The CMO Files: Corinne Sklar, Bluewolf, an IBM Company

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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Corinne Sklar

 Organisation: Bluewolf, an IBM Company

 Job title: Global CMO

 Location: San Francisco, CA


1.             Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Huntington Beach in Southern California, and grew up in San Diego and Los Angeles.

2.             What was your first job?  
In elementary school, I made bookmarks and sold them door-to-door. I was always in sales; I always wanted to sell something. My real first job was working for my father’s engineering consulting firm. It gave me a strong work ethic and taught me about business early on, I learnt how to put customers first quickly because my father had a services business; and it just so happens that now, I work in the services business.

3.             What was the first product you got really excited about?        
My Walkman or my record player. I’m a huge music fan.

4.             Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
There are two people whom I consider to be incredible mentors. One is my great aunt, Dr. Piedad Robertson who has been an important influence of mine from a very young age. She’s a very successful and multi-faceted leader – she was on the board of the Gates Foundation, the Head of Education for the state of Massachusetts, the president of several community colleges, a single mom at one point, and was an immigrant from Cuba. Another influencer is Eric Berridge, the CEO of my company, Bluewolf. I’ve been lucky enough to build Bluewolf into what it is today, a global consultancy and a top leader in the Salesforce ecosystem, with Eric and our executive team.

5.             What has been your greatest achievement?
Being able to build value in Bluewolf, a company that was acquired by IBM, one of the most storied brands in the world.

6.             What has been your biggest mistake?
Not taking enough risk. I’ve taken a lot of risks, but there have been plenty of times when I thought I could have taken more. A CMO has to constantly put themselves in an uncomfortable position. It’s part of the job. It’s a good thing really – when you do that, you learn how to accept failure as well as accepting success.

7.             What is your greatest strength?
I’m a ‘big picture’ thinker. I have an ability to process a lot of data input and look at how they all come together around a vision, and then build teams that can execute that vision.

8.             What is your biggest weakness?
As you get into larger organizations, it’s not enough to have a vision. You have to market that vision internally to get everybody on board. It doesn’t matter if it’s a great idea – without operational excellence and alignment, it fails and I’m learning more around how we expand success to very disruptive programs as we scale this global company.

9.             What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?       
There are three components of what makes amazing marketing and you have to have all three. You have to have a clear strategy that everyone is aligned to. You have to have operational excellence to drive that strategy. And the third is the biggest one, the creativity. Marketing has to be about innovation and breaking glass, because that’s what gets attention.

10.  Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
Ultimately, my mantra is that you have to enjoy what you do to get to that creativity to drive results. I want to build something and I want everyone on board and excited to build something.
A phrase that makes me squirm? Non-negotiated contracts – everything should be negotiated.

11.  What makes you stressed?
Not closing business.

12.  What do you do to relax?
On my free time, I’m very involved in the arts community. I’m also on the board of Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco. The creative arts are important because it’s critical to everything that you do in this role, whether you’re CEO or marketer – it’s all about that entrepreneurial, creative vision. It’s something that I always look to encourage in people.

13.  What is your favourite song?
I love all music. I can’t have a favourite song.

14.  Which book taught you most?

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

16.  Which country would you like to work in?
France, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work in our office there. I just love France and Europe.

17.  Which company do you think has the best marketing?
Bluewolf and IBM.

18.  What do you love most about your job?
The people, and seeing them grow. If we’re all growing and we’re all coming up with ideas, it’s really exciting. What I love about my job is creation with a team. I love seeing empowerment in people – just seeing someone have an idea, run with it and say ‘look what we did.’

19.  What is your favourite book?
The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

20.  What keeps you awake at night?
Right now, it’s those three pillars of marketing. Where I am today, I’m more interested in operations execution and strategy than I am in creativity, and other times it’ll be creativity. In general, it’s just making sure that our team is able to execute on the scale of the growth that we have coming in Bluewolf’s business right now.