It’s taken a lot of me pushing people to think outside the box and me being a little bit of a rebel and going outside the lines
About the series: I’ve always found leadership to be an interesting element of the business workforce – they are there to provide direction, inspiration and guide the growth of a business, all while maintaining a strong financial position in an increasingly volatile world. I love hearing the stories that sit behind the leaders, about their career paths and what led them to be in the position they are in. In this blog, I speak with Savanta’s leaders to find out how they’ve shaped the unique culture at Savanta, what it is that makes them tick and, hopefully, to glean some pearls of wisdom which we can all incorporate into our professional lives.
The fourth interview in this series is with Nikki Lavoie, EVP of Marketing, Brand and Innovation. Nikki recently moved into her current role, having been in a product-led role. This follows the sale of her old business, Mindspark, which was acquired by Savanta in early Feb 2022. Nikki is now heavily involved with the marketing strategy at Savanta and is responsible for shaping the face of Savanta externally. Eloquent and inspiring, Nikki Lavoie represents the true entrepreneurial culture of Savanta, wherein she describes how she has largely had an influential say on her own working path, leading her to a career she is passionate about.
Charles: What do you do at Savanta …. and how have you gotten here?
Nikki: “EVP of Marketing, Brand and Innovation… I head up the marketing team.” She goes on to say that it is indeed a wide umbrella that describes the work she does, including product analysis and innovation, where she uses her industry expertise to seek out the gaps that may exist, which can then be fulfilled internally through our services and products. Since Nikki joined, she has left a lasting positive impression at Savanta, where her initial role was to assist in starting the qual proposition in the Americas. “Now I’m with marketing, and it feels like a really good fit.”
Charles: What gets you out of bed in the morning then?
Nikki: “I would say some of it is the colleagues at Savanta, I really work with some good people, and it’s fun to be around them” which reflects the wider sentiment about Savanta’s workforce. Nikki goes on to explain that her passions for research, ingenuity, and creative thinking are excellent motivators because her role requires all three, which she loves utilising “That very often makes me feel motivated and energised to work more effectively.”
Charles: What’s the project you’ve worked on at Savanta you’re most proud of?
Nikki: “The project that I am working on right now”, focusing on updating and refining Savanta’s marketing strategy. “It’s taken a lot of me pushing people to think outside the box and me being a little bit of a rebel and going outside the lines.” Nikki’s fearlessness in her pursuit of innovation is crucial as she recognises resisting complacency is critical for growth. “I am really excited with where we have gotten so far, and I’m even more excited to see where it will play out next year.”
Charles: What energises you at work?
Nikki: As someone who tries to go beyond complacency, Nikki says that she does “like breaking the rules a little bit” in terms of pushing boundaries of what a large company is generally perceived to be. She says that Savanta is very “formative” and that we are in an “evolutionary stage” where you can “play a part in that” and not simply become a lost voice in the crowd.
Charles: Is there a life/ work hack that you swear by?
Nikki: “I have to be able to jot down notes at all times. I am the person who has a million ideas hit me at any time of the day.” Her work-related creativity constantly flows from her, and to be able to note her ideas so they will not be lost and can then be revisited is an important work hack. “I get lost in my own idea tsunami… if I don’t write it down, have time to think about it, reorganise [and] prioritise!”
Charles: What’s your superpower?
Nikki: “I have a lot of ideas, and I think that’s definitely my superpower.” She says this allows her to be very solutions-oriented, she is someone who can always see the forest through the trees, thinking of a myriad of ways to get there, whether useful in the moment or not, “quantity over quality” and then “cherry picking” the best ideas to take to fruition.
Charles: What’s a skill you’re currently working on?
Nikki: She laughs as she says, “navigating the political landscape of Savanta!” By this, she means assessing the completely understandable yet competing needs of shareholders, clients, her own team members, and wider Savanta employees. On a light note, she mentions how she is trying to get out of her people’s ‘pleasing era’, which has been a fun path for her to take because it means using agency rather than appeasing others. Even in business terms, knowing when to give clients the blunt truth rather than to cater for expectations could set us apart as a business that “would embolden our success as a company.”
Charles: Have you made any mistakes in your career? What have you learned from them?
Nikki: Nikki acknowledges that despite her great success, she has made lots of mistakes – “probably millions,” but just like a lot of us suffer from imposter syndrome, she also remarks how one of her biggest mistakes was “underestimating herself.” In her previous company, her mentor encouraged her to proudly wear her CEO title and shout about her impressive duties rather than to be modest about her accomplishments, as she was short-selling herself. She says that knowing your value and using it to your benefit is important, especially if you are someone who has faced adversity in getting to where you are.
Charles: If you could give your 25-year-old self a piece of advice what would that be?
Nikki: “The combination of being a people pleaser and holding yourself back is a deadly combination for a woman’s career.” Since taking this advice on board, Nikki has become an inspiration for the women around her and beyond. Her confidence exudes as she continues to navigate a field where the hunger for success can be misinterpreted negatively, meaning purpose in your intentions and role is more important than ever.
Charles: For you, what makes Savanta a special place to work?
Nikki: She sees the inspiration and the passion in the business from the ground up, it’s about “the community feeling” in terms that “everybody is willing to help other people, everybody cares.” When you work in a company where people care, you can continue to rise up and grow.
Truly inspirational, thank you again, Nikki!