview with a celebrity or an athlete and you’re bound to hear them say “building their brand” in reference to marketing themselves in a variety of methods.

Salespeople, consultants, and custom installers should take a similar approach, uniquely tailoring a marketing approach for themselves. Individuals can make their presentations more engaging, both in the personal interaction with clients and how the product is presented. Practice it to perfection, the way a premier athlete or actor does. The experience of dealing with a professional who is the master of his domain is powerful and influential in the sales process. Individuals should market themselves as strongly as brands.

Too many brands, people, and chains have become lackadaisical in their marketing efforts, and they’re going the way of the dinosaur. It weakens the industry, and I wish we could make a greater effort to improve our marketing, which will strengthen it.

Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?

I’m very optimistic about both. The products being developed today, like voice-controlled home assistants and smart devices, are so innovative and revolutionary, they border on science fiction. I cannot envision the future and the next generation of products, but I’m certain the technology will make our lives more enjoyable and will be easier to master.

The CI market is burgeoning, and for those who have embraced and invested in it, it is creating new opportunities and business avenues that are offsetting the sales drop in older, fading categories. The industry will go through dramatic changes, but they will be exciting changes.

The future will be challenging but rewarding for those up to the challenge.