We’re incredibly proud of the roster of distinguished guests we’ve welcomed to the New Relic Modern Software Podcast over our first 30 episodes, but none shine brighter than our special for this 31st episode: New Relic Chief Revenue Officer Erica Schultz.
Erica leads New Relic’s go-to-market functions, including marketing, sales, alliances, customer success, and services. She has more than 20 years of experience in software and SaaS sales, including as Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Customer Success at LivePerson; and a 16-year stint at Oracle where, among many other achievements, she helped pioneer the company’s cloud business.
In this episode of the Modern Software Podcast, my co-host, New Relic Senior Solutions Manager Tori Wieldt, joins me to talk with Erica about what’s on the minds of New Relic customers; to get a peek inside the New Relic vision and mission; and even to share some inside scoop on what makes New Relic unique.
You can listen to the episode via the player below, or you can get all the episodes by subscribing to the New Relic Modern Software Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Libsyn, or wherever you get your podcasts. Or read on below for a full transcript of our conversation with Erica (edited for clarity):
New Relic was the host of the attached forum presented in the embedded podcast. However, the content and views expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of New Relic. By hosting the podcast, New Relic does not necessarily adopt, guarantee, approve, or endorse the information, views, or products referenced therein.
Business is dynamic
Fredric Paul: First question: how’s business?
Erica Schultz: Business is great. Business is ever dynamic. There’s so much going on in our market—our customers are undertaking massive digital and technology transformations as they offer new digital customer experiences, and as they migrate to the cloud. And that means that business is really exciting for New Relic.
Fredric: Tell us more about that mission. What is New Relic actually trying to do right now?
Erica: Our mission is to instrument, measure, and improve the internet to help our customers create more perfect software and experiences and businesses.
It’s all about observability, as more and more of the world’s businesses rely on digital. IDC estimates that more than 50% of the world’s GDP in 2020 will be digital. That means every company is having to learn how to play offense with software. They’re hiring bigger and bigger technology teams; they’re developing more custom software in order to deliver best in class digital experiences to their customers, whose expectations are higher than ever.
And then, of course, in order to enable that, they’re embracing things like DevOps practices. They’re adopting technologies like cloud technologies. Their technology architectures are changing fast. And they’re getting more and more complex as they embrace microservices, and open source, and many other technology trends.
Playing offense with software
Fredric: You mentioned playing offense with software. What exactly do we mean by that? Is everyone else playing defense with software?
Erica: I’ll share my perspective from the vantage point of the chief technology officers that we work with. I like to say that a lot of the CTOs that we partner with across our customer community are “translators.” They’re translating business strategy from the C-suite into their technology organizations. And then they’re also translating up to the C-suite with information from the technology organizations on what’s possible with software and with technology.
They’re letting the business leaders know, “Hey, have you thought about how we can offer this new product or service or how we can innovate our customer experience or change our revenue model because of what’s possible with technology?” That’s what we mean when we say, “playing offense with software.” It’s really: “How can you think technology first, in terms of how you can transform your business?”
Fredric: It’s more about growing the business than just keeping the baseline going at the lowest possible cost?
Erica: Absolutely. More and more, the companies that are winning are thinking about how they can disrupt their own customer experiences and their own revenue models by leveraging technology. It puts a lot of pressure on the technology teams that we work with—across engineering teams, and operations teams, all the functions within that—to really deliver and partner with the business.
New Relic customers’ biggest issues and challenges
Fredric: You’re getting these insights from the customers that you meet with. And you meet with customers and business leaders at some of the highest levels. What are they telling you are their biggest issues?
Erica: First and foremost on everyone’s mind is talent: “How do I grow my technology teams? How can we become a really attractive place to work for the great engineering talent out there?” And then, “How do I get my teams working together effectively across different functions within a technology organization?” Those are really big themes.
In addition, they are feeling the pressure from their own customers. Their customers are looking for much more connected experiences; they have less and less tolerance for friction in a shopping or checkout experience, or for degradation of quality in a gaming or a video-streaming experience. They won’t tolerate slowness of response. The vendors, therefore, don’t feel like they really get a second chance. They’re feeling this enormous pressure to offer these amazing experiences and for their systems to be always on, always scalable, and always responsive.
They’re looking to New Relic to provide observability across all of these connected systems, pulling in data from where New Relic is deployed and the systems that we’re instrumenting, as well as pulling in data from other sources so that they can have that curated view of what’s going on across their technology stack and make quick technology and business decisions.
Fredric: That’s so much! How do these companies prioritize all of those competing agendas?
