Guest Speaker Series – Elaine Mao – VP of Business Operations at Tessian

Sep 29, 2021

“Wherever in my career I go, the skillset of sales can be taken everywhere.”


Elaine Mao is a powerhouse in the sales industry. She studied Economics at Berkeley University in California and is now VP of Business Operations at cyber security giant, Tessian. She has some pretty massive organisations under her belt, as she was previously, Global Head of Sales Ops & Strategy at Uber, as well as Sales Operations at LinkedIn. 

In 2008 when the recession hit Elaine knew she wanted a career with some financial security, which lead her to sales. However, she was very shy and the idea of cold calling really intimidated her, so she got into behind the scenes operations at LinkedIn and thus began her journey in sales. 


Elaine’s 4 tips for starting out in sales 

  • Put the time in to build relationships – Building solid relationships fosters a better environment, where people want to help each other. 
  • Take chances – Learn from every experience and remember if it doesn’t work out you can start over.  
  • Resilience – Not everything will work out the first time and you have to try again. 
  • Company culture – Make sure you understand and believe in the culture of the company. 


Asking a ‘dumb question’

We’ve all been in the position where we’re worried about asking a question because we think it’ll come across as dumb. Elaine recommends doing the work and seeing if you can figure it out, but if you’re still not sure show someone your work and ask if you’re going in the right direction. Sales isn’t rocket science – people have done this before – asking for a second opinion from someone who has done it can be incredibly beneficial. 

Another way of looking at it is by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What could go wrong if you ask a silly question? 
  • You may feel embarrassed because it’s something you should have known?
  • But why should you know that? 
  • What assumption are you making? 

Going through these questions will help you to rationalise the situation. 


How to switch off 

Covid has been awful for switching off, as a lot of us are working from home, which has made it harder to separate work and home life. 

  • You need to decide what is important enough to disrupt your personal life and what can be dealt with the following day. 
  • Set boundaries and have an activity at the end of your workday that gates the end of the day. 
  • Try not to bleed work into the next activity. For example, if you decide to watch tv you could easily decide to continue working. Elaine suggests going to the gym, meditating or going out with loved ones as a good way to end the day. 


Elaine’s greatest career accomplishment 

Elaine is proud of the team she built at Uber. At the time she hired a junior team that were starting out their careers and now they are crushing it and she likes to think she helped play part in their development. Though it was a hard time, they got through it and now they’ve progressed in their careers, love what they do and are happy. 


Key Takeaways 

  • Take risks – especially when you’re starting out in your career.
  • There really is no such thing as a dumb question – change your perspective on it. 
  • Switching off can be a continual challenge, but there are strategies to help. 
Lena Miah

Lena is our Marketing Executive here at She is versed in all things marketing and loves creating thought provoking, inspirational, and informative pieces for the company. 

Lena was born and raised in London. She has a passion for all things words and completed a BA degree in Journalism at the University of Roehampton. 

When she isn’t keeping the company blog in tip top condition she can be found in a yoga class or checking out the London food scene, but if the food isn’t up to par she could bake it all herself. 

You can find Lena on LinkedIn here 

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