PALO ALTO -- Shellye Archambeau makes her living helping companies find their weak spots.
Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, which sells software that lets businesses track their operations and suppliers to make sure they're complying with, among other things, government regulations, internal standards, even ethics policies.
It's a booming business, as corporations face a constantly changing regulatory environment, including new rules about using Twitter and Facebook. Archambeau says the privately held MetricStream saw 50 percent sales growth last year and its payroll is approaching 1,000 people around the world.
A veteran of executive posts at IBM, Blockbuster and Loudcloud, Archambeau is active in groups that promote the tech industry and the advancement of women and minorities in business. In this interview, edited for length and clarity, she discussed a recent Securities and Exchange Commission ruling on social media, MetricStream's business and the outlook for women in technology.
Q: The SEC recently said companies can disclose financial information on Twitter or Facebook, but they have to tell investors where to look. While the case involved Netflix, what is its broader impact?
A: If you think about it, what this actually does is make corporate information much more readily available to the average person. But it also means that companies need to be more focused on things like cybersecurity challenges.
We've all heard about situations where a (social media) account got hacked. Now if you are using Facebook or Twitter to communicate material information, you need to make sure the information that's being communicated is accurate. It will be interesting to see what the uptake is, in terms of companies using this for financial information.
Q: What's the elevator pitch for MetricStream? Why do customers need you?
A: Companies want to understand their risks and opportunities. We give them visibility into their areas of risk, both within their company and also their supply chain.
Q: You help businesses track their compliance with quality controls, securities regulations and other standards. What industry is your biggest customer?
A: We do find concentrations in highly regulated industries like financial services, energy utilities, health care and pharmaceuticals. But this goes across all industries and it's expanding. Retail and (consumer goods) companies are concerned about things like conflict minerals (raw materials that come from areas of armed conflict or human rights abuses).
Companies need to ensure they've got the right policies and make sure the policies are effective. They have to be able to audit and make sure they are solving the issues that are uncovered. We offer software to do this, to document and automate the steps you take to make sure everything is happening the way it's supposed to happen.
If you're trying to ensure that your suppliers, and their suppliers, are adhering to the regulatory requirements for your industry, our software can set up a checklist. Our customers can have suppliers log in to provide their information. Now you can look at trends and issues. You may find that one particular sub-supplier is actually a sub-supplier to half your suppliers -- you may have thought you had a broad supply base; it turns out they're all getting the same component from the same place.
Q: You've worked at big and small tech companies, in an industry that's heavily male. What's the outlook for women in tech?
A: It's still male-dominated. However, I am optimistic. I'm starting to meet more women who are entrepreneurs starting companies. We're seeing women leading Fortune 500 companies. And now there's a conversation that's started with (Facebook executive) Sheryl Sandberg's book.
Q: Sandberg describes a chicken-and-egg situation in her book, "Lean In," where she says companies must do more to treat women fairly but women must do more to push themselves forward.
A: I agree. Companies absolutely can do more, in terms of being more proactive to reach out and support. But women can also do more. I'm not saying women need to work harder. Sometimes we think that by working hard, somehow by osmosis people are going to know what it is we want. What I'm saying is, because it is a male-dominated environment, it's important to understand how to communicate and be heard, how to ask for and get what you want.
Q: Any advice for people starting out? I've read that your approach to finding a mentor was, "Don't ask, just adopt."
A: Everyone gets the advice, "You should have a mentor." But when you ask someone to be your mentor, they're thinking: "time." It's what most people have the least amount of. So making a formal commitment is a hard thing to do.
What I started doing is, instead of asking someone to be my mentor, I just started treating them that way. But in any relationship, both parties have to be getting something. So it's not good enough to go and ask you for advice and then disappear until two months later when I might ask for another piece of advice. It's important to let you know, "Thanks for the advice. I took it, this is what happened."
Now the next time I show up with another question, you might be more likely to take the time again because you know you made an impact. If I can keep that cycle going, over time we develop a positive relationship.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.
Job: MetricStream CEO
Family: Married 29 years; two grown children
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business
Career: Sales and management at IBM; ran Blockbuster's e-commerce division; chief marketing officer at NorthPoint Communications; executive vice president at Loudcloud (later Opsware); joined MetricStream as CEO in 2002
Other: Boards of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Watermark and the Information Technology Senior Management Forum
five things to know about shellye archambeau
1 She worked her way through college as a sales assistant for IBM, then took a full-time sales job after learning that CEOs there had worked in sales.
2 Loved sports in grade school but a growth spurt took its toll on her knees, so she switched to academic clubs in high school.
3 Today she calls herself an avid "gym rat" who tries to work out every morning.
4 She loves to cook and helped start a gourmet club that holds dinner parties for 30 or more members.
5 Says she learned early leadership lessons from her mother, who was active in local PTA, Girl Scouts and church groups.