I sat down with Holly Farrington, Senior Enterprise Account Executive, to learn about her experiences on the Enterprise Sales team at MongoDB. We talked about her experience transitioning back to work after returning from personal leave, as well as her advice to other women who want to build a successful career in sales.
Jess Katz: I’m excited to learn about your sales career at MongoDB on the Enterprise Sales team but before we get into that, can you tell me a bit about your experiences getting an MBA prior to joining the company?
Holly Farrington: Absolutely! Despite working in software sales for five years, I felt I wanted to develop further and push myself in new areas. I wanted to gain skills that would ultimately help me become a stronger business executive and leader.
Business school at the University of Cambridge let me immerse myself in a large, diverse group of talented people who I could learn from. I learned about different approaches to tackling complex problems and was exposed to different personality types, cultures, and challenges. Even though I had worked in three different countries (South Africa, Canada, and Singapore) and a variety of roles, this was still a valuable learning curve in both soft and hard skill areas where I had to develop strong quantitative skills for advanced statistical and finance courses. It all helped me to understand the challenges executives are faced with, and how to introduce and lead successful change at a large organization. This skill is incredibly important if you consider that in sales, we are working with senior leaders to help introduce modern solutions and displace legacy tech. All of the above, coupled with the exposure to many successful women within the course and faculty, worked together to give me a lot more confidence as a woman in business.
JK: Four years ago, you were the first woman on the UK Enterprise Sales team. What was that experience like for you?
HF: It likely took me a little while to develop my own style of selling MongoDB — it was a very different audience and sell compared to my previous role.
That said, my team at MongoDB was extremely supportive. I was able to take different aspects of what made other reps successful and bring them together with my own style. Today, we definitely have a diverse team.
JK: What is selling at MongoDB like and how is it different than your previous experiences?
HF: The technical sell at MongoDB is much more challenging than that of my previous roles; since MongoDB is a building block of the tech stack, as opposed to an application.
There are a myriad of directions that customer conversations can go. As an Enterprise Account Executive, you must always be ready to speak to the product across a variety of use cases.
Add open-source, the cloud, and new functionalities and you quickly realize that this is a highly complex, but interesting product to sell.
To balance this, MongoDB has a mature sales playbook and industry-leading qualification tools to help us all develop professionally. Our sales process equips everyone with the structure, framework, and analytical rigour needed to be successful consistently.
JK: What are some ways you’ve grown professionally over the years at MongoDB?
HF: I've definitely developed in many ways throughout my career at MongoDB. Three main areas come to mind:
First, my confidence and credibility in front of senior executives. I've been exposed to so many executives in both formal and informal engagements that today, I have more confidence. I can deliver my message in an impactful way and still build rapport. This is critical in developing “sales champions.”
The second is relationship building. If you feel confident, you’re more relaxed, and better able to connect with the person you’re engaging with (not to mention come across as more authentic too).
What’s been really helpful at MongoDB is the training we received around communication and qualification frameworks such as Command of the Message and MEDDPICC (sales qualification methodology). These provide a structure in which to frame the conversation. It also helps you understand your “sales champion’s” personal win, which is critical to any successful engagement.
The third is understanding different business cases and Total Cost of Ownership analysis. I’ve learned first-hand how introducing modern technology can positively impact teams and their bottom line. I love that I can help provide real value to our customers. Working with some of the largest financial services institutions in the UK has opened my eyes to the complexity of driving lasting and meaningful change.
JK: I know that last year, you took a professional break due to personal circumstances. As women especially, asking for time off can feel intimidating at first. What was it like for you to ask for the time you needed and what was the transition back to work like when you returned?
HF: Asking for time off can be one of the hardest conversations to have with your manager. I gave it a lot of thought and consulted with friends and family. I had to be single-minded about what would ultimately sustain my personal drive and life goals. Doing this allowed me to reflect on my career and my 5-10 year plan.
After returning from my leave, I was able to come back and dedicate myself to the role. Once my manager approved my time off, the overwhelming feeling was a relief!
I was also hugely grateful that I wasn't forced to choose between my family and my career which I think is a really crucial point - and a concern that everyone has at some stage of their career. In these scenarios, it can be easy for a company to say “no” — it's much harder to say “yes” and to involve multiple different teams to make it possible. I’m grateful to work at a company with a culture that makes me feel safe, and valued — both of which at the end of the day creates loyalty.
At first, transitioning back wasn’t easy. I began working on a new set of accounts and had to familiarize myself with the new product updates. It was all really fun.
It presented a fresh challenge to reapply the learnings I’ve gained over the last few years. I've also been exposed to different leadership styles working with different Regional Directors since returning, as well as new colleagues. The team’s grown so much (more than doubled!) and to be a part of the journey is fantastic.
When I came back, I immediately stepped up and got involved in the MongoDB Women's Group. Through this group, I have met a new group of people and discussed ways we can embrace and empower women throughout our company.
JK: What advice do you have for other women looking to grow their career in sales?
HF: Just go for it!
Don’t be concerned that there might be fewer women than men. There is a massive drive for diversity of thought, opinion, and style and it’s more important than ever that we can represent women in underserved areas be that sales, STEM fields or management.
JK: Can you tell me about your upcoming maternity leave — what it’s like to build a family, what’s the support like at MongoDB?
HF: To be honest, I’ve been overwhelmed — in a good way! — at the level of support I’ve received from my colleagues, the management team, and the range of benefits available to parents and families at MongoDB.
MongoDB has an enviable maternity policy that allows fathers as well as mothers to take equal maternity/paternity leave for 20 weeks, whilst still being fully supported by the company. It's incredible!
Added to that, we’ve got benefits like childcare vouchers, private healthcare, and access to Cleo (family benefits platform) where I have a dedicated family planning guide and the option to book sessions with specialists if needed.
What’s really struck me is the way the management team has supported my choices and worked with me to ensure an easy transition to family life. I have a lot of options and doors open to me for when I return following my maternity leave. I feel lucky to be reaping the benefits of a company with an employee-focused culture and loads of career opportunities given our growth trajectory!
Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!