Collaborative leadership in a rapidly changing world
Holly Anderson and Zoe Clelland look beyond business-as-usual
All too often, authoritarian management masquerades as competent leadership. In that environment, fear governs the work culture.
“There’s this idea that power is just the ability to get your way and to push others to do your bidding,” said Zoe Clelland, VP of Products & Experience at Nintex, on a Zoom call from her home office in the Seattle area.
Holly Anderson, VP of Product Marketing at Nintex, chimed in from her home near Boulder, Colorado, completing Zoe’s thought, “Zoe and I: we have a different view. We think that helping each other do our best work and sharing knowledge is power.”
Holly and Zoe, who have collaborated closely and achieved some hard-won solutions and successes over the last two years at Nintex, believe that there isn’t a single, correct version of leadership. In a rapidly changing and often virtual work world, Holly and Zoe are humbly leading by example, demonstrating a collaborative management style that sidesteps the limelight and focuses on finding opportunities for the wider team to flourish – together.
Nintex VP of Product Marketing, Holly Anderson
Both women have forged long paths through the tech industry, frequently as the only females in the room. Holly grew up in the same Colorado town where she still resides. She majored in marketing and information systems and spent her entire career working in engineering and then product marketing at a variety of tech firms. Her last company was acquired by Nintex in 2020.
Nintex VP of Products & Experience, Zoe Clelland
Zoe grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her working-class family had no expectation of her going to college, let alone achieving her doctorate in human factors and experimental psychology. She started her career as a human factors engineer at Phillips before moving toward user experience and product strategy in the tech industry. She arrived at Nintex in 2014.
“I entered the engineering world as such an outsider that nobody ever told me what I’d be up against as a woman,” said Zoe. “And, in retrospect, that was probably helpful.”
Yet, both women found persistent challenges with mentorship, inclusion, and having their voices heard by leadership. Over the years, both Zoe and Holly developed and honed their own work styles through necessity. Zoe said, “Even though I spent my early career not thinking about being a female in technology or being considered different, I was forced to confront some stubborn realities. And I had to learn how to cope, thrive, and eventually lead—on my own terms.”
Holly said, “Early on, I knew the approach of attempting to show that I’m better than everybody else or trying to over-manage people was not going to work for me. I had to lean into diplomacy and learn to collaborate with everyone.”
Both observed that more autocratic leadership styles did not just impact them but also others throughout an organization and ended up undermining the morale and motivation necessary to solve hard problems. When Zoe and Holly first worked together, it was clear that both were looking to do things differently.
Zoe had already been at Nintex for a few years, where the team had built a next-generation product called Nintex Automation Cloud. They needed to migrate existing clients but there was a valid concern about cannibalizing revenue and the risk of clients going elsewhere during the process. Zoe pushed hard to build migration tooling and start asking customers to move and knew it was an essential step for the future, regardless of some understandable apprehensions from above.
Holly arrived at Nintex having already been through a similar migration process in her last role. She and Zoe had an immediate, easy rapport and distinctive, yet complementary, skill sets. Holly was able to ask poignant questions to wider stakeholders about what was working and what wasn’t and became a crucial second voice explaining why leadership should move past their concerns and embark on the migration initiative.
Zoe said, “It was wonderful to have a partner telling the same story as me, but from a different angle, with different relationships, and different expertise. We made each other stronger and covered a lot more ground that way.”
The migration approach was ultimately approved, and a partnership was born. Zoe said, “With Holly, I never feel judged about my ideas or decisions. It’s always just like, ‘Have you thought about this?’ Or, ‘How about that?’ Because it’s never about ego or ’winning’. We are both committed to finding the best outcome for the company and for customers.”
Holly explained, “We often have different perspectives so don’t always agree, which creates space for healthy debate and insights from others to expand our thinking and give room to do our best work—together.”
Devin Hood, VP of Growth Marketing at Nintex said, “From the moment I met these two women, I knew I was surrounded by greatness.” She shares that Zoe and Holly bring to mind the Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
“Zoe and Holly notice and pay attention to things other people have overlooked. If you’re constantly looking in the same direction as everyone else, you are never going to see anything original, or notice anything original,” said Ben Tamblyn, VP of Corporate Communication at Nintex. “Great leaders do this instinctively and share generously what they’ve learned.”
Nintex has always been proud of its fully distributed work environment. But as remote work becomes mainstream across the wider technology industry, new management trends are also on the rise including monitoring and productivity measurements. Zoe said, “Collaborating and empowering others is a way better alternative than measuring and monitoring productivity because it actually builds trust. Remote work isn’t a concern for us because people know we have their backs, and that we’re willing to listen to their ideas.”
Zoe continued, “Being collaborative, finding success through other people, empowering big teams—sure, it’s more challenging than holding power and taking a ‘because I said so’ mentality. But it’s worth it: both for the results and for how it creates a more positive, supportive work culture.”
Zoe and Holly’s reputation now precedes them. Their collaborative approach is building momentum and continuing to increase employee engagement at the office, from home, and whatever comes next.
Both are now helping to elevate the next generation of tech employees. Holly said, “I’ve been working with quite a few earlier-in-career women, but I think that a big sign of progress will be when it’s not just women knocking at the door for coaching and mentoring.”
Now it’s Zoe’s turn to complete Holly’s thought: “We don’t want to be thought of as female leaders. Just the same as nobody thinks of me as a Canadian leader. We can forget all of those qualifiers. We hope that what we’re doing will just be seen as leadership. Period.”
To learn more about the Nintex team, visit www.nintex.com/careers/