Anne Ozzimo’s job is to help high-level executives be successful. As senior director of product marketing for Oracle Corp., she, too, has experienced a great deal of professional success.
Ozzimo, 55, joined the Redwood Shores-based company in 1998 as a research analyst after earning her master’s degree in international economic policy from USC and worked her way up to her current position.
Ozzimo is responsible for helping to develop the company’s marketing strategy for its business applications. She “creates thought leadership content and high-level events that engage and stimulate senior executives to think about new ways to leverage technology to drive innovation, productivity and growth in their organizations.”
A Washington, D.C., native, Ozzimo, who lives in Nipomo with Mark, her husband of 20 years, and daughter Cristina, a senior at Nipomo High School, spoke to The Tribune about her career, what inspires her and how she balances a busy work and home life.
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Q: What is your personal background, and how did you end up in San Luis Obispo County?
A: I came from a very political family. My grandfather was a congressman from West Virginia for 16 years, and my father, John Dibble, was his chief of staff. My father grew up in San Francisco, so we moved to California after my grandfather passed away so my father could pursue a new career in education. He was the dean of Allan Hancock’s Vandenberg campus for many years.
Q: What do you like most about your work?
A: I love a lot of things about my job. First, I love the intellectual aspect of my work. I focus on identifying the biggest challenges facing companies around the globe, then mapping those challenges to technology solutions that Oracle provides to help organizations overcome those challenges. For example, how cloud computing is helping companies deploy new mobile and social technologies to customers or employees cheaper and faster than ever before. It’s very motivational to work with some of the world’s best-known companies and help them identify new ways to be successful.
Second, I love to travel and meet interesting new people, and my job definitely has allowed me to do that. As part of my work, I often interview what we call industry thought leaders — senior executives at Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies, politicians and economic policymakers, journalists and academics — to learn their business strategies for success. Each interview provides fascinating insights into how the global economy works and how business is evolving.
Finally, I love the fact that I’m in the high-technology business and get the opportunity to stay on top of cutting-edge innovations that are changing how we work as individuals and as a society. For example, I am being trained right now on the latest strategies to use Twitter and Facebook to engage more effectively with our customer base. I think it is important to always keeping learning and challenging yourself.
Q: How did you overcome some of the challenges that you faced early in your career?
A: Early in my career, I moved to Brazil to become the executive director of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, a high-level trade organization that brought together big U.S. and Brazilian corporations to improve trade relations between the two countries. I was in my early 20s at the time and faced a lot of skepticism from Latin executives about my qualifications for the position, especially because my U.S. counterpart was a man in his early 40s.
I learned a lot of survival strategies during my seven years in Brazil — both professionally and personally — but one of the most important was to focus on ways to make those around you successful. If you focus on making your management team look good rather than focus on trying to promote your own agenda, your success will come naturally. I also learned not to be defensive or angry when executives assumed I was there as a secretary or asked me to make coffee. You often have to put your ego aside and do whatever it takes to ensure a successful outcome for the project at hand. I still embrace that attitude today, even if it means I have to help a customer make travel plans to attend my event, or handle other administrative tasks that aren’t even close to being in my job description. If you handle those requests gracefully rather than reluctantly, you can create lasting impressions with senior people that can prove very useful going forward.
Q: What are some challenges that you continue to face, and what strategies do you use to deal with them?
A: As you get older, part of the challenge is learning how to accept your evolving role in an organization, especially if you’ve been with the company for many years like I’ve been with Oracle. I’ve tried not to resist change but to embrace it and find something positive in change, whether that comes in the form of a new manager, a business reorganization or new professional responsibilities. Just recently, I was assigned to a new manager 15 years my junior, but I am learning a lot from her. She’s the one encouraging me to learn new social media strategies and presentation skills, so I can stay relevant to the company.
Q: Who have been the most influential people in your life, and in what ways have they helped you in your career?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have had some great role models over the course of my life, and they all shared one important trait that I’ve taken to heart: They were humble and treated everyone with kindness and respect, regardless of who they were or what they did. My dad was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, received his doctorate and later became the dean at Allan Hancock College, but everyone knew him as just Jack because that’s the way he liked it. I’ve worked closely with the chairman of the board of Oracle since 2005, and he’s exactly the same way, completely unassuming and kind to everyone regardless of their position in the company. I’ve learned that humility and kindness inspire great loyalty and make you want to go the extra mile for someone, whether in work or in life.
Another influential person in my life was my previous manager, a female executive with Oracle. She was a great mentor in that she believed in the power of teamwork, and in recognizing and celebrating people’s contributions and empowering them to be the best they could be. She never took credit for something someone else had done, but rather made a point to let management know who was responsible for a successful project or achievement. You knew that your efforts would be recognized and rewarded. She taught me the value of being unselfish in the workplace.
Q: What advice about balancing work and life would you give to young professional women and men?
A: Twenty years ago, when I first started working in San Luis Obispo, there weren’t a lot of professional opportunities with large corporations. I had to make my own opportunities, first as an owner of an export-import company, and then later as an independent contractor (I provided trade consulting services to the state of California and also public relations services to high-tech companies).
For young professionals considering the independent route, my advice would be to identify a skill or capability you have that sets you apart, and invest in that. In my case, it was my international business experience, foreign languages and writing skills that made me unique in San Luis Obispo. I identified a need in the area — to provide international trade consulting services — and invested the time to learn about export-import regulations, customs laws, freight forwarding services, distributor contracts, etc. I ended up being able to work for Hind and a number of other local companies helping them expand their international business operations.
If you want to work remotely for a larger company, like I do today with Oracle, the key is to stay disciplined and prioritize your work commitments. You never want the company to think that you are taking advantage of the flexibility that comes from working at home. It requires a lot of sacrifice: if I take time off to attend a school or athletic event in the afternoons, I make a point of starting my work day much earlier, or coming back and working in the evenings. I work a lot of weekends to balance out any time I’ve taken off during the week for personal reasons. And I rarely say no to travel requests, given that I’ve had the luxury of working out of the house for so many years.
Q: What continues to be the biggest challenge for women who want to have a successful career in San Luis Obispo County?
A: In my conversations with other women, they all said that the biggest challenge to having a successful career here is the lack of child care and transportation for kids. I was fortunate I was able to work out of the house ever since I moved back to the area 20 years ago. I had to forge my own path. The two types of women I know professionally have either created their own businesses or worked for small businesses.
Q: How do you find time to do it all?
A: You can always find creative ways to be present in your children’s lives, but you have to learn to budget your time wisely and say no to activities that aren’t essential. My daughter is an athlete, so early on I decided that I would invest my spare time in helping coach her teams and later being a team mom because these were after-school and weekend activities I could fit into my work schedule. I didn’t try to take time out of my workday to volunteer in her classes or attend field trips.
Having a support network of other families who share similar interests and activities is also essential, especially if you have children active in sports or other activities. And it can’t just be a one-way street — you have to be there for them and help their children just as much as you rely on them to help you.
Finally, I’ve learned to compromise and accept that some things just won’t get done, whether its housework, laundry, getting your hair done or exercising. You can only accomplish so much in one day, so better to focus on the important things and let the less important stuff slide. It was a tough lesson to learn, but once you do, it will free you from guilt. I just tell myself that decorating my house or exercising more every day are luxuries I can indulge in more once my daughter is in college.
My husband ... he’s probably the one who has sacrificed the most. You have to have a partner who understands and is willing to let you prioritize and be flexible.