Mariana Ricardo is the Sales Enablement Leader, for MEA, at IBM. In this conversation with The Collaborator, Mariana explored the role of cultural differences in Enablement and how an agile mindset can bridge those differences while improving overall Enablement scalability.

Mariana shared many great insights, including how the role of Enablement has matured since she began her work in Enablement, from a Communications focus to a Learning focus to a more strategic and targeted direction.

Her insights on the impact of cultural differences on her Enablement work, from South America to Dubai, were eye-opening. 

The keys to success?

1️⃣Listening to understand and with empathy for other viewpoints.  Remember the lessons of Hanlon’s Razor.

2️⃣Cross-functional collaboration between teams, across regions.

3️⃣An agile mindset, and an agile approach to Enablement.

There are many great stories, tips, and insights throughout this conversation.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
I said, is currently setting in probably the coldest, coldest spot on the entire planet in Dubai. Tell us about yourself, Ariana. And, and I know you and I chatted beforehand. But your maple syrup story which is a reference back to Gail cherish and her story on maple syrup in a previous episode. Tell us about that too.

Mariana Ricardo
Okay, okay, good. So don’t take so much for inviting me for this chat. I’m very happy to be here. And I’m very happy by the way for being introduced to your platform. Let me tell you this, I need to be frank and take my my friend, Pooja Kumar to do that. Because if I have x, if I haven’t had access to your platform, 10 years ago, when I joined the sales enablement, my life would be much easier that time. So yeah, that’s true. That’s true. So yeah, john, I am Brazilian. I’ve been leaving here in Dubai for six year. Yes, I came to stay here for two years. And now I’m heading to my seven year.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Mariana Ricardo
Well, no. So basically, yes, I am a public relations, my reservations, public relations, and I forgot market research as possible innovation. And I’ve been working in the IT market for 16 years. for IBM. I started my career in Brazil 16 years ago in the countryside of San Paolo, or tillandsia. To my heart. Beautiful. Yeah, in Brazil, and then I’ve worked in IBM, Brazil for 10 years, then I moved to to Dubai, to assume that the sales enablement leadership position for me the western African region, okay. In a nutshell, I’ve been working for sales enablement for 10 years, as I told you, I’m a kind of dinosaur in the

The Collaborator
dinosaur. Marianna, because there’s so there’s so many people that have like less than five years of experience. So having 10 years, makes you like this super experienced veteran in our space, which is amazing, isn’t it?

Mariana Ricardo
Yes, a lot of stories to tell. We can continue speaking for a long time. So yeah, a little bit more about me. I am also here for two years at Jaya, my critique partner for the reason. That’s why a gyro is a topic in my heart as well. And I’m a diversity advocate as well. So I needed the women’s group in IBM, in a way and also represent IBM in the external committee called sit under it with my colleagues from IP conference. There

The Collaborator
are so many fun things going on. But before we talk more sales enablement. Tell me about how you ended up going to Wimbledon.

Mariana Ricardo
This is a nice start, you know, I like to remind myself about the story. And I’m glad that you asked about it because I even have my metal syrup. And my magnets here to remind me about that, sir. So basically, john, three years ago, I went to a beach club here in Dubai with some friends, and they fill out a coupon to get a chance to get a chance to compete, get a chance to compete in a radio contest to win a trip to winco I just fill out in as we always do. And then one day I received a phone call Brianna. You’re both selected. Are you interested to be part of the radio competition? I said oh my god, but I don’t. I know nothing about TVs. I I’m like most of Brazilians I love football but tennis, I didn’t know much. But I said you know what? It may be firm. And then I decided to go for it. But then I told my husband that time I will go for it if I prepared because otherwise I will waste my time. I know that we will not be so I spent three days working hard in the I google that time some fun facts about winning lotto I created the worksheet 30 Third questions I memorize like in university, my husband asked me the questions and then I found him. And basically I ended up winning. And then we flew to Toronto, three days for free. Because I managed to win the competition in my life in a live contest in the radio.

The Collaborator
Only a sales enablement professional would build the worksheet. And prepare the way you did that. That’s so cool, though. I can’t imagine going to Wimbledon. I’m not a huge. I’m not an amazingly large tennis fan. But that would be a so much fun of it. That would be an amazing trip.

