Conversations with Leaders

Conversations With Leaders:  Ashley Nagel

Through our recruitment practice, we’ve had the privilege of supporting the careers of some truly talented and inspiring leaders.

In our latest blog series, they share reflections about their careers, insights from leaders they’ve worked with, and they offer key lessons you may find helpful in your own career journey.

Ashley Nagel – On building strong, effective teams and generating success

We’re thrilled to feature Ashley Nagel, an award-winning marketing executive with an impressive resume packed full of accomplishments. At the time of this interview, Ashley is working as the Senior Director of Digital Marketing & Operations at Sierra Wireless. We’re fortunate to have Ashley share her insights gleaned from nearly 15 years of notable experience.

Share a bit about your career journey, including a few successes.

My career has been diverse. I have worked in cancer research (my academic background is in science) and as a marketing leader across biotech and technology, as both a consultant and staff member, in companies ranging from Fortune 100 to start-up. Throughout my career, I’ve developed a deep grasp of technology, demand generation, digital marketing strategy and team building. This is complemented by a strong operational focus, based on data and insights, which I used to inform and enable strategy.

The teams I’ve had the privilege of leading and Picture3-Oct-23-2020-05-46-36-63-PMworking alongside with have made a massive impact on the business, for example:

  • + Doubling ecommerce revenue and online leads at STEMCELL.
  • + Growing pipeline from Marketing by more than 5X in a three-year period at Sierra Wireless, delivering 50X pipeline ROI.

This work has been awarded with a Sitecore Website of the Year Award and two Markies, one in Excellence in Marketing Automation and another in Sales & Marketing Alignment. Recently the programs and tech we’re implementing at Sierra Wireless has been described as ahead of the curve by a former employee of Verizon and by Sirius Decisions.

What drew you to work at Sierra Wireless and what keeps you there?

When I heard about the role via Smart Savvy, it seemed as though the job description was written for me. It was a perfect balance of strategy, team building and the need to execute with urgency. It gave me an opportunity to expand beyond a focus on digital marketing to include leading marketing operations, a natural fit for my strengths.

There has been a lot of opportunity to build and grow at Sierra Wireless. The impact of our demand generation work is recognized and appreciated across the organization, which isn’t always the case in marketing. By using a “test and learn” mentality, and with the support of incredible leaders, I’ve been able to get a number of leading-edge technologies and programs implemented.

What have you learned from leaders you’ve worked for?

Transparency: “The truth shall set you free.”

This has been a theme with the two leaders I’ve admired the most in my career. It means giving my team more information than they would normally get, without violating confidentiality and with the understanding that everything heard should remain confidential. It also means sharing successes and failures, so everyone learns from these experiences. A team performs best when in alignment with the organization.

The best leaders I’ve worked with have also been true people leaders, in addition to managers of the business. From them, I’ve learned how to paint a picture/vision of where we’re going and inspire people to join. This involves setting objectives, aligning the team around them, and enabling people to carry out their tasks. I set a high bar for my team and challenge them to do things outside their comfort zone, but I’m also their safety net. If they fail, I will soften the blow and help them learn from it.

What is one piece of advice you would give an earlier career stage self?

Everyone makes career missteps, and it’s okay as long as you learn from them. Take risks and apply for roles you don’t quite fit. Challenge yourself to reach beyond where you are.
Be aware of change in an organization because that’s when the greatest opportunities are available. Make sure your leaders know your passions and aspirations so you come to mind when opportunities arise.

What tip you can share with individuals who are interested in pursuing a successful marketing leadership path? 

  • + Develop financial literacy and learn how to write a business case: Opportunities to grow and implement new programs, etc. ultimately comes down to securing budget. I learned how to write a convincing business case that demonstrates return on investment, LTV of projects very early on in my career.
  • + Become technically literate: Learn the market-leading tools in our field and how they integrate with one another. Most importantly, learn how they can be applied to generate more revenue and pipeline. And learn how to explain these programs and tools in simple terms to everyone in an organization.

Be confident about the value you can provide as a communications professional. From when I started in this industry to now, I’ve seen the evolution of how organizations recognize the importance of communications to their reputation – both internally and externally. Communications need a seat at the table when strategy is being discussed. It cannot be an afterthought.  

What character traits do you most attribute to your success?  


  • + Team leadership/mentorship: If you can build, lead and motivate a team, your job becomes much easier and more rewarding. Hire people who know more than you do and get them excited about what they need to accomplish.
  • + Always being keen and open to learning: I have a science degree and I took what I learned – a love of data and experimentation, a natural curiosity, a passion for solving problems – and applied it to marketing. I’ve formally trained in marketing, and I’m always reading blogs and content from leaders in my field, watching videos and webinars. In digital marketing, we need to be in touch with and ahead of macro and micro trends in consumer behavior, technology development, economic impacts, etc.
  • + Test and learn: This is a key theme in my career, given my background in science. Being able to pilot small programs, collect and evaluate data, and use findings to make decisions about where to invest, prioritize.
  • + Be comfortable with change and the unknown: When there is change in an organization, there’s opportunity. This is also reflected in my personal life: I recently decided to move to Dubai sight-unseen. I’m excited about opportunities to learn and experience new things.

As a marketing leader, what are you most excited about for the future?

I’m excited about the continued digitization of what we’re doing. I’m a data nerd, so I’m interested in developments in predictive technologies, use of intent data, personalization and smart applications of these. At the same time, I appreciate the move to balance technological possibilities with a sense of responsibility to consumers.

If you had a theme song for this chapter in your career, what would it be?

Ha. Is there a good song about juggling or constant change? Marketing has always been fast-paced and ever changing, but COVID has brought this to an entirely new level. This period is about doing more with less, doing it smarter, and doing it in a way that demonstrates awareness of what’s going on in the world.

What are you reading these days?

Much of my business reading happens in short snippets. I still love learning from blogs, whitepapers, infographics, and eBooks. Sirius Decisions (now Forrester) produces fantastic content. I love what Drift is putting out and follow them closely. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is the most impactful book I’ve read this year.

Who inspires you?

My daughter (soon to be two daughters). The choices I make, the projects and roles I choose are going to shape our shared lives. I need to make the work I do matter and need to be an advocate for diversity so that the world she lives and works in is different than the one I do. I need to be a good example and role model for my girls.


Conversations With Leaders: How to Build Your Career

Click to read more interviews with industry-leading Smart Savvy alum:

Kevan Gilbert  

Danielle Jang 

Gurpreet Jhaj  

Marten Youssef


Need Help Hiring?

Smart, Savvy + Associates is a recruitment agency that specializes in finding talent for marketing, communications, and creative roles. Since 2008, their team of marketers-turned-recruiters have successfully placed hundreds of qualified professionals into companies throughout Vancouver and the surrounding areas. Learn more about the company’s services or apply for one of the open roles on their job board.