Meet Noreen Allen, CMO at Bandwidth, a publicly traded communications software company headquartered at NC State’s Centennial Campus. She joined the company in 2012 to build the brand and drive revenue, and boy, did she ever. If you follow the company you know the outlines of the story. After serving in the Marine Corps, David Morken co-founded the company in his parent’s spare bedroom in 1999. It was a bootstrapped organization until 2017, when Bandwidth went public valued at around $300 million. A year later, it hit the $1 billion mark and in September, it hit the $2 billion mark.
Noreen, CMO Club’s 2017 CMO Rising Star finalist, loves to turn skeptics into brand advocates. Her specialty is building powerful brands and creating scalable revenue engines for tech companies. She has a long track record of success. Over the past 20 years, she’s been part of multiple rounds of fundraising and M&A activity and helped three companies’ IPOs.
She served as Vice President, Global Marketing for an e-commerce software provider, Morrisville’s ChannelAdvisor. Before that, she served as Vice President, Marketing for Hosted Solutions, a leader in the cloud computing market that was acquired by Windstream Corp. in late 2010 for $310 million. From 2005 to 2008, Noreen served as Vice President of Marketing for Motricity, a provider of mobile data solutions, where she helped to grow revenue from $10 million to over $100 million prior to the company’s IPO. Before that, she spent five years as Vice President, Marketing with SpectraSite Communications, a wireless infrastructure provider that had its IPO in 2003 and was sold to American Tower in 2005 for $3.3 billion.
Noreen is about more than just branding and scaling. She is a well-rounded business leader and highly respected by her employees and executive peers. She’s a great mentor and committed to inspiring and encouraging others in their professional development. Glowing employee testimonials are abundant. One former employee shares “when I reported to her, I felt valuable, I felt challenged, and most importantly, I felt like she had my back through thick and thin. I wanted to come to work every day for her and accomplish even more than the day before. She encouraged me to tap into skills I didn’t even know I had.”
Rebecca Bottorff, Bandwidth’s Chief People Officer, says, “Noreen is a highly effective team player with high standards. She is set apart by her ability to develop deep expertise in all aspects of the business and identify opportunities where she can leverage her expertise and develop programs to help the business succeed in the marketplace.”
In her spare time, this staunch Philadelphia Eagles fan and connoisseur of wine and music serves on the Board of Directors for BandTogether, an organization that connects the community to nonprofits through the power of live music. She also serves on the Alliance for Women in Tech Leadership board (full disclosure: this is my organization) and is instrumental to our mission to advance women in technology leadership.
I had the pleasure to spend more time with Noreen this past year and I think you will enjoy our Q&A.
Q. You have been with Bandwidth for close to eight years now and so much has happened. Tell us about that experience.
Bandwidth has been an incredible journey for me. When I started, we were a bootstrapped tech company with multiple lines of business, 248 employees and little brand awareness. Fast forward to today: we’re a public company, laser-focused on a single mission, 700+ employees, and we’re powering some of the most exciting innovations happening in technology. The best part to me is that while the company has grown substantially, our DNA has remained the same. We have the same authenticity, grit, personality and drive that we did in 2012. I attribute that to the fact that we have such a strong culture, and that we’ve grown in a very disciplined manner over the years.
Q. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m so proud to work for a company like Bandwidth that cares so deeply about people. Our CEO, David Morken, is redefining thinking on work and life, and inspiring people everywhere to see there’s a better way to do work and life together. I’ve always had exciting jobs, but oftentimes the fast pace of a scaling growth company came at a price. Bandwidth has made me realize that you can rock your mission at work, and still lead a full life. It’s really changed me as a person and it’s something I talk about often. I’ve had many friends and family members outside of work tell me that the Bandwidth story inspired them to re-think their own work/life situation. That’s a really meaningful culture and movement to be a part of.
Q. What do you think the greatest challenge(s) is/are for high growth tech companies in the Triangle?
I think the Triangle is a fantastic place to launch and scale a tech company. I’ve been a part of five companies that grew up in the Triangle over the last 20 years. Four of the five went public, and they’ve all had great success, so I know tech companies can do very well in this area.
I think the greatest challenge is visibility outside of the Triangle. You can build a great company here, but if your stakeholders (investors, customers, partners, media) are located in other markets, you’ve got to work hard to ensure that you’re on the radar of the right people. It can absolutely be done, but you’ve got to be very intentional about it to attract the interest you need to raise funding, win a key customer, or expand your business.
Q. Coming in on the ground floor of a startup puts you in the talent management driver’s seat. What can you share about that experience and what would you do differently?
Early on, I was very impressed with the sexy company names on a resume. But I quickly realized that in the early days of a growing business, you need great utility players who have “been there, done that”—people who are entrepreneurial (scrappy) and able to wear a lot of different hats. Big company experience is great, but for a startup, I value individuals who were key players for lesser-known companies, maybe even a challenger brand.
If you’re an early-stage company with $5M in revenue and you hire a head of sales from a $10B company, there’s probably going to be a misalignment in the required skill set. Look for people who have proven success with companies at your stage. And keep in mind that talent needs change as the organization scales. The team that gets you from $0 to $50M is likely not the team that will get you to $2B. Focus on the person and their experience, not the logo they come from.
Q. Share a “Fun Fact” about you with us.
I have seven siblings.
Q. What did you think you were going to do professionally when you were young?
I thought I’d be a teacher.
Q. What drives or shapes the person you are today?
My family and my faith.
Q. If you could change something/anything (pie in the sky) what would you change?
Social media, in some capacity. I think social media is a blessing and a curse—it’s a wonderful way to stay connected, but I hate how distracted we’ve all become and I worry about the impact it will have on young people.
Q. What gets you most excited about the future?
I’m excited to see what’s next for Raleigh. The area has transformed in recent years and become such a vibrant, wonderful destination for talent and companies. There’s an energy in this city that’s contagious, and I think we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible for the region!
Q. Fast forward 15 years from now and where do we find Noreen?
Hmmm… good question! At some point, I’d love to do something food and wine-related. A cheese cafe with beautiful wine pairings is my current vision. 🙂