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Interview with Tony Owens, New Pathlight Board Member

Pathlight CEO, Alexander Kvamme, sits down with former Salesforce President and our newest board member, Tony Owens.

Alexander Kvamme
Alexander Kvamme
May 3, 2022
  •  
5 min read

Pathlight recently welcomed Tony Owens as our newest board member. I sat down with Tony so we could share more about him, his background, his decision to join Pathlight’s Board of Directors, and his take on industry trends and the road ahead. Welcome to the Pathlight family, Tony! 

You’re our newest board member and an investor in several other companies. For those who don’t know you, can you share a little bit about your background and how you got here today?

I’m originally from Hawaii and now split time between the Bay Area and there, where I live with my wife of 25 years and our four kids. I was most recently  the President of Worldwide Field Operations for LivePerson, where I oversaw the company's sales, marketing, customer success, partnerships, and professional services worldwide. 

Previously, I was a President of North American Sales at Salesforce when it was undergoing massive transitions, moving from single to multi-product, from the U.S. market to the global stage, and from $2B to $20B. I also ran the industries team that oversaw all the vertical market processes for our stack. Overall, I managed over 7,200 people across sales and consulting and $10B of average order value. And prior to that I was a Group Vice President at Oracle. 

We’re so excited to have you join the board of directors at Pathlight! Can you share a little bit about why you decided to join?

In short, I joined because of three things: Pathlight’s technology, opportunity and culture.

The Technology: Fundamentally, Pathlight is changing how customer-facing teams think about empowering employees with data and manage themselves. It’s the perfect solution for digital natives entering the workforce. After all, when knowing how they’re performing at work and what to focus on is as easy as checking the weather on your phone, employees will feel empowered by, connected to, and do better at their jobs. Pathlight addresses the need for visibility for employees and empowers managers, too. I see the way it helps close the gap on management training by making managers more productive and better able to manage their teams; it helps cultivate a culture of management, which is increasingly challenging—and important—in today’s workplace.

The Market Opportunity: For me, joining any board is about the opportunity the company represents. With Pathlight, what interests me is that you can’t solve the employee productivity problem, you have to enable employee productivity to take place—and that’s what Pathlight does. Digital transformation has addressed inefficiencies in other parts of the business, but enhancing the employee experience and employee processes is the next wave of transformation. I also like the way Pathlight looks at solving problems uniquely: instead of replacing something that’s already there, Pathlight is taking something that’s on the edge and moving it to the center. And that’s where innovation happens: the most innovative companies are constantly driving deep to change the center of gravity, after which the whole market shifts.

The Culture: When I got to know Alex and other leaders at Pathlight, I noticed something which I believe to be incredibly important to great company culture: leadership focused on servitude. I never heard them talk about where they sit within the organization or hierarchy—I’d hear them talk about being in service of the company's customers and employees. I believe this servitude-centric style of leadership helps people solve problems and work better as a team—which is the second reason I joined Pathlight’s board. For me, the team is so critical to the culture and success of a company, and Pathlight has focused on building a great team. Finally, I love the culture of transparency—from publishing company values straight out of the gate and getting feedback from all employees to calling out trust and transparency as a core company value. Trust is critical in high-speed environments because it means team members aren’t wondering what others are doing; it creates a sense of unity and helps a team move in the same direction. 

I also think the opportunity to empower employees, is a huge one. There’s been a huge shift towards thinking about employees and people mattering just as much as a company—that they are the company. I think this new mentality is here to stay, and Pathlight is ripe to seize it.

What are the outcomes businesses should be looking for where Pathlight can bring some value?

Pathlight helps teams improve trust, accountability, and alignment, improvements which, in turn, drive better employee engagement, retention, and productivity. But using Pathlight doesn’t just improve these outcomes, it saves managers hours of pulling data and reports—thereby empowering them to become more like coaches than bosses. It also provides frontline employees with access to relevant data so they always know how they’re performing against goals and their peers.

What it boils down to is that Pathlight’s Performance Intelligence platform allows companies to optimize their most expensive and valuable line item—people. In terms of business outcomes, Pathlight helps companies achieve lower turnover, empower their employees, and make the entire organization more productive. For example, on a CX team, Pathlight can help improve CSAT and reduce costs; for a Sales team, it helps them drive more pipeline with ICPs and helps reps close more deals. 

What trends are you seeing—whether in technology, the market, or in society—that compelled you to join?

Everywhere we look, employees are gaining more control and have more choices, which means they’re taking control in the employee-employer relationship. And lately, employees have been dissatisfied with that relationship because there’s been an imbalance of information and data.

Without visibility into how they’re doing—I’m talking numbers and data in realtime—employees don’t know how objectively they’re being evaluated when they’re walking into meetings. I believe that if you give employees visibility, then they will drive more of the behavior and outcomes that you're looking for as a company. 

So we’re seeing a shift to the idea that if you empower employees, they’ll stay. There’s a new sense of urgency around retention, but the way you retain employees isn’t by giving them perks, it’s by empowering them. 

What’s more, there are new challenges to coaching with hybrid work and managers don’t have time to constantly coach their employees across geographically dispersed areas. This leads to an ever-increasing lack of visibility into whether employees are on the right path and leaves managers feeling frustrated, too. 

What do you see as the most exciting things about Pathlight and the road ahead?

Looking to the future, I’m most excited about Pathlight’s platform approach—not only does Pathlight pull in and analyze data so it’s easy to understand and take action on, it’s also building exciting capabilities that help frontline employees. Last year, the company introduced QA and will soon incorporate some exciting innovations around AI and machine learning. These developments will allow people to get better feedback faster, so they can adjust and improve. But the team isn’t just focused on the data and metrics side, they want to make Pathlight a delight to use for everyone. To that end, they’ve added features that improve engagement, such as GIFts and Team Feeds, which they’ll continue to expand upon. 

As a leader in the technology industry, how would you describe the current state of digital transformation so far in 2022?

While digital transformation is well underway in many areas, it hasn’t truly met the needs of employees quite yet. I believe we’re going to see a shift towards employee empowerment in response to the increasing level of choice and opportunity that employees have today. So far, digital transformation has been process-based, not employee-based; in the next year or two, we’ll see a movement towards the digital transformation of the employee process. During that shift, tools that empower the employee will become indispensable for organizations looking to attract and retain talent. 

Thanks for joining us, Tony! And thank you for sharing your insights and perspectives. We look forward to your valuable contributions to our board and the industry.

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