CMO Files: Nikki Arora, CMO, UST Global

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

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Name:  Nikki Arora 

Organization: UST Global

Job title: CMO

Location:  Aliso Viejo, California

(1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in India, but we moved around a lot. I have been lucky enough to live in several cities of India, mostly in the Southeast and West. 

(2) What was your first job? 

My first professional experience was my venture out of high school. I ran a boutique, where I sold clothing and my paintings. My first job out of college was teaching at a Montessori school, where I stayed for about two years. Both these experiences prepared me for the corporate world, where I’ve been for almost 20 years.

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?  

My boutique was an extremely personal experience. The success that I saw with that gave me a lot of confidence and sense of ownership. It was gratifying to see work hard pay off, especially at a very young age.  Ever since, I have taken a lot of pride and invested myself in every project, be it personal or professional. In recent years, UST Global’s “Step IT Up America” (SIUA) has been rewarding and exciting. SIUA is a STEM (Science Technology Engineering &Math) initiative to train and create over 5,000 jobs for minority women across America.   

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors who given me great advice and helped me push the envelope. As a woman executive, I have to recognize the incredible support system within my family and friends. They have been the bedrock of my professional success.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

From a professional standpoint, I am most proud of successfully transforming UST Global’s brand within a short period of time. We’ve focused on bringing our brand’s values to the communities where we operate. In the last 18months, we’ve launched initiatives training and bringing technology jobs to under presented population in our business. I have championed initiatives to elevate the role of women within our organization.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?  

Thankfully, none of my mistakes have been far outside of the ordinary mistakes most of us make. Interestingly enough, I have always been able to remain within social and professional boundaries.  Nothing too exciting or scandalous!

(7) What is your greatest strength? 

I would have to say my greatest strength is my acute focus on execution.  I strive to convert our CEOs visions to ideas that my team can implement.  I set goals for myself and the company, and I do whatever I can to make things happen.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

Sometimes, I wish that I was able to be more patient, with a hectic work schedule with a lot of moving parts it’s easy to become frustrated with things like this that can hinder efficiency.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   

Overall, I think it’s easy to underestimate the complexity that goes behind building and maintaining industry relationships.  It takes a lot of work to make connections and build a brand. It’s natural for us to often ease into enjoying things as byproducts without putting much thought into the work that goes into building the principal product behind the scenes.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?

I have two:  “Get things done methodically and as close to perfection as possible.” and “We can do it.”

Oftentimes, marketing departments receive challenging tasks with very short turnaround deadlines.  Other times, we are executing events in remote locations. Marketers need to be comfortable outside of our comfort zones since we’re constantly on our toes, inventing new ways to do things efficiently and effectively. These phrases help me to focus on the end goal while also remaining, relying on my foundation of experience and team to know we will get the job done.

Phrases such as “it’s okay” and “this isn’t necessary”, plus the delegation of work outside my scope, make me nervous.  I squirm whenever I come across half-hearted commitment and indecisiveness.

(11) What makes you stressed?

A lack of listening skills, disrespect to commitment, inconsiderateness, insensitivity, and unprofessionalism.  I am also very particular about attention to detail. Our team thinks through each and every single detail in the planning process but sometimes things are out of our control. I get stressed if our brand looks sloppy or if we have missed something.

(12) What do you do to relax?  

If my schedule permits, spa treatments are my heavenly retreats.  Otherwise, I really enjoy taking long walks in parks or by the ocean. UST Global is based in Aliso Viejo, LA. We are lucky to have easy access to the beach.

(13) What is your favorite song? 

I have a ton of favorites.  “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, “You Will be in my Heart” and “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins, and “Collide” by Howie Day, to name a few.

(14) Which book taught you most? 

I could not possibly pick just one – however the human mind and behaviors are subjects that intrigue my curiosity, so I tend to have an immediate attraction to such books. 

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow? 

I enjoy watching most sports, but I follow basketball passionately. The Clippers are my favorite team, but I do admire Kobe Bryant!

(16) Which country would you like to work in?

The United States is my heart and home, so I am most definitely happy here.  If opportunity should strike in India or Spain, I wouldn’t mind exploring either of those places.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing?

Pepsi, Costco, BMW, Marriot, Emirates, and Kaiser have very strong marketing strategies, as they managed to build a strong relationship with their clients. This is harder to do in the IT space, but I think it's important we also connect with our clients and those we engage with.

(18) What do you love most about your job?

I love the journey, the growth, the innovation and the excitement of being part of something bigger.  To me, it doesn’t feel like a job. I also enjoy the challenge of growing into my current role and making it all that it can be. I was previously running human resources and corporate communications, so taking on this position was a brand new challenge. So far, we have developed some unique ways to build visibility and engagement among our customers. My CEO has trusted my instinct and the marketing team has been able to demonstrate ROI from our efforts.  Being able to reach success for your company is always enjoyable.

(19) What is your favorite book?

My all-time favorite book is “Ubuntu”, an inspirational story of unity, teamwork, faith and loyalty. Dan Harris’s “10% Happier” that centers on the importance of living in the moment is a close second.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

I take huge pride in being mindful of those around me, so I’m often worried about not meeting the expectations of my loved ones and peers.