The CMO Files: James Norwood, Episerver
Human Resources

The CMO Files: James Norwood, Episerver

James Norwood

Organisation: Episerver

Job title: Executive Vice President Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer

Location: Newport Beach, California, USA


  1. Where were you born and raised?
    I was born at 6am on a foggy night in Aston, near Birmingham, in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom. I was born at home in my parents “two up two down” terraced house. I was raised in South Staffordshire before moving to London as the co-owner of a hardware/software “start-up” business in 1988, before the term was even known.          
  2. What was your first job?
    My first real job was washing pots and dishes for 8 hours a day at a high-end French restaurant with about 150 covers. If you’ve ever read Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London,” then you will know what I’m talking about. It taught me how to work long, hard hours, which to be honest I needed. It also taught me about wine!
  3. What was the first product you got really excited about?
    Well, from a work perspective, I tend to get excited about all my products. The first application I coded myself and then saw a business successfully running was hugely satisfying, although my Basic and C++ days are behind me now. Envisioning, getting the backing for, and seeing an entire product line come to market and generating revenue for a US-based Public Company was pretty special as well. Outside work, the first product to really grip me was the vinyl record. I still have about 1,000 in my collection, although I’m not a modern-day vinyl collector, I prefer iTunes or Spotify now.    
  4. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
    That’s a tough one as I can’t single out a specific biggest influencer. My first business partner had unbelievable patience and desire to help me learn about technology. The CEO who I work for now at Episerver has been pretty much an ever present over the years at multiple companies, and has helped me by trusting in my ability and letting me do what I do best, yet is always one step ahead of me, keeping me on my toes. There’s also people during my career that impressed me enough to say, “I want that job” and then I modelled myself accordingly.
  5. What has been your greatest achievement?
    There are a lot of things during my working career as well as personal achievements that I am proud of, and some that I’m not, but to be honest they all pale into comparison next to the fact that despite any success, and all of my failings, there are still people who love me.
  6. What has been your biggest mistake?
    Oh gosh, too many, but the ones I regret the most are when I failed to understand human situations quickly enough and ended up losing quality people. That stuff haunts me, but I try to learn from it. You should never judge new situations by past standards, but always look at them with a fresh set of eyes and don’t rely on third party intelligence when it comes to people: do the diligence yourself and always give people the opportunity before making decisions.    
  7. What is your greatest strength?
    My only real talent these days is probably my PowerPoint skills. I think my greatest strength is that I believe in what I do, and people can feel the passion, which is infectious. That’s how you move mountains, by creating belief, genuinely and transparently. I like to say, “work hard, be humble, good things will happen.”
  8. What is your biggest weakness?
    I work too hard for too many hours. You need a life balance. I insist that my staff take proper time off, although I have a few who are just like me. Ultimately, it’s not good. You only get one life, don’t invest it all in one thing.  
  9. What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?
    I don’t think there is one to be honest. My peers know what I’m about, what I contribute, even the soft stuff.
  10. Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
    I have a few. The first is from Stephen Crane’s American Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which he wrote aged 23 (he died in 1900, just 28 years old) and that is "He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death.” This is something that has helped me through much of my life. The second is attributed to Oscar Wilde, who incidentally died in 1900 just a few months after Stephen Crane, aged 46, and is very fitting for a marketing person like myself, and that is, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I fully subscribe to this mantra and the concept of there being no such thing as bad publicity (although we would all prefer it to be good). Not much makes me squirm, although I dislike “my bad.”
  11. What makes you stressed?
    My boss and my direct reports of course! Actually, I tend to stress more when business is going well, you just constantly worry about what might go wrong to stop the progress. It’s sometimes easier when things are not going so well. That’s stressful too but at least then you’re fighting to get somewhere from a position that’s worse off, which is very different. One is climbing a mountain the other is precipitous.  
  12. What do you do to relax?
    When I’m not working I do like to ride my road bike up very steep mountains. Recently I climbed a 10 mile (16 km) “hill” that averaged 9.5% throughout with a maximum grade of 20%, and it was 102F (39C) all the way up. I enjoyed every minute of it! For stress busting I listen to classical music, even though I’m not a fan, as it just works, or I take a hot yoga class.
  13. What is your favourite song?
    That’s an impossible question, like most people I have a new favourite almost every week. This week I’ve been listening to Amy Winehouse, so I’m going to say Mark Ronson’s version of “Valerie,” amongst 1,000 other favourites.
  14. Which book taught you most?
    I can’t think of a single book that taught me the most. I’m not a big reader of business books, I read non-fiction military history on a regular basis, and on occasion classical fiction. I learn every time I read. 
  15. Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
    Of course, I support the mighty Brentford Football Club (soccer) in the English Football League Championship, and will do until I die. You Bees!
  16. Which country would you like to work in?
    I moved from the UK to work in the USA in 2000 and never came back, so I guess I made my big move already. As far as cities go, as I’m a city boy at heart I like San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm and Sydney, all the ones that start with S, and I would gladly live and work in any of them. I had the opportunity to work in Silicon Valley for just over three years, and it was a great experience. If you’re in software it’s kind of a right of passage.
  17. Which company do you think has the best marketing?
    Any company whose brand has become synonymous with something in my mind has the best marketing. Because I’m in tech I tend to evaluate tech company marketing most. When I think of Apple I think of style and usability, with Amazon, price and availability, with Microsoft I think of productivity, and Facebook I think of personalization. I like to think my current company is decent at it too. We’ve been building a brand globally from very small beginnings in Sweden and that takes a lot of time and effort. I like to hire savvy, talented folk and give them the resources to bring their ideas to life, which is also the message of my company, Episerver. We sell our cloud software to marketers, and our vision is to help them to bring their brilliant ideas to life – fast!      
  18. What do you love most about your job?
    The people. Interacting with other human beings daily is what keeps you alive. I often think that when people retire the last thing they’re thinking of is what it will be like to suddenly not be engaged with so many people every day, working out problems, getting results. That can be an issue. I like public speaking, I like ideation and strategy, but most of all I like the human interaction. 
  19. What would people be surprised about if they knew?
    Most people are not surprised when they learn that I played bass guitar in a Punk band during my youth, but they are more so when they hear that I joined the British Royal Navy submarine corps at the age of 16, and completed my basic training before thinking better of it and opting to return to school!
  20. What keeps you awake at night?
    Actually not very much. I’m a good sleeper and grateful for it. I’m always so sorry for people who have sleeping problems, it’s the most important thing in order to keep you going and at the top of your game. From a business perspective I spend time thinking about sucession planning. I like to hire people I feel could or would take my job one day, and you need to plan ahead for them. And, I think about what could disrupt our company’s momentum or change our fortunes, literally overnight. Just as thinking about how to do things better yourself, you can never overthink that.


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