Centering Humans and Culture: Internal Road to Leadership – Sana Ansari
Published: January 10, 2023
Author: Sana Ansari
In this new blog series, Centering Humans and Culture: Road to Internal Leadership, we get to know employees who started at 3Q/DEPT early in their career and have moved up the ranks into leadership positions by accepting no limits. Let’s meet Sana Ansari, Senior Vice President of Client Services Operations at 3Q/DEPT.
How did you find 3Q/DEPT, and what was your first role at the company?
I joined ‘3Q/DEPT’ back when it was called PPC Associates, and I was lucky enough to truly experience the various evolutions of this amazing company. From acquiring iSearch media, to rebranding to 3Q Digital, to getting bought out by Harte Hanks, to buying our company back from Harte Hanks, to then merging into the DEPT family. It’s been an amazing journey to see this company grow at its various stages, and to grow with the company! I started out as an account manager, learned the ins and outs from our Co-Founder and CEO at the time, and was really lucky enough to have the right mentors and managers at the right time to continue to grow as a professional.
How was your time before becoming a leader and how were you trained or mentored during that time?
When I joined 3Q/DEPT it was a startup, and I worked directly with leadership who was always supportive but also very candid with feedback. I was always hungry to learn and grow from those around me and sought out people who were experts in different areas of my growth. I picked their brains so that I could develop the skills I needed to be effective.
What is your role now and how did you grow into your current role?
I’m currently the SVP of Operations for Client Services (CS). I oversee an organization that supports CS by putting structure, process, and consistency into areas that need it within CS – we oversee resource management and offshore talent, as well as the Cultivate training program. Prior to this role, most of my career here at 3Q/DEPT has been in Client Services. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to lead our small business client services organization. The operations I put in place there made it the fastest-growing organization at 3Q/DEPT, along with maintaining strong efficiency. I am now equally as grateful to have my skills recognized by current leadership and put into a position to have a larger agency-wide impact.
Why did you want to become a leader?
I’m not necessarily sure I sought out to be a leader the moment I became one. Our COO at the time was impressed at my ability to juggle my workload and be both effective and efficient with my responsibilities and clients. He took a chance on me by promoting me into a significant leadership role, making me Director of Search. I will always feel grateful that he gave me the opportunity. I learned so much in such a short period of time, and he was an amazing mentor who helped me transition from being an individual contributor to a team leader.
When did you know you could accept no limits at 3Q/DEPT and move into a leadership role at the company? What about the company made you feel confident that this was the right choice for your career?
While I had a leadership role quite early on during my career at 3Q/DEPT, I would say when I truly felt like a leader was when I raised my hand to run 3Q Accelerate (3QA) and was given that opportunity. The executive team at the time was beginning its search for a General Manager of this SMB division and I realized that I had great experience along with the desire to take on a challenge. At 3Q/DEPT, I know I am surrounded by a diverse group of supportive team members who are always willing to help, are rooting for you, and are fostering the environment where, if you have the drive and motivation, you will flourish. So I knew I was ready to accept no limits and take on this opportunity. I knew I was in the right environment that would allow me to thrive.
Being General Manager of 3QA was truly such a unique and special role for me. Ultimately, I was the “CEO” of this division within 3Q/DEPT. I developed this division from the ground up, doing my own sales, my own marketing, speaking at conferences to get the company name out, hiring my very first team member who is still at 3Q, and building the team and the client roster from the ground up. I got to wear just about every hat – developing pricing structures, paid media strategy playbooks, building a sales team, and growing my client services team to a multi-layer team. The opportunity and experience truly were a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always be grateful for. It is also what makes me the right fit for the role I am in now, in which all the skills I learned in my prior role are helping me in building a team that can support, strengthen, and have a positive impact on all of CS.
What is the number one lesson you’d like to share for people who want to become leaders within their organization?
Always set up an atmosphere of giving feedback and ensuring your team members know that when you give feedback it is in their best interest, that we care to see them grow, and the more feedback we give them, the more opportunity they have to accelerate and become a stronger performer. Feedback isn’t necessarily about presenting a problem but more so an opportunity for growth, and as their manager it is my job to help support their growth. That I will help support this person by giving them the guidance, baseline, tools, and continued feedback to help them develop in that area.
It’s important that they know we are in this together, and that while I am setting up expectations for them to do X, Y, and Z, I am also here to help. Delivery of feedback and team members knowing that you are on their side is extremely important. I would love to leave everyone with an excerpt from the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown that would be helpful for all leaders: