Kristina Frost

March 22, 2017 Mark Emmons

“I'm finding ways to do really creative things”

Kristina Frost

Age: 31

Position:  Senior Manager of Sales Strategy and Operations at Elastic, the open source data company behind Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana and Beats

Home: Emeryville, Calif.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in music from Texas Christian University, Master of Arts in music business from New York University

Career: Rose to Senior Business Consultant at Salesforce. Previously a Sales Administration Analyst and CRM Specialist at InterCall, and Music Account Coordinator at High Five Marketing.

Favorite movie:  “Children of Men.” “I like it because it’s a movie where hope is reclaimed,” Frost said.

Favorite book: “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell

Fun Fact: Speaks Korean

Interests: Music, volunteer work

Advice: It came from her grandmother, who worked into her 80s and passed away in 2016 at age 100. “She was the child of Italian immigrants who didn’t have a really advanced education and grew up during the Depression. She was a waitress her whole life and would always talk about people who were angry at their service. She told me, ‘You know what I would always say? Kill them with kindness.’ Carmela Frost was a brilliant woman.”

Kristina Frost began playing the flute at age 8. But even as she devoted years to the instrument, Frost never was a musician who thrived on the flow and feel of a piece of music. She saw herself as more of a technical performer.

“I enjoyed the clarity, precision and the technical challenge,” Frost explained. “That spoke to me more than the emotional aspect of the music.”

Frost is now the Manager of Sales Strategy and Operations at Elastic. Occasionally she’s asked how someone with two college music degrees found a home in Sales Operations. But it makes perfect sense to Frost because she believes the field brings together art and science. And her musical background was ideal for this emerging world.

Kristina Frost headshot 2.jpg“Sales Ops has become the architect of a business,” she said. “We’re the people who design the bones of the process that ensure your company is amazing. I get a nice mix of solving complicated problems in hopefully elegant ways as well as dealing with the issues that confront every Sales Ops person.”

She’s no longer a performer. Frost gets to be the composer.

At Elastic, an open source search, logging and analytics business, Frost is in charge of building an efficient sales technology stack.

“Kristina is super technical, especially at Salesforce,” said Doug Erpenbeck, the senior director of sales enablement at Elastic. “It’s great working with her because I’ll just describe what I need, and she’ll build it. She’s crazy smart. I honestly don’t know anyone who is as smart as she is. She’s just a talent.”

Frost is also passionate about shattering the glass ceiling that all too often exists in the tech industry. She does more than just talk about the issue. Frost formed a women’s group at Elastic and is the driving force behind a breakfast at the annual Elastic{On} conference that connects women in the open source community. In the past, she has mentored girls about tech careers.

“I never knew this world existed when I was younger, and it’s still a huge problem for getting more women into tech,” Frost said. “I always thought music was my only creative outlet. But now in Sales Ops, I’m finding ways to do really creative things developing processes.”

***

Frost’s father is a software engineer and her mother works in finance. But while growing up, Frost thought business was, well, boring. Frost did follow in her mother’s footsteps in another way, though. She took up the flute.

There was a weekend music program in Denver, where they lived at the time, and an instrument just happened to be laying around the house. She quickly showed a natural aptitude.

Kristina Frost 4.jpg“My wheelhouse was the Baroque era, where the music is very much like clockwork,” Frost added. “I could almost see the gears turning when I was playing. The music had such intricacies. It always made me think of Gothic cathedrals in architecture.”

She studied music at Texas Christian University. But she also minored in business with the idea of maybe someday managing an orchestra. After graduation, she worked at audio conferencing company InterCall and helped them make updates to their Salesforce setup. That’s when Erpenbeck, who was at Salesforce, first met Frost.

“I just saw her as a change agent,” he recalled. “She was probably the youngest person at that meeting, but it was clear that she was the one who could get things done. We’ve known each other more than five years now, and that still holds true. She just cuts through everything and gets stuff done.”

Frost wasn’t quite done with music, though. She earned a hybrid music/business graduate degree at New York University and joined an entertainment marketing agency.

“I had a job that everybody else thought was really cool because there were concerts and artists involved,” Frost said. “But I was really frustrated because it just felt like none of the music companies were ready to change their business models. I honestly felt that given the choice between evolve or die, they would choose to die.”

Erpenbeck told her: You just need to come work for us. And she would spend three-and-a-half years at Salesforce — becoming an expert in the cloud-based CRM. In 2015, she joined Elastic, one of the red-hot companies in the open-source software space. Elastic recently announced that it crossed the 100-million download mark, which doubled the number from just one year earlier.

Along the way, Frost has applied the technical precision she mastered in music to a career she couldn’t envision when she was younger. In fact, Sales Ops makes her think of great architecture in the exact same way music once did.

“The phrase ‘building cathedrals’ has become super popular in tech,” Frost said. “I’ll hear people in Sales Ops say, ‘I want the table stakes to be that my CRM works so I can go build cathedrals for sales, like a really elegant Demand Gen engine or cool renewal system.’”

***

In the fall of 2016, Frost was a speaker at Ops-Stars at Dreamforce. She talked about the importance of developing a data-driven predictive measure of customer health for renewal forecasting.

Kristina Frost 5.JPGWhat attendees didn’t know — until she mentioned it in passing — was that her car had been broken into the night before and that she had barely made it the speaking engagement on time. But Frost compartmentalized all that while delivering one of the event’s best-received sessions. Then again, she’s used to being in front of an audience.

Frost doesn’t play the flute that often anymore. But she does sing in a choir through a Bay Area organization called Magik*Magik. Even that hobby has Sales Ops applications, she said.

“If you’ve ever been part of an ensemble, you know that it’s not about you,” Frost explained. “You don’t get credit as an individual. That background can be really important when you think about building relationships in an organization. You need to let people play to their strengths. That’s a very symphony-esque approach. Everyone plays their role well, and hopefully it sounds great together.”

But Erpenbeck said his friend is a good solo act, too. He recalls how Frost recently sang at an Elastic leadership event.

“The sun was setting and we all were looking out across the resort as she sang ‘Amazing Grace,’” Erpenbeck said. “It was awesome.”

And when Frost thinks about composers she admires, like Johann Sebastian Bach, she wonders if they would even be involved with music if they were alive today.

“I actually think somebody like Bach might be a developer because of how we’re now thinking about applications as art,” she said. “We’ve become so architectural in our thinking.”

Maybe even lyrical.

About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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