The CMO Files: Jeff Thomas, Periscope Data

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.

Jeff Thomas

Organisation:  Periscope Data

Job title: CMO

Location: San Francisco, CA, USA


  1. Where were you born and raised?       
    The Big Apple! I was born and grew up in the heart of Manhattan (the real New York), went to public schools there (including the famous High School of Music & Art), and worked in NYC for a few years after I finished college in Ohio.
  2. What was your first job?  
    My first full-time job was as a researcher at a market research firm. But the first full-time job that I loved was the one after that, at Ogilvy, the world-famous advertising agency. What an incredible experience! It taught me how to put the customer or consumer first as well as the power of great storytelling, and laid the foundation for my career in marketing.
  3. What was the first product you got really excited about?   
    That’s a tough one - it’s a toss up. First I’d say is the internet (I know, not really a product), but being connected to people all across the globe and having access to a virtually limitless amount of information and insight was mind-blowing! A close second was BlackBerry, specifically, BBM aka BlackBerry Messenger. This was the first “social network” with five million people globally connected individually and in real-time group chats on a mobile device - that was truly disruptive. 
  4. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
    I’d have to say my mother. She was the kind of person who deeply believed in people and would always encourage me to pursue my ambitions and dreams and to never let setbacks get me down.
  5. What has been your greatest achievement?
    This one has nothing to do with business - playing trumpet on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York. Nothing else has ever come close to that.
  6. What has been your biggest mistake?
    Like anyone successful in business I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve consistently learned from them. However, I think my biggest mistakes were those situations when I didn't accurately assess the culture of the company I was considering joining. I can’t stress this enough: when you are going to give 110 percent to a career and to a company, take the time to ensure that the culture is a good fit with who you are. 
  7. What is your greatest strength?
    There are two things I would call my greatest strengths: the first is my ability to build teams and “cast” the right people (hard and soft skills) for the role. The second is my ability to set a marketing vision and then effectively operationalize all the elements across the marketing mix, diving into the details as needed but letting my teams do their things the way they see fit. 
  8. What is your biggest weakness?
    I can be overly demanding at times with both my teams and myself in terms of achieving “perfection". I read years ago that the amount of time and energy to get something to 100 percent of perfection is double the time it takes to get to 89 percent of perfection. So 89 percent is “go” time for me! 
  9. What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   
    Accountability to driving revenue (cost-effectively) for the company. I have an expression: “It’s not marketing if it doesn’t sell”, and I live by that. As much as possible, I want to see a tangible connection between our marketing efforts and top line economic metrics for the company. 
  10. Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
    I live by, and expect my teams to live by, the expression, “when in doubt, lead”. Meaning, if a person sees a lack of leadership in the company or their team, or sees an untapped opportunity, jump in and go for it! Be sure to bring others along - do not step on anyone’s toes - but assume the leadership role and help get it done! On the other end of the spectrum, “that’s not my job” drives me nuts. Even if it’s not your job, technically speaking, find a way to help fill the void (even by pointing out that there is a void!) and move things forward. 
  11. What makes you stressed?
    Not getting stuff done, either directly or via my team. Related, when folks in a company spend too much time talking about all the challenges and barriers around getting stuff done and never take the first step to move forward. That stresses me out!
  12. What do you do to relax?
    I’m a former professional musician and I love to listen to music, especially jazz. Equally important for me is road cycling - I raced for eight years and, although I don’t race any more, I love getting out on the road and climbing up (and descending) mountains and hills, surrounded by nature. My mind opens up, I solve work problems and create new strategies while on the bike.
  13. What is your favourite song?
    I love music and it’s near impossible to pick, but I’d have to say it’s a toss up between “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane and “Le Sacre du Printemps” by Igor Stravinsky.
  14. Which book taught you most?
    “Primal Leadership” by Daniel Goleman. A great and actionable view into the different leadership styles and how to find and perfect the one that’s right for you.
  15. Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
    The only sport that I really love is professional road cycling. However, I seem to be a bit caught in the past and still feel the riders of the past - Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Sean Kelly, etc. - were far greater champions then any of today’s big stars.
  16. Which country would you like to work in?
    That’s a tough one because I do think the American style of doing business is in line with my style. I guess I’d say the Netherlands or Denmark because they have a direct approach to communicating but they also put a strong premium on work/life balance, which is important. 
  17. Which company do you think has the best marketing?
    Honestly, I’ve not been super impressed with any company recently. When Steve Jobs was alive, Apple did fantastic marketing, consistently, and I have to say that always does a terrific job in event marketing - the best in any business.
  18. What do you love most about your job?
    The fact that Apcera is deeply, deeply involved with enabling innovation in cloud computing and driving cloud adoption among businesses, and I believe that this is a very big canvas to be painting on.  
  19. What is your favourite book?
    The Miles Davis biography, “Miles”. The man was always at the leading edge of innovation and creativity, and never held back his opinions.
  20. What keeps you awake at night?
    Innovation. Innovation cycles are getting shorter and shorter, and any morning I could wake up to find a new competitor with better technology coming after our market. That’s why great marketing is more important than ever!