Headshot of Allison Auclair, Group Vice President of Product Management at Oracle Netsuite.
Allison Auclair, Group Vice President of Product Management, Oracle NetSuite, shares the impact of mentorship on her career and life overall. — Oracle NetSuite

Why having a mentor is so important, according to Allison Auclair, Group VP of Product Management for Oracle NetSuite:

  • You get to see someone in action and observe what makes them successful, even as they coach you.
  • Mentors are outside of your day-to-day reality, so they might see things about you that you might not see yourself.
  • Mentors can help you build your network and introduce you to others who can help you figure out your career path.

Allison Auclair is Group Vice President of Product Management at Oracle NetSuite, for the e-commerce, in-store, customer relationship management, and order management product areas.

Auclair has been in the business for 30 years — previously for more than five years at IBM as a solutions engineer and product management leader — and nearly 10 years at Oracle NetSuite, where she’s held four different project management titles.

She met two of her most important mentors — who forever impacted her career and her life— at tiny Comergent, a former software specialty company in the Boston area. Years later, at Oracle NetSuite, yet another mentor stepped into her life and continues to influence her daily decisions.

Auclair shares with CO— how these very early and very late mentorships are the building blocks that fostered her ability to not just listen to her customers but also create unique solutions for them and their customers.

CO—: Who are your mentors and why?

AA: My earliest mentors were Jean Kovacs and Bill York, who were founders of Comergent Technologies (a developer of e-business software that is now part of IBM.) They were not formal mentors to me, but because it was such a small company, I interacted regularly with them. Both were formative in my creating my own way of doing things.

More recently, Gary Wiessinger, Senior Vice President of NetSuite Application Development at Oracle NetSuite, has been my mentor at Oracle NetSuite since my very first day at work.

CO—: What were your mentors like?

AA: Jean Kovacs was CEO and Co-founder of Comergent and she’s the one who taught me how to be customer-centric.

Bill York was Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer at Comergent and he’s the one who taught me that technology should serve the business, not the other way around.

Gary Wiessinger is Senior Vice President of NetSuite Application Development at Oracle NetSuite and I learned from Gary how to think about solutions on a larger scale.

CO —: What have you learned from them that’s key to your career?

AA: Jean taught me so much. I could watch her and see how she was always thinking about the customer. She always understood their problems. She not only understood the key problems they had but she also always figured out the best way to solve them.

By watching Bill interact with customers, I began to understand why technology was such an important part of the business. He was the first one to explain technology to me in a way that made sense.

Gary taught me how to take a process and do it at scale. He taught me techniques like how to talk to smaller pools of customers and do user research at scale.

CO—: Show us your mentor’s imprint in action.

AA: While working at Sterling Commerce as a project manager, I went back to the kind of storytelling and customer interaction that I saw Jean and Bill do. I took that technique and visited all the key customers. Instead of just asking them about solutions, I asked them: ‘What keeps you up at night?’ Then, I presented their answers back to the team and it created a whole new level of understanding about customer problems.

I learned from Gary to be open and to take the time to talk to customers. At NetSuite, when I was first hired, they wanted a new order management offering. I took the chance to meet with potential customers from many parts of NetSuite and created solutions targeted at solving their problems. This was launched years ago and now is actively being used by NetSuite’s customer base.

We have a strong mentoring program at Oracle. I have someone I mentor now. I work with her to help her see things that she might not see on her own. It’s cool that it doesn’t have to be someone in the same role as you.

Allison Auclair, Group Vice President of Product Management, Oracle NetSuite

CO—: How does your work at Oracle NetSuite reflect your mentors’ imprint?

AA: Jean and Bill taught me to understand customer problems. Our customers at NetSuite, for example, have been telling us they want a payment link so their customers will be able to simply click and pay electronically for their purchases. So, what we did was take this information [and] then meet with a large number of their customers to find out exactly how they [wanted] it to work. We were then able to create something more widely adopted.

On another project, we tried to figure out how to create better user experiences for our customers. For example, how to make it easier for salespeople to make an order. You have to first understand the problem. You have to talk to the user. Then you have to tell the story to your development team. Every project I’ve worked on for the past 15 years has been impacted by my mentor, Gary, always figuring out how to help customers and be more customer-centric.

CO—: Complete this sentence, if not for my mentor, I would likely have never…

AA: Had I not met Bill and Jean, I don’t think I’d have become a project manager.

Had I not met Gary, I wouldn’t have been able to understand how to create products for tens of thousands of customers instead of small groups of customers.

CO—: Are you a mentor now?

AA: We have a strong mentoring program at Oracle. I have someone I mentor now. I work with her to help her see things that she might not see on her own. It’s cool that it doesn’t have to be someone in the same role as you.

CO—: What did you learn from a mentor that you never expected to learn?

AA: [To strike a] balance between my work life and my personal life. I learned that by watching Jean as a leader and as a mom. I saw how she made it work. That is something I never expected from our relationship, but it helped me later in life.

CO—: What’s key to being a great mentor?

AA: Listen: A lot of what I do in mentoring is to listen and try to understand.

  • Question: Ask the questions that they might not ask themselves.
  • Extend: Extend your network to your mentees. Pay it forward by helping them make connections. Nothing is a substitute for knowing people.

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