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PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada on humility, tough calls, and the power of learning from a disaster

From childhood gadget geek to multibillion-dollar tech CEO, Jennifer Tejada imparts wisdom from a career spent chasing excellence.

Since Jennifer Tejada’s first-ever experience with technology playing Atari as a child, she has been enamored by the infinite possibilities it offers. A self-proclaimed “gadget geek” from a young age, she would have contests with her older brother to see how fast they could put together or take apart electronic devices.

“I remember being deeply affected by the first time I saw code,” says Jennifer. “I was struck by the realization that you could turn nothing into something. You could literally make a rocket launch with a series of zeroes and ones.”

These early tinkerings paved the way for a deep fascination with technology that propelled her to become a veteran CEO at PagerDuty. She led the company to IPO in April 2019, with a $1.8 billion valuation. Today it's worth $3.5 billion. PagerDuty also has the highest market capitalization of any female-led cloud company.

CEO lessons from Jennifer Tejada 

🔹 Build what your customers love.
🔹 Know when to pass the torch.
🔹 Evolve your executive team to meet changing demands. 
🔹 Never skip out on the opportunity to learn from a post-mortem. 

Harnessing the power of customer love 

In the early days of the developer platform business, conventional thinking dictated that vendors needed to sell top-down through an IT gatekeeper or a CIO to have any chance of cracking the enterprise. PagerDuty was among the first handful of companies to turn this traditional wisdom on its head.

The secret to the company’s uncanny ability to bypass traditional budget holders? Pure, unadulterated customer love. Customers at the individual contributor level adored the product so much they not only adopted it, but spread the word and drove significant expansion within their organizations. “I think that’s particularly salient here because this is a product that tells you when something is broken,” says Jennifer with a chuckle. “You’re getting alerted and called out of bed in the middle of the night.”

But instead of being frustrated by alarm bells in the wee hours of the night, customers loved the product because it allowed them to filter out the noise. They could trust that when their PagerDuty notification went off, there truly was a dire matter that needed their attention. The product was helping them prevent big incidents that could easily ruin their professional reputation or irreparably damage the business.

Jennifer recalls customers who would begin meetings by profusely thanking her and her team for making their lives easier. This customer delight at the user level meant that the team could take advantage of both top-down and bottom-up sales motions simultaneously, a major factor in the company’s success.

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