Rachel Saunders: “Courage Leads the Pathway to Success”


Women in Technology | Rachel Saunders, APAC Sales Director, Grandstream | TelecomDrive.com

Meet Rachel Saunders who strongly believes in having courage as the most important quality one can have in order to succeed. She has achieved great success with courage in her eyes and a positive attitude towards her professional as well as personal life.

As part of our Spotlight on Women in Tech – Rachel Saunders, APAC Sales Director, Grandstream Networks speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about her personality – her professional and personal journey so far.

Winning with Courage

What are your personal priorities?

My priorities have always been focused on the people around me. In my opinion, there is no greater reward than the feeling you get when you help other people. Both professionally and personally, this priority gives me the greatest sense of happiness.

What is the most important quality one should have to grow professionally?

Having courage is the most important quality one can have to succeed. Whether it’s having the courage to step outside your comfort zone, or just having the courage to make sure you do the right thing.

Sometimes having the courage to speak out to do the right thing might make you look bad, or even put your job at risk – but having courage is what separates the leaders from followers.

A leader is someone that give away credit when things go well, and take responsibility when things go badly.

Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?

Travelling and experiencing new cultures is by far my number one hobby/interest. It’s no surprise that I ended up with a job that requires lots of international travel and skills to break down culture barriers to find win-wins.

Please tell us something about your family? How has their support been in terms of helping you grow professionally?

I am blessed to have a very supportive family that has helped me pursue my potential. Many of them have made huge sacrifices to help me grow and get to where I am today – my parents and husband in particular.

My goal is to pass on this support as much as I can, to as many people as I can. Everyone deserves to have a strong support system in their lives – whether it is family, friends or colleagues.

Professional Profile

How do you define success? What is your mantra to succeed?

There is no simple way to sum up success. Success is also different for each individual. The best advice I would give someone to succeed is to find a way to separate yourself from the crowd, work hard at what you pursue, keep a positive attitude, and focus on helping others around you. Those 4 factors are what has helped me find my path.

How has your professional journey been so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles?

My professional journey is far from typical. I graduated in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth during the height of the recession in the US. With slim choices for employment, I set my sights on the economy that was at the forefront of growth – China. I applied for a position as an International BD intern for a company in Beijing in the Mobile Software industry.

Before you know it, I had a one way ticket booked to Beijing and kicked off my career being the only foreigner in the company. My internship quickly turned into a full time sales position that allowed me to travel the world and exposed me to the art of business negotiation and closing sales.

After this company went public on the NYSE, I decided it was time for a new role that was more focused on the expertise I wanted to build. This led me to another company in Beijing that delivered software/managed services for mobile network optimization.

With a role of Global Account Manager, I got exposed to business negotiation and partnership building across the Asia Pacific region. This experience propelled me into my next role which is with the same company I am currently at today – Grandstream Networks.

I moved back to the US in 2012 and took the position of APAC Sales Manager for Grandstream, where I was the only one sales person in charge of the Distribution sales for the Asia Pacific Region (APAC). 3.5 years later I was promoted to Director of Sales for the APAC region and have built a successful sales and marketing team that has more than quintupled the annual revenue and delivers outstanding results.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry?

Challenges are all relative as I know women that have had it much more difficult than I have based on their culture or where they come from.

However, being in a male dominated industry, I’ve certainly been subject to prejudgment stereotypes. Normally I travel with my head engineer who is a male, and we’ve been in meetings before when the key decision makers we are talking to prefer to only make eye contact with him during sales discussions, or for cultural reasons, will only shake his hand and not mine since I am a female.

Some of these situations can be infuriating – but I believe its important to understand that you are not going to influence anyone’s perception in that moment. In those circumstances, its crucial to remain calm and uphold the values that you believe in. Most importantly, don’t let those type of people slow you down. They are only bumps not barriers on your journey.

What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?

Technology industries are fast paced, male dominated fields. As a woman, you need to work twice as hard as your male counterparts to stand out.

Being able to identify others weaknesses, and figuring out how your strengths can fill in the gaps to build a stronger team, is an approach that has always worked well for me. It’s important to hire diverse people within teams to implement this strategy.

What are some of your big goals that you want to achieve?

My priority goal is to continue to serve those around me and inspire them to be their best. If they succeed, then I succeed. The best way to breed success is to remember its not about you, its about helping others.