Erica: There’s no question that the leaders we work with are under enormous pressure to deliver on a number of fronts. I’m a big believer that you have to prioritize really deliberately; you’ve got to have great visibility and great data to work with; and your team must align with a common view of what’s going on so that you can prioritize together.
Tori Wieldt: Tell us about the biggest challenges that you think these customers are facing right now.
Erica: I’ll give you a few examples of what we hear a lot from our customers. They’re dealing with scale. So many of them are offering experiences to their customers that create incredible data ingest, they have to work at incredible velocity.
In particular, I think a lot about the video streaming companies that we work with and the scale that they have to be able to deliver on their biggest days. So many of our customers have these maybe once-a-year or specific moments that are high-volume moments of truth. It’s Hulu streaming the Super Bowl, it’s retail companies on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The scale in those high-volume moments of truth that are so high stakes.
And then I would say just the pressure to create these great digital experiences where your competition is not just your direct competitor in the same category, but whatever great digital experiences are out there. If I have a great digital experience from, say, a ride-hailing company, then when I go shopping online or I go to do my banking online, I expect the same user-friendliness in that experience as well. There’s a lot of pressure around the user experience.
And then finally, just bringing disparate teams and functions together so that they can operate quickly. It’s no longer the case that developers and software engineers work on their own and just toss things over the wall to an operations team with everyone maybe looking at different data or not really clued into that customer experience. These teams are adopting more and more DevOps practices where developers are the ones carrying the pagers. Creating standard default alert policies and really getting teams to operate together is critical.
It’s all about digital transformation
Fredric: Is there a way to encapsulate all of that?
Erica: The topic that’s being talked about in the C-suite and at the board level is digital transformation. We’ve been hearing that term for a number of years. But it typically translates into key initiatives for a Chief Technology Officer or CIO or CDO (Chief Digital Officer). It translates into major initiatives such as cloud adoption and adoption of DevOps, as well as optimizing the digital customer experience. All of those really ladder up to that major digital transformation initiative that a company would embark on.
Fredric: So digital transformation is kind of the catch-all term for all of this?
Erica: It can be, right? Because in order to effectively transform and offer digital experiences and disrupt your company, you’re likely adopting more and more modern technologies. And so that’s where a lot of the technology transformation comes in.
Fredric: Where does New Relic fit into all of this?
Erica: Well, as we talked about before, if our mission is to instrument the digital world, then our goal is to instrument across all of those technologies—and from the infrastructure, to the applications, to the customer experience. We want to enable those software teams and those technology teams: giving them visibility into what’s going on and helping them to break down the silos in their organizations that prevent them from truly understanding how successfully they’re playing offense with software.
Curation and scale with New Relic
Tori: And what are some of the things they like about New Relic? What do we do well?
Erica: What we hear from our customers is that they value how New Relic curates information for their teams to put to work. So not only are we delivering events and metrics that are connected across infrastructure, and applications, and customer-experience monitoring, but we’re also able to curate those in a way that’s really meaningful and that allows teams to resolve issues faster. So that’s a really big one.
We’re also able to operate at great scale. Back to our customers who have to deliver in those really high stakes moments of truth: We’ve proven time and time again, because of our highly scalable cloud architecture, that we can meet their needs on those days. That’s not to be taken for granted. A number of technology solutions fall down under the weight of the scale that a number of our customers need.
Finally, our ability to ingest data from things that we’ve instrumented while also taking in data from other sources allows us to be really comprehensive. Combine that with our ability to curate and give customers a view across their whole environment, that’s where New Relic really stands out.
Supporting your biggest day
Fredric: You mentioned a couple of times the customer’s biggest day and scaling for those big moments. What are some examples of those moments of truth?
Erica: One that comes to mind is Hulu, which has been a longtime customer, streaming the Super Bowl. And they knew that a minute of downtime across their installed base would result in the loss of millions of dollars. So streaming a perfect experience of the Super Bowl was critical to them.
And we were able to partner with them—first, to create standard alerting policies across their whole environment so that they were ready for that biggest day. Then we partnered with them, up to and through those moments of truth, to make sure they delivered a fabulous experience.
Another example would be in the retail sector. Gap, Inc. is a longtime customer of ours. Their goal as they headed into their peak season—which is the holiday period from early November through December—was to deliver zero downtime throughout that entire timeframe, which was daunting for their technology organization. With New Relic’s partnership with our services organization and our technology, our teams were in the Network Operations Center with them on the highest moments of truth. We were able to enable them to deliver on that goal of flawless performance during the holiday season.