Mariana Ricardo
No, it was amazing. It was one of the most amazing trips that I’ve got, especially because, again, I did not have any experience with tennis. So it was very different for me. I love it.

The Collaborator
I love that story. I love that story. Marianne, do me a favor. Let’s switch gears. Yeah, I’ve been in enablement for 10 years, which does make you almost as old as a dinosaur in our environment. What what’s changed, in your opinion, and how has it evolved or changed since you’ve been involved with it?

Mariana Ricardo
So I’ve been as it for 10 years, I’ve seen so much changes, john, when I joined it sales enablement, the discipline was part of communications. So basically, it was part of communications department. And there was a subset that became sales enablement. So that time, our main goal was really to make sure that our sellers, were well informed that they were aware of what’s what was happening from a product perspective, solutions perspective, industry perspective, because by being a board of communications, we had to take communications in our DNA. So our mission was really make sure that we correctly communicate to sellers, but then discipline has evolved. So after that, seen, even inside the company, it has been moved out of communications, as I told you, and then we became a discipline under marketing. And our mission was a little bit beyond because we were responsible to not only form but to train sellers to enhance sellers of skills to make sure that they were well equipped with information techniques experience. So it was really around training. activities, our our mission, and we read

The Collaborator
Mariana did did you hire more training types of people at that point?

Mariana Ricardo
Yes, in fact, we we usually work very close to HR team who delivers training so we use until today to pair with HR team to deliver the trainings. So we we do a good combination in this field. And then as sales enablement leaders, of course, by definition, we needed to evolve ourselves as well the skills were changing because we we we were even measured in a different way the KPI is more around the skills enhancement more around the workshop deliverables proceed. And then the student is evolution what I see sales enablement as a really strategic partner of the sales team. So in and of course, I’m telling about my experience, okay. That I’ve been talking to people and then work your role. So from so we moved from inform, to deliver training to being strategic partners to impact pipeline impact to business, so it’s really about maturity level. That further if I can tell a new sales enablement person secret, I would say try to understand in this maturity level, where is the sales enablement team that you are working on? Where is your sales team on how is the market look like? Because then you can tailor correctly as sales enablement needed your role because if if the sales and permitted discipline in your company is still in phase one. If you propose things of phase three, it will not make sense it will not fly. These phases exclude the charter. And I cannot say that one is more major than the other. It’s just about evolution.

The Collaborator
Smart, though, you’re right, because if your company is still only at the point where they’re thinking about, just communicate to the team, or just train the team, or just whatever, you’re right, that if you start to try to propose things that are a higher level of maturity, you’re going to get a lot more friction, and not necessarily support for that. So that’s why

Mariana Ricardo
and there is something that is part of the sales enablement, professional DNA from my experience, which is really evangelize your stakeholders on what sales enablement can do. So I’ve done that throughout this 10 years, almost daily basis. I do that. Hi, my name is Mariana. I’m sales enablement leader, I’m here to help. What is sales enablement? Then I have my elevator pitch, I tell. But most importantly, I listen. What is your need, says, Dear seller, what is your need? What are the challenges that you have with your clients? Because then you can Okay, I understand what he needs. Okay. I will propose a male I will propose a workshop I will propose kickoff session. So then you come with the technique. But first, you need to listen, this is what I learned.

The Collaborator
So smart Marianna, because so many people know what enablement even means, and what enablement can do for them. So what you’re recommending is take a very strategic perspective, and have that conversation, educate, understand their needs, and then propose the right solution. That’s so wonderful. And that’s what we all need to be thinking about. When we approach enablement in our business as we work, especially when we work with new people, new stakeholders. I love that. That’s amazing. Tim, let me ask you this. You are a world traveler, you’re brave and daring. You started off in Brazil, you’re now in Dubai, you’re working with a global company in IBM at IBM? How have what are you seeing for differences from your perspective, between you know, the world of enablement in Brazil and Dubai, and maybe even just as part of a global company? You know, what are you seeing?

