Writer  /  Kara Kavensky
Photographer  /  Amy Unger

Karen Mangia, Vice President of Customer and Market Insights for SalesForce, recently discovered an old email exchange with a friend stating how “email was ridiculous and it would never catch on.” This is laughable now, but back then, the most radical idea was a handheld cell phone for talking, not texting.

Since her college days, Mangia knew she wanted to work with customer data and took a nontraditional path to a tech career.

“I have been fascinated by why people make the choices they make, what are the trends, study the data points and weave together the story,” says Karen, who earned her undergrad and masters degrees at Ball State. “I wanted to work for Nielsen, until I discovered they were located in Iowa.”

Building her wheelhouse, Karen dug into project management and sales with AT&T before being recruited to Cisco. Karen enjoyed the constant change with AT&T, but Cisco was growing and she saw opportunity.

Through a series of building blocks and choices at Cisco, Karen’s job ultimately transformed into what she had desired since college. She was the Nielsen ratings for Cisco.

“I managed the annual survey process to customers,” says Karen, who performs a very similar job at SalesForce. “I assessed what was working and what wasn’t, where is the risk and sought market opportunities.

“Like with anyone’s career path, every step is additive to the process as a whole. The steps lead someone somewhere. The technical data of customer feedback helps us figure out what to build next, what our customers want.”

Disruption is a concept Mangia has welcomed into her life time and again. Not all of the disruptions have been welcomed, but all provided learning experiences. From a personal perspective, one pivotal moment in Karen’s life was backing out of a wedding after the invitations had been sealed and stamped.

The longest car ride of Karen’s life was sitting in silence with her mother after her bridal shower on the way back to Karen’s home. Her mom pulled into a parking space and Karen started crying and told her mom not to unload the gifts. They would need to be returned.

“The voice inside my head was screaming, DO NOT MARRY THIS GUY,” shares Karen. “By listening to the inner voice inside my head, I disrupted my entire life course and took a detour, which was my intended path all along.”

The next major disruption occurred while Karen was working at Cisco. She was noticing signs indicating that something was not quite right. In her early 30s and experiencing success on many levels, she was displaying signs of fatigue. Karen justified her lower-than-normal energy level as a result of having recently moved to a new house. Yet more symptoms were appearing. She told herself stories to explain the unwelcomed signs her body was exhibiting. Karen’s health was in decline and she was doing her best to deny it.

She became unrecognizable to herself in the mirror. Her hair was falling out, she had gained weight, her skin was yellow, and her once-vibrant blue eyes had turned grey. But she kept pushing herself as if nothing was wrong. She also started to forget where she placed things.

“It was not until I couldn’t remember my brother’s name that I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t ignore this any more,’” she shares.

It was three and a half years before she was diagnosed with pesticide poisoning. Even in the midst of her health crisis, she did not slow down until she was forced to. She had to heal. Karen had to pay attention to what her inner voice — and her body — was telling her.

“The first step is discovering what pushed the snowball down the mountain,” states Dr. Kevin Logan, Mangia’s physician. “Then a personalized prescription for diet and lifestyle changes are essential to the process of bringing the body back into balance.”

It takes many lines of code to have a program perform as designed, and it takes time for your actions to propagate. The same applies to your health, especially when a body is in crisis.

In her book Success With Less, Karen details her journey back to health. It’s not the physical healing that is dominant in the book, but more the emotional element that was her trigger. This healing opportunity impacted Karen’s approach to life. She was forced to audit her circumstances and figure out for herself what her idea of success looks like and how it needed to change.

“It’s so easy to look at everyone else’s life and find that success is easy for other people. ‘If I only had the right education, the right boss, the right job.’ But success is available to everyone,” she says. “The key piece is determining what success means to you and calibrating to that. Because when it is that definition, it is available to everyone. There is no key to a secret club. You create it.”

For more information, please visit: successwithless.net

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