Zena Applebaum

After spending 12 years as the Director of Competitive Intelligence at the same law firm, Zena Applebaum had seen it all. She felt more comfortable than ever in the position, but with this comfort came a stagnancy that stifled her ability to learn and grow. Zena’s ever-present curiosity inspired her to venture into the fog and start a new role at Thomson Reuters. Although she admits that it took her over 8 months to fully understand the nuances and tactics necessary to succeed in this position, this change was just the type of challenge that she needed to bring new meaning to her life.

Zena’s journey has had no shortage of twists and turns. An expert in competitive intelligence, Zena has also taught several college-level courses, authored a book, and served on the board of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) for several years. These diverse experiences have allowed Zena to master her target market, develop her people skills, and learn the tactics necessary to thrive in her various roles – three things that, according to Zena, are critical for success.

On this week’s episode of Running Into the Fog, the Jo Bros speak with Zena about her personal journey to success and the crucial life lessons she learned along the way. From chaotic COVID households to the unique qualities of librarians to the fundamental differences between theory and practice, you won’t want to miss out on this engaging conversation about navigating the challenges life throws our way.


  • “I had done it all, I had seen it all, I had spent 12 years at my firm. I was most comfortable, but I was also becoming really stagnant….I felt like I could do more, and I could learn more. And I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, I was going to be pigeonholed forever into that role.” (25:56-26:22)
  • “Market, people, and tactics. If you can master two of them, you can usually learn the third.” (33:33-33:40)
  • “The way you learn the market is by recognizing first and foremost that information for information’s sake doesn’t sell.” (35:34-35:45)
  • “It takes seven years to build trust, it takes seven minutes to erode it. Building relationships is so critical to this business. It’s critical to any business, but I think particularly if you’re doing competitive intelligence, people need to know that they can trust you, people need to know that you are going to have conversations on their behalf where you’re not going to embarrass them, where you’re not going to say something out of turn.” (42:52-43:15)
  • “I think the one thing I would tell my 20-year-old self is to chill the f out. We all get to a place eventually where we should be….I liked to plan everything, I liked to know that there was a path forward. And I still do, but I also recognize that, as much as you plan, you can’t plan for every contingency.” (46:38-47:07)



Zena Applebaum Twitter – https://twitter.com/zappleci?lang=en



Arik Johnson LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/arikjohnson/

Derek Johnson LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derek-johnson-cfa-190893/