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August 5, 2013

MC@Work: Elisa Steele, Skype's Straight Shooter

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Photo Credit: Chuck Grant

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MC: You have a reputation for being candid. Has it ever gotten you in hot water?
ES: Of course! But it's always hot water that cools off. I find when you are transparent and open with people, the relationships are more genuine and productive. Some of my closest colleagues are those with whom I've had conflicts or disagreements. 

MC: You joined Skype as chief marketing officer just over a year ago. What about the company appealed to you?
ES
: A funny story: My maternal grandfather's name was John Skype, and he ran a grocery. At my first all-hands meeting at Skype, I put up a slide of an old receipt with my grandfather's name on it and said, "I think there's a reason I'm here." Of course, the technology is pretty amazing, too: I was recently in a hotel room where I was having a meeting with a few Skype executives, one in Redmond, Washington; another in London; and one in Palo Alto. We were able to connect face-to-face and debate. 

MC: What are your hours like?
ES
: I have a very demanding job. I wish I could say I get home at 5 and spend time with my children and help them with their homework. It just doesn't work that way every day. It's much more unpredictable.  

MC: You've hired hundreds of people during your career. What do you look for in prospective employees?
ES
: Two things: You've got to have passion and a point of view. What is it you want to do or change? I just met with a young woman who'd been looking for a job for several months and was kind of down that she hadn't found anything. And within 20 minutes of the meeting I just needed to tell her, "Look, you haven't been able to describe what you want to do; you're not saying it with energy and passion. So I kinda know why you haven't gotten a job yet!" My advice to her was, "Do your homework, have a point of view, be a good listener, and show passion"—that's when people will give you a chance. 


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