The CMO Files: Praveen S. Purushotham, VirtusaPolaris

Get inside the minds of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job... and what keeps them awake at night.

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Praveen S. Purushotham

 Organisation: VirtusaPolaris

 Job title: Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing

 Location: Westborough, Massachusetts, USA



1.      Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Mylapore, a tiny locality within the city of Chennai, India (it was called Madras at that time). All my formative years, until I was about 20, were spent in Mylapore. Since then, it’s been one long journey of exploration across cities, countries, continents, and roles in life, leading me to my current location in the suburbs of Boston.

2.      What was your first job?  
My first ever job (non-salaried) was an internship with my grandfather promoting a new toothpaste to local area dentists in Chennai/Madras. My first real job was with an Indian business newspaper – The Hindu Business Line – as a reporter covering IT, telecom and broadcasting industries.

3.      What was the first product you got really excited about?   
I still remember my first day in high school that we got introduced to our first computers - the BBC Micro. It was love at first sight. I was so excited by what this device could do and it was pure magic (at that time). I still fondly remember the countless hours I’ve spent on the BBC Micro converting my imagination into code and eagerly watching the outcomes.

4.      Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors in my career, including inspirational teachers at school and university, managers who have been excellent coaches and advisors, and friends who have been there for me when I needed them. But the one person who has been the most inspirational has been my mother, with her never-say-die attitude, always supportive of my decisions, and ever willing to go the extra mile to make things happen. She has inspired me to continuously strive to become better, achieve more, and it is thanks to her that I am what I am today.

5.      What has been your greatest achievement?
I believe that each and every achievement is an admirable feat in its own right because of the context of the achievement – it is as challenging for a child to take its first step as it is for a top athlete to break a world record. As we progress in life acquiring new skills, experience and initiative, we achieve more and better things. So, I would say that all my achievements have been significant and, hopefully, are a sign of many more to come.

6.      What has been your biggest mistake?
Too many to count. I am very passionate about my work and every mistake is a big mistake for me. Setting such standards helps me look in the mirror every day, retain my humility and enthusiasm to improve tomorrow, what I did today.

7.      What is your greatest strength?
Adaptability to the needs of the situation, relationship building, constructing innovative solutions, and focused execution are some of the strengths that have held me in good stead through my career.

8.      What is your biggest weakness?
I’m not egotistical enough to think I have just one big weakness. I have a few, including impatience and intolerance towards mediocrity.

9.      What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?  
Marketing is often seen as an art form that is glamorous, flashy function that is mostly focused on the brand. While it is all that, marketing is also a science that is rigorous, data driven and can drive predictable outcomes and ROI. As we often remind ourselves within my team “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed”. I am often surprised by the number of marketers who tend to ignore this data-driven side of marketing.

10.  Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
The one mantra I try to live by is: “Excellence is a journey, not a destination”.
There are two phrases that make me squirm – “It is what it is…” as an excuse for not getting something done; and “Whatever be the circumstances, this is the way it is/ should be…” as a brute force justification against all evidence to the contrary.

11.  What makes you stressed?
Absence of attention to detail, complacency, mediocrity – anything that shows a lack of initiative to make your next effort the best effort.

12.  What do you do to relax?
Most of my relaxation is through activities that don’t require a lot of mental focus – watching movies, playing games online etc.

13.  What is your favourite song?
Venus in Furs, by Velvet Underground

14.  Which book taught you most?
I’ve learnt a lot from a healthy reading habit, but cannot point to one book that stands out.

15.  Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
Formula 1

16.  Which country would you like to work in?
I don’t really have a preference since I tend to adapt quickly and very well to new environments.

17.  Which company do you think has the best marketing?
I’ve been in love with Apple ever since “1984”

18.  What do you love most about your job?
Waking up to a challenge every day

19.  What is your favourite book?
Ulysses, by James Joyce. It’s still a work in progress and I hope to complete the journey one day.

20.  What keeps you awake at night?
Mine is a 24/7 role. I do the best possible job I can when I’m awake, and when I sleep, I try to do the best I can at that too.