Career Journeys @ Twilio: A Decade of Growth and Innovation

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March 21, 2024
Written by

Name: Karima Motiwala

Role: Senior manager, ISV Strategic Sales

Home Base: Dallas, Texas

Fun fact: Karima was a nationally ranked chess champion in elementary school. She still plays chess with her dad whenever they’re together.


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Career Journeys @ Twilio: A Decade of Growth and Innovation

Karima Motiwala’s first job after graduating college in 2013 was as a project manager at a Texas oil company — but she quickly discovered it wasn't the right fit. "I soon realized that it was an industry that was slow-moving and not very innovative," she says. 

Innovation was important to Karima. Having attended college at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, a hotbed of startup businesses, she was attracted to the inherent possibilities for experimentation and change that characterized startup culture. "I saw so many friends in Silicon Valley working at an energized pace and heightened level of innovation," she says, "that I left the job in Dallas, moved to San Francisco, and started applying to every Silicon Valley startup I could think of." 

Not long after relocating to California, Karima ran into a friend during a networking happy hour. Over drinks, the friend told Karima how she'd worked at Deloitte for a year, recently made a jump to Twilio, and absolutely loved it. 

"She just raved about the people she worked with, how smart they were, and how much she was learning," Karima says. "Then she introduced me to her manager, who interviewed me the following week. Within six days of running into my friend at happy hour, I had a job offer from Twilio."


Setting the Stage With Autonomy and Connection

Karima started her career as a Twilio business development representative (BDR), a top-of-the-funnel sales qualifier. "My job was to filter out all but the top 10% of my sales calls — the ones I felt were good prospects and that were worth the account executive's time," Karima says.

Karima's first manager at Twilio had a profound impact on her development and became her mentor and career coach, setting up countless future opportunities. Through him, she became a fierce advocate for the benefits of working as an entry-level BDR, especially at Twilio, because it offers exposure to other areas of the business. 

"The typical career trajectory for someone in a BDR role is to advance to an account executive position. But from what I've seen at Twilio, many people who graduate from the BDR program have gone on to do some pretty amazing things throughout the company," Karima says. "I think the experience you get in that role sets you up really well for success elsewhere in the company."

In fact, being a BDR was Karima's first taste of professional autonomy and ownership. Very early in her Twilio career, she suggested reducing the number of fields on the initial interest form that prospects completed. Her manager's mindset was: "If you stand behind your theory and can run a controlled test, why not try it?" So she did.

Karima's suggestion showed a 20% increase in prospect leads. "So we rolled out the change to all customer request forms across the website," she added. "That small change opened my eyes to the impact I could have."

Building an Office From the Ground Up

While other BDRs moved on to the account executive role, Karima leaned more towards BDR team management, a move that presented some exciting opportunities.

At the time, Twilio didn't have an international BDR presence, so the team in San Francisco took calls from around the world, which, when you factor in over two dozen time zones, was highly complicated. To improve the prospect experience, Twilio knew it needed to prioritize a localized sales strategy. With her experience as a BDR, Karima accepted a role as Twilio's EMEA-based manager of sales development covering Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. 

"I was only out of college for two years and was a Twilio BDR for roughly half that time," she says. "But the company took a chance on me and asked if I would be interested in moving to Ireland to open up a Dublin office and build an international BDR team. "It was more responsibility than I thought someone my age should have, but it showed that the company had a lot of faith in me."

Leading up to her time abroad, Twilio provided additional resources and education to support her growth, including a course at UC Berkeley for new managers and first-time leaders. But nothing could prepare Karima for the task ahead. 

Karima's duties in Ireland extended beyond sales — she was single-handedly responsible for launching the Dublin office. "It was just me," she says. "We didn't have an office there yet, we didn't have any BDRs, it was a really fast-paced environment, and I was wearing every hat imaginable."

Over time, Karima hired and trained the entire Dublin-based BDR team. She then replicated that success by vetting, hiring, and managing a BDR team to filter sales leads in the Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) region. "Even though I was still based in Dublin," she says, "I built the entire Singapore-based BDR team remotely from Ireland. That was an incredible experience."

During a business trip back to Twilio HQ in San Francisco, Karima ran into a former BDR colleague and revealed how much she enjoyed working in Europe. Intrigued, he decided to pursue work in the region and soon moved to London. Even though Karima was still working in Dublin, a romance blossomed. About a year later, Karima transferred from Dublin to Twilio's London office to be with the man who would eventually become her husband.


Experimenting With a New Role

In London, Karima briefly pursued a new role. "I had a real passion for a project that was getting a lot of internal traction called Twilio-on-Twilio," she says, describing the initiative of improving prospect dialogue through the use of Twilio’s own communication tools. "I had a lot of ideas on how we could do a better job of utilizing our own products to engage with our customers." 

Working with the COO, Karima created a proposal outlining a marketing operations management role for the Twilio-on-Twilio project. Unfortunately, the dev team transitioned to a higher-priority project, and Karima didn’t get to see the project to fruition. Still, Karima was able to have impact in the marketing operations role and is grateful for the experience. 

"The fact that leadership was even entertaining the role shows that they embrace innovation in a rapidly changing work environment and are willing to experiment," she says. "They're open to seeing what comes of being experimental and are all in when it comes to moving forward with whatever makes the biggest impact. I like that approach."

The experience also demonstrated one of her favorite facets of Twilio's culture. "One thing that I think is special about Twilio is how much senior leadership really cares about the employees," Karima says. "They listen to new perspectives and consider new ideas regardless of where you sit in the hierarchy. Anytime I wanted to make a career change or needed help figuring out what I wanted to do next, I felt comfortable reaching out," she says. "I think that's definitely shown up in my career development and my journey here at Twilio."

Living as a Leader

When the marketing role didn't fully materialize, Karima returned to sales as an account executive (AE) and is now a senior manager for Strategic ISV accounts. She embraces her role as a leader, crediting much of her job fulfillment to having an excellent role model in Twilio's founder, Jeff Lawson, whose transparency and authenticity inspired her leadership style.

"I'm following in those footsteps," she says. "He's a very open and authentic leader, and I strive to be like that every day with my team."

She also credits Twilio's investment in her education — sending her to the university course for first-time managers — in helping her become a better leader. "What I've learned here will stay with me for the entirety of my career," she says. "I really see that as something Twilio took on to invest in me as a person, not just me as their employee."

And the opportunities continue. At the beginning of 2022, Karima and her husband chose to move to Dallas to settle down after living abroad for seven of the ten years she's been with Twilio. She's worked in 4 offices, held nine job titles, and had countless experiences that she's incredibly proud of, especially opening the Dublin office on her own.

"I feel very accomplished that that is something I built," she says. "I hired talented people to entry-level positions, and they have excelled in their careers. Some of them are now managers themselves and I feel a lot of pride in that."

"I'm also proud of myself for moving to Ireland, not knowing a single person in the whole country," she continued. "And I'm grateful to Twilio for empowering me, letting me innovate, and giving me such an opportunity. It made me who I am — a stronger and more independent thinker."

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