What you didn’t know about New Relic
Fredric: Erica, is there something you can share that maybe our customers and listeners don’t know about New Relic?
Erica: Well, you know, Fred, sometimes people aren’t aware of how broad our platform has become. We started in the APM space. And so sometimes people have this perception that Application Performance Monitoring is all that we do.
The reality is we’ve expanded our platform to be able to monitor infrastructure performance as well as out into the customer experience. We’ve got a really comprehensive observability platform. And we have so many integrations into different data sources, close partnerships with the cloud vendors … we’re seeing more and more customers standardize on New Relic as an observability platform.
The second thing I would point out is one of the areas of investment that’s been really important to us over the last several years is shoring up our capabilities to partner with the largest enterprises in the world. We’re in half of the Fortune 100 and half of the Fortune 500. Those companies are not only looking for the best technology, but they’re also looking for the best partner—one that will be with them every day and then who’s going to be with them in their moments of truth.
We have a robust customer success organization, we have services offerings, we have lots of partners in the marketplace. And we’re really proud of our ability to show up as a good partner to our customers. We always say that we want to earn their trust based not just by offering the best technology, but also by offering the best partnership in the market.
Inspiration for the future
Tori: You get to spend a lot of time with customers. Tell me the favorite part of your job?
Erica: You know, Tori, I’d have to say that there are a lot of favorite parts of my job. I think that theme of why I love what I do, it’s around unlocking potential. I love working with customers and really understanding their businesses and aspiring to play a strategic role with them to help them unlock potential on their own teams and in their own businesses.
I love spending time building our own New Relic team, building and developing our team so that we unlock our true potential. And I’m very inspired when I see team members within New Relic reach their own career goals, move up in the organization, and advance their own careers.
And then finally, of course, growing our business. That is another form of unlocking potential. So when we hit the next milestone that we’ve been chasing, that’s really fun, too.
Fredric: Looking forward from there, what inspires you for the upcoming years?
Erica: I would say that this theme of becoming a more and more strategic platform for our customers, becoming more strategic to more customers, and enabling them to stop using the—in some cases—dozens of different monitoring tools that they have in their environment. Really getting to that outcome of a single vendor, a single pane of glass and a true partner, that’s what we’re playing for.
And we have a number of new areas of innovation, a number of new products that we’ll be releasing in the coming quarters, continued innovation on our existing products and platform. We’re ready to meet the challenge of helping our customers achieve that vision of a single, true observability partner.
In general, I’m inspired by individuals and teams who break through and achieve things that they didn’t think were possible—and, maybe, that others didn’t think possible. I’m a huge [Golden State] Warriors fan. And even though we didn’t win the championship this year, they’ve been such an inspiration to so many of us in the Bay Area.
I love following different athletes’ stories. Serena Williams is one of my heroes. I’m so inspired by what she’s done as an athlete, as well as by what she’s done as a business person and as an advocate for equality. She’s just continued to transform.
And so many business leaders out there who find the ability to innovate and transform and disrupt business models and take companies to new heights. I mean, I honestly feel like the list of inspirational stories is endless.
Fredric: Can you talk about how those played into your own personal career path to becoming Chief Revenue Officer of a high profile, fast-growing tech company like New Relic?
Erica: I spent the first 16 years of my career at Oracle Corporation. Within Oracle, I kept finding opportunities to go build something new, to go take a new product to market and start something up. I spent four years in Latin America building an inside sales organization that didn’t exist previously—really building that from the ground up. Or maybe it was looking at new business models: We started embedding the Oracle Database into ISV applications, something that the company hadn’t done before.
I was really attracted to building new things and starting them, either from nothing or from very little, and building them to scale. And then I realized, you know, “I’ve learned so much at Oracle being able to do this in an environment with lots of senior operating leaders and lots of resources. I want to take it on the road, and I want to go build for smaller companies, and help smaller companies build into medium and large companies.”
And so I spent two years at LivePerson right after Oracle. And then I landed at New Relic more than five years ago, when the company was about 300 people, $50 million in revenue, really not in the enterprise market in a meaningful way.
Fast forward to today: I’m so proud of how far we’ve come. We have more than 1,800 employees. We’re past $500 million in revenue, predominantly in the enterprise market and in many different regions around the world. Building that has been really fun. And then, of course, as we like to say, we know that we’re really just getting started. We have such a bright future ahead of us.
Note: The music for the Modern Software Podcast is courtesy of Audionautix.