Mariana Ricardo
Um, I think enablement has any any discipline is different. Latin America with Middle Eastern Africa with Iroquois, simply, it’s not only about the neighbor myth, it’s about the region, the market, the markets are different, the environments, the culture is different. So it’s much deeper analysis, I think. Yeah. Because, first of all, in my case, I was counting before this chair to just just give me some real numbers. I’ve traveled within sales enablement to 14 countries. No party places, either 14 Madri, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Turkey, South Africa, either to being traded or to deliver training or to be facilitator are to organize it in event like us. So every every interaction was different, simply because the people are different cultural wise people are different. So when I moved, for example, from Brazil to to Dubai, I’ve been to sales enablement in Brazil for four years. I used to lead sales enablement in Brazil, then I was moved to Dubai, to assume as I told you, the Middle East and Africa region. I came here to the region very eager to Oh, let’s do this. I went I had a lot of ideas in mind to implement in I wanted to do sales enablement, exactly how I used to do there because this is why I was brought to write I in my mind. I said no, I have experienced this is what I will do. It simply did not work. Didn’t work. Why? Because the reasons I couldn’t pletely different. So first, let me give you an example. In Brazil, I used to the way that I used to conduct meetings with my stakeholders with my colleagues, I used to create a PowerPoint presentation book one now, this is how I was used to, I used

Unknown Speaker
to plan very structured,

Mariana Ricardo
there are goodbyes and a lot of call didn’t being prepared to speak for one hour. When I arrived by my manager at that time, I was so eager to talk to him, oh, my God, they just arrived by he had so much to say, I prepare a presentation I was. And then he gave me three minutes. Three minutes. Oh, my God, I spent almost one week of preparing for this meeting. I was so excited. I have so much to say. And I had three minutes. And I said, Oh my god, I have a lot to learn. In that time, I need to, in one minute, decide what was what was more important to speak in three minutes to call that person’s attention.

Unknown Speaker
Did you

The Collaborator
basically throw out the PowerPoint and just come with your one one item to focus on? or How did you do it?

Mariana Ricardo
I had my PowerPoint. And I said okay, you don’t want to see my PowerPoint, you don’t want to see my PowerPoint. Thank you so much. And then I just said okay, the most important very quickly, my mind needed to shift in this happened with several meetings that I had with sellers with, because simply it was the I used to handle business differently. Another example, simple, simple example, instance, Chet. I was used to in let me be very transparent here. I’m telling about my experience. I don’t like to generalize. When we talk about culture, I think it’s very risky and dangerous to generalize. They don’t like to generalize that I some some, some common sense that we can share, but every person is different. So in my case, I used to speak it needs to check Hi, how are you? And talk about myself personal things for five minutes before asking for help to organize them workshop.

Unknown Speaker
Okay.

Mariana Ricardo
When they move to here, Hi, my Deana, what is the stats of this report? Oh my god. This is not asking about a lot of cultural difference, even from dealing with people organizing workshops. So for example, another example my first workshop that organized the here, I hired a company to help me during the day, there was that person with me, the entire event, I asked her to present during the workshop, clean copies of a specific document, because I want to hand over to the sales team. The document has had two pages, in my mind what I used to receive, when I asked her please take take copies, I would receive 20 copies is thankful because two documents, right? Yeah, to give to 20 people. The person brought me 40 pages, not stapled. But the person brought to this table, this table for me to do by myself. And then I got fears. I said, but I hired, I want this done. I don’t have time to think. But then I realized that the person effect was really proactive because I didn’t ask for the for her to. So I understand that understanding that the abuse does not exist. Your assumptions are very dangerous. So you need to be very clear. When you move to a different culture. What you have in mind say you speak because you cannot assume that people think and act like you. So this is for me. That’s why sales enablement I it took me some time to understand.

The Collaborator
Well, you work in a very culturally diverse part of the world. Yes, no, I know you were telling me before that Dubai. People from everywhere. I mean, and there’s not like you know, it’s not like you’re necessarily born and lived in Dubai for your entire life. There’s a lot of people from all over the globe. How has that impacted? Do you find that you need to approach delivering enablement? Or having strategic conversations in different ways? Because of that level of diversity in who you’re talking to? From the cells that you’re trying to support?

