Trending: NASA goes back to the future and revives its formerly forbidden ‘worm’ logo
Kate Johnson, far right, visiting Oregon’s Penny Ash Winery with family for her parents’ wedding anniversary. Also pictured, from left to right: Johnson’s mother, sister-in-law and twin sister. (Photo courtesy of Kate Johnson)

For Act-On Software CEO Kate Johnson, Portland is a perfect fit. She loves her walkable West Coast city that boasts terrific restaurants and bars, plus plenty of parks for her pup Bowie.

And while the tech talent pool is smaller than, say, Seattle or Silicon Valley, when she makes a hire, they tend to stick around.

“There is a lot of competition for talent in those spaces,” Johnson said. Act-On is a good-sized business with about 200 employees, but it can be tough to compete on salary and benefits in cities that include some of America’s software giants. Act-On, a 10-year-old marketing automation company, used to have a sizeable presence in California, but recently closed up shop to the south. The employees there tended to jump ship after 18 months or so, Johnson said.

“Retention was difficult,” she said, “because there was always another shiny object to chase after.”

Johnson has been CEO for just under one year, and was Act-On’s chief financial officer for more than three years. She previously held leadership roles for six years at Portland’s Jive Software, which included helping take the company public.

Kate Johnson, CEO of Act-On Software. (Act-On Software Photo)

As a female CEO in the tech sector, Johnson is passionate about being a mentor to other women working their way up. Her advice: “Never say ‘no’ to an opportunity. One of the best ways to get new opportunities and move up within a company is by never saying ‘no.’”

That might mean stretching beyond your comfort zone, but that’s OK, Johnson said. And she tries to create an environment that provides women a chance to make themselves heard.

“Setting that tone from the top down is really important,” she said. “We try as a company and in teams — in ways that make sense — to make sure females are getting the same spotlights as males.”

We caught up with Johnson for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: Portland, Ore.

Computer types: PC, Microsoft Surface

Mobile devices: iPhone, Kindle

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Act-On uses the Google suite of products and I love the group collaboration and editing ability of Google Docs and Sheets. Hangouts is also a staple for quick chats and questions and we use various collaboration tools such as Confluence and Jive. Instagram and Evernote are also personal favorites.

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? My workspace is messy and a bit unorganized. I like a lot of counter space to spread out and it allows me to multi-task. I often work on a few different things at once and go back and forth between them. I also like my workspace to have energy. A good buzz and vibe keeps me motivated.

The workspace occupied by Kate Johnson, CEO of Portland’s Act-On Software. (Act-On Software Photo)

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Be flexible and go with the flow. My day usually doesn’t turn out like I expect so you have to be able to move things around and re-work your day.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I am not huge into social networks but I do like Instagram and LinkedIn.  We use LinkedIn for communicating with our customers as well as connecting with executives within our customer base.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 4,664. To be fair, those have accumulated over the four years I have been with Act-On. I am on email all the time and I try and answer the critical and time sensitive emails within a short window, but lots of emails are more of an FYI or need to be answered with an in-person conversation or meeting. Those are the ones still sitting in my inbox. And I never delete anything because you never know when you might want to search it later.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 31. We are heavy on meetings right now because we are going through a transformation period with the company that requires frequent communication and touch points. I am a strong believer that technology is an enabler, but nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation.

How do you run meetings? Depends on what type of meeting it is, but I generally like for people to be prepared and be respectful of others’ time by being on time and showing up prepared. I like to leave meetings with clear action items and owners. I think meetings are essential to get things done, but I like my day to be a mix of meetings and work time if possible.

Everyday work uniform? I don’t have one. I like to switch up my style at work. Some days I might be in a dress with fancy shoes and other days I might be in ripped jeans and Converse. Just depends on my mood and what I have planned for the day.

Kate Johnson, CEO of Act-On Software. (Act-On Software Photo)

How do you make time for family? I plan ahead and always make time for family and friends. I am a planner so I always have fun things scheduled out with family and friends.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Running is a great stress reliever for me. It helps me unwind and clear my head. But I also love listening to music, watching sports, dancing and a good glass of red wine. And my favorite way to unwind is playing with my French bulldog Bowie or taking him to the dog park in my neighborhood.

What are you listening to? I listen to multiple genres of music but some of my favorites right now are Manchester Orchestra, Sofi Tukker and Greta Van Fleet.

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? CNN, Wired, TechCrunch

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I am in the process of re-reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and recently finished “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman.

Night owl or early riser? More of a night owl, but it depends. If it is a weeknight, I try to get to bed by 11 p.m. and get up by 5:30 a.m. so that I can run before work. On the weekends I stay up late and sleep in a bit more.

Where do you get your best ideas? Brainstorming with others. I like to talk through problems and ideas to help refine my thoughts and make sure I am incorporating all points of view.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He is an amazing motivator of sports teams and there are a lot of correlations to leadership in business. Running a successful company is all about having an amazing team of talented individuals that together build and run something great.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


Job Listings on GeekWork

Executive AssistantRad Power Bikes
Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.