How Andrea manages sales teams in eight different time zones with grace, growth—and fun
Doing anything on an international scale can be challenging—but leading Dropbox sales teams across the world, with 15 languages spoken across the team? Andrea Trapp, International VP of Sales, is up for the task. We asked her how she leads from afar while protecting our culture, empowering her team members, and creating her own ideal work-life balance.
What was the transition moving from regional to global like? What had to shift in your role?
I came in for a role managing Germany, the UK, and France in 2019. Then, five months in, I took on the rest of EMEA, and a year after that I added APJ. So I went from regional (which I had done for decades) to almost global very quickly. It was mostly adapting to new business cultures, and sometimes higher language barriers. I managed APJ as a regional lead (in Japan) and direct lead (in Australia) for six months, so that gave me a front-line seat with the teams and helped build trust and credibility.
How do you set expectations for global employees?
In sales, this is relatively easy as we are fully transparent and performance is based on metrics. But I still think on top of that, leading by example is important; I have done every sales job myself and can credibly articulate expectations. I use clear, unambiguous language for setting expectations, and I try to address misalignments as early and clearly as possible (candid in the content, but human in the delivery of the message).
How do you manage time zones and Core Collaboration Hours (CCH) in your role?
Including my interaction with peers based in the US, I cover eight different time zones! My days start early, which is good because I am an early bird. Meetings are challenging for everyone, especially in Australia’s summer/our winter as the overlap is two hours max and cuts into their end of day, but we share the struggle happily. I will try to have two one-hour work slots per day that aren’t booked for meetings and am fortunate enough to have an Executive Assistant who is very protective of my work time. Some days I need to make do with less, sometimes I get more— but it averages out in a normal week.
What are some practical ways you stay connected to your direct reports and ensure impact in their role, setting them up for success and career growth?
I have a lot of different meetings with my direct reports. For directors, I have 45 minute 1:1s for coaching or any topics that are not forecast related, from difficult performance management to strategy to them running new ideas by me. I also have monthly 30 minute 1:1s with the first line sales leads that report into my directors, focusing on anything outside of operational sales and extending the coaching that they are already getting from their lead. Then I have monthly 30 minute ‘coffee chats’ with a few aspiring leads, using these to challenge them a bit, and finally, I offer open coffee chat slots optimized for Australia / Asia / EMEA time zones on Thursday and Friday mornings. These are two hours that my EA has blocked and people register with her so she can adjust the slot each week. The coffee chat slots are 15 minutes each with no agenda, so we can cover whatever the person wants to talk to me about. It can be social, it can be focused on a current challenge they want help unblocking, or it can be to present an elevator pitch of strategy or results. Some book these once a year, while others have established a monthly cadence.
How does Dropbox invest in your leadership growth?
By offering me the opportunity to lead a team spanning two thirds of the world and work with an amazing group of peers! Dropbox exposes me to all aspects of the business and I have a great lead who allows me to stretch independently, but gives guidance and leads by example.
How do you maintain culture on your team without an office?
Since my team is spread across several countries, I try to have 1-2 Offsites each year. Personally, I also try to visit Dublin and London (our biggest hubs in International) once per quarter for a few days so my teams can have meetings around that and we can have AMA (Ask Me Anything)/ happy hour sessions or Dropbox For Good events together. Lastly, I have my directors spend their quarterly budget for a proper team event with a mix of business content and social interaction, making sure we build that cadence for people to be able to meet in person.
What keys do you think can help someone thrive in Virtual First?
If you’re curious, a self-starter, and a good relationship builder, you’ll do well! You can also become really successful if you learn to really articulate on screen and in writing, and understand how to leverage our own Dropbox tools (e.g. Paper and Capture) to maximize internal exposure.
What part of Virtual First allows you to be most successful in your role?
The fact that I could stay in Munich but still manage a team with the size and geographical spread that I do. I was offered the APJ role in another company before, but turned it down as it would have come with a relocation to Asia. I’ve worked like this for the past 10+ years, always managing geographically-spread teams across multiple time zones, so to be able to continue that routine is very helpful for me.