Mariana Ricardo
Yeah. So yes, it’s very different. In the challenge is different. Comparing the work that I used to have in Brazil, for example, and here, simply because what I used to say to people, when you do work or international assignment in that country, for example, you move from Brazil to us, you move from Brazil to Australia. Just giving some random examples, okay. So usually, the culture in those places are a little bit more flat. In a sense of, yes, it will take time for you to adapt. But once you get that, it’s you. It’s not as entertaining. Like here, here in Dubai, I was checking the latest statistics, less than 15% of people who live in UAE are Emirati. So, recently, I was in a meeting, I told you about this recently, I was in a meeting 20 people, and every person was from a different place. So it’s not that Okay, I will learn how to navigate this culture. And then I will do No, no, you are learning how to navigate in different cultures all the time. And for me, this is amazing. Because you can imagine how much you learn by interacting with different people in, in the challenge exists, but the opportunities are incredible. Because you don’t imagine how much you learn by by thinking differently. At least this is what happened. That’s why I decided even to stay here longer than two years. Because when I completed two years, I said, Oh my god, I still have a lot to learn. And then that’s it.

The Collaborator
I love I love them. mariotta. And I agree with you taking different perspectives and looking at things from different viewpoints always results in just you learning more things along the journey. Now you my friend has said to me that agile was a key both for overcoming and better supporting a diverse, culturally diverse workforce. But also just for making your program better. How have you let me ask you this first, how did you get started with agile? And then how are you using it? First off.

Mariana Ricardo
So two years ago, I knew nothing about dial nothing. But I was nominated to be agile partner and represent my region in a in a trainee us. But I was nominated due to my mindset that I had the mindset for that challenge. When I listen to that, what is that? Okay, let’s go for it in for me. I will share this replay later to my colleagues. It was one of the best training that I’ve got in my life. Because it really changed the way that I used to perceive work, and even my personal life. So let me explain you why. Yeah, so why wait to that training, I spent that one period, being training with my colleagues for the goal. And then I came back home with the mission to be a gyro champion. And then I said, Okay, I understood by heart what it means, but I don’t know the results. So I want to bring these to my team. Because only by feeling by heart I will be able to change by heart otherwise, I am not sure if I’m you succeed. So is the help from an agile person, coach to reset the way that I was managing my team that time. Okay. Basically, to be very practical here, before being introduced to, to danger, your mindset. And again, I like to say that from the agile mindset more than a framework composed by standups retrospective.

Unknown Speaker
I agree with

Mariana Ricardo
it’s a mindset because If you if you don’t think differently, you don’t change by heart. So this is my point. So working with an agile mindset for me means that you empower your team, you decentralize the work, it’s not only on you, you give power to your team to come up with the How to. So agile teams have clear goals to pursue, for example, I need to organize a workshop for this sales team. In three months, this is my goal, I need to have minimal, nine ntps, in fact, x million in pipeline, okay, this is my goal, how to get there. So, you can have two different approaches, you can conquer roles, responsibilities, you do this, this, and then everyone organized the workshop, it will work, it will work, it will work, yes. But if you bring people together, in together created how to Now coming back to the cultural differences, you take the best advantage of Person A, B, C, D, and E, because they will review by the goal, and they will do their best to achieve the goal because it’s their responsibility. So a diet gives accountability and empowers the team. And it’s not only work, it’s in your life, personal life, you are organizing a barbecue, it’s different when you as a mother, do this, do that do that, that everyone comes back to me, what is the status of the meet? Did you go to the supermarket, but if you bring all your children together, and then together, create a plan, they will feel more comfortable, comfortable and passionate. And

The Collaborator
you said something, Mario, you used a phrase there that I think people don’t realize, buy in. If you’re building the plan together, you’re not only accountable, but you’re buying into it because it’s your ideas to

Mariana Ricardo
Yes, as opposed to

Unknown Speaker
somebody telling you what to do.

