• November 1, 2017
HCMx Radio 70: What Makes a Great Woman Leader

Guest: Sandi Lin, CEO and Co-Founder, Skilljar

Host: Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

In this episode of HCMx Radio, we interview Sandi Lin, the CEO and Co-Founder of Skilljar. It is a customer training and certification platform used by companies like Zendesk, Cisco, and Spotify to accelerate product adoption, deepen customer engagement, and increase retention. Before Skilljar, she was a senior manager at Amazon.com.

Sandi offers excellent advice on what makes a great leader regardless of your gender. She attributes some of her leadership styles to a male boss early in her career who was very supportive and encouraging.  His framework has stuck with her, and some of the components include:


  • Authentic – be true to your style.
  • Protection – shield the team from noise to keep them focused.
  • Direction – what is the North Star – the audacious goal.
  • Order – what are the priorities that will get you to the North Star.

During our discussion, Sandi shared critical factors that she sees in the workplace that continue to hold women back from advancing. They include:

  • Lack of confidence. Shari often has to convince highly qualified women that they can do the job. Only 1% of women candidates show their confidence.
  • Reluctance of women to market themselves. It’s okay for women to be ambitious, but women spend a lot of their lives downplaying their strengths and intellect because they want to be liked and accepted.
  • Difficulty in finding sponsors/mentors. It is important for all employees to have the support of both men and women in the workplace. Women need sponsors to speak up and advocate for them. There are not a lot of women leaders at the top, so it can be more difficult for women to find those sponsors.

Sandi offers great advice to new generations coming into the workplace: “Find a place you can work for people you admire – with integrity – don’t worry about the title or industry.  If your career is like mine, it may take you into many different directions, so make sure you choose wisely the people you work with and surround yourself with.”

To listen to the Sandi Lin interview, you can download or stream the podcast anytime at the HCMx Radio site.

Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

Rachel Cooke

Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke Rachel is responsible for business operations including overseeing client services, research events and project management. Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Rachel was the Chief Operating Officer Co-founder of AC Growth. Rachel has over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, and sales performance management. Prior to AC Growth, she held several senior management roles and was on the leadership team at Bersin & Associates, a pioneer analyst firm in e-learning and now industry leading HR and talent Research Company. In her Senior Director role, Rachel developed the strategy and led the commercial execution of the solution provider vertical, and grew the vertical into the company’s largest market segment. In her role as Director of Sales, Rachel developed and led a team of senior account executives focused on acquiring global strategic accounts. Rachel was solely responsible for developing key business relationships with over ninety companies including industry icons, such as: Adidas, Hewlett-Packard, Toyota, Oracle, Starbucks, Avnet, Boeing, Kaiser Permanente, Safeway Inc., Wells Fargo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Clorox and Affiliated Computer Services. Rachel began her career in the banking, media and hospitality industries. In these industries, Rachel held several key senior management and executive sales positions. Rachel received a BA in social science and interdisciplinary studies with honors from Florida Atlantic University. Rachel continued her postgraduate education by completing a series of executive management education courses from American Management Association.

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