Mariana Ricardo
And then for me, it was a big turnaround. So it’s, that’s why I say it’s a mindset change. It’s not a hierarchy approach. It’s a teamwork approach. Of course, when you have this mindset, then all the framework comes together, stand ups, retrospective, social contract, celebration, and all this framework and learn by doing all of these putting practice mindset. So just to summarize, I think agile, changed my life. Because this because I start thinking differently. And it’s not working with the perceptions. Think of the perfection since the beginning, you learn by doing this is the woman. And when you talk to different cultures, this is you manage to bring people together. So from all nationalities, A, B, C, D, everyone will bring their background there as per the maturity level as per day experience, and then they will deliver, doing their best. And then just to finalize, this comes together with something that a mentor told me once when I moved to Brazil, and I was still being adopted today, completely upside down different life that I emergent. My Mater told me, Marina, your role here is not to make people to work like you. In Brazil, your role here is to extract and extract the best of each person. This is the true leadership that she told me. And I said, That’s true. I should not ask this person since I’m a dinosaur in sales enablement. Of course, I have a lot of fears. Of course, I have a lot of expressing delivery. I cannot expect people to deliver like me, my role as a leader is to make sure that my team feels comfortable to do their best.

The Collaborator
Yes, and raise them up so that they grow and learn along that maturity as well so that they can be a dinosaur one day to Marianna.

Mariana Ricardo
Yes, and then something else.

The Collaborator
Exactly, exactly. And then you can sit on the beach with your husband and your child and just call the office once in a while. It’s wonderful. Daphne asked a question. She said, Do you recommend any books on agility mindset? Are there any books that you recommend?

Mariana Ricardo
Um, let me think on that I will get your name and destiny, I can come back to you later on. I’ll be very frank to you. Ah, the training that I’ve done was so transformative that I felt a gyro in my heart so that’s why I’m still learning I just got a bed certification my dial but my my my entire experiences really more about experience then then book but I have some I don’t remember by heart now. I will I’ll get to you later.

The Collaborator
Not a wonderful and I’ll say you know people like Alex Kroger, you know, some really interesting comment. Our mutual friend Pooja said gold. She loves it. Danny champagne was like, hey, when you allow others to choose how to launch an initiative, they hold themselves accountable. I think that’s really smart and important to me. We’ve got 31 minutes, which is longer than I usually like to go My friend and I feel like I could talk for three more days. But let’s not let’s let’s bring this to a close. Are there any key points that you want to make sure people either that you haven’t mentioned already Marianna, whether you want to summarize and to have make sure people remember as they leave this conversation?

Mariana Ricardo
So yes, first of all, whoever wants to get further details, keep the conversation just reach out to me. I’d love talking to people and sharing my stories, I don’t mind that also feel free. Secondly, let’s go back to sales enablement, right, which is your platform jump. For me, the most important thing for our sales enablement leader, one nor the most, I can change my mind, by the way. But the one that I think is really to listen, and understand yours, your sales team needs in a maturity level, and understand your market in your company’s clients in your client’s needs. So going a little bit beyond the technique, I think it’s really important, really important to research the market to understand that what’s happening around understanding it technology, because by understanding the bee’s knees, you can not only believe retraining, but you can influence your audience in a positive way, by proposing really activities that result in business outcome. So we are only able to do that by listening by learning by trying by heart understanding our audience needs. So this is just a comment.

The Collaborator
I love that Marianna, you know I like to I like to say to people, you know, listen, remain curious. I think those are important. Why? Be curious about what their struggles are, what the business is trying to accomplish. Listen, listen, and then partner collaborate and deliver literally what they need novel you. To your point when you came from Brazil, to the UAE what you thought they needed, you had to step back and listen and understand culturally and all that other stuff what they really needed. So really smart advice. So Marianna, you’re the nicest dinosaur I’ve spoken to this week. And I want to thank you for your time. I really do and thank everybody for listening and learning definitely reach out to Marianna. like Mario said she’s she’s open she loves to collaborate. And if you have a question you know Daphne certainly reach out directly I know Marianna will will look at a book there to recommend a book or two to recommend and anybody else to and Pooja, my friend. Thank you for connecting Marianna and myself because what a great conversation and just a wonderful human being so Best of luck. Enjoy your amazingly hot weekend coming up. And I hope you and the baby and your husband have a fantastic time, my friend. Take care.

Mariana Ricardo
Thank you so much. Thank you so much, everyone.