The CMO Files: Carl Tsukahara, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Product, Evolv

Carl Tsukahara, Executive Vice President

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'...


Name:  Carl Tsukahara

Organisation: Evolv

Job title: Executive Vice President, Marketing and Product

Location: San Francisco, USA



(1)      Where were you born and raised?

San Francisco, California.


(2)      What was your first job?  

I was an engineer in the defense industry.


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

At that first job as a defense engineer, I was on the team behind one of the first commercial GPS devices, which was pretty exciting.


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

I had two role models at Oracle that I learned a lot from. Zach Nelson, who was then the chief marketing officer and is now the CEO of Netsuite, just taught me so much by making Oracle into a phenomenal brand. He remains a friend. Leland Putterman, who was CMO of BMC and CEO of Acorn, also taught me a lot. I learned from him how to understand what effective marketers' roles were in conjunction with sales, within large organizations. I really enjoyed working with them.


(5)      What has been your greatest achievement?

Professionally, I'm proud that I was the tenth employee and initial CMO at a company that was eventually worth over $11 billion, Vitria. Personally, my greatest achievement is having a family and kids.


(6)      What has been your biggest mistake?

In the rush of Silicon Valley, there were a few opportunities I passed on that became industry-making companies. But everyone has those experiences here.


(7)      What is your greatest strength?

One of the most important things I've learned over my career is to know how to handle different operational roles. I've had roles in engineering, sales, product management and marketing/strategy. Having experience in all of those seats has made me understand how to work with all of those departments, and since marketing and product management are the middle of the whole business ecosystem, that sort of understanding, coupled with good communication, is key to success. Plus, I can work with people with all sorts of backgrounds, which I'm proud of.


(8)      What is your biggest weakness?

It's my belief that things should move quickly - I'm impatient. I don't always take barriers into consideration, that there are other pieces and parts of the puzzle that take time.


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

Marketers don't always hold themselves responsible for their direct contribution to revenue. Leads aren't enough - as a profession, we have to understand the points closest to revenue generation. We need to ask and answer the question: How do you really push for profit? This is one of the skills I learned at Oracle - when you really have a good sense for structure and empower the marketing channel; you have the unbelievable power to eliminate competitors.


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

My mantra: Be bold. I fully believe in taking chances - that's how you move markets. What makes me squirm? Excuses and procrastination.


(11)  What makes you stressed?

Bureaucracy stresses me out. I don't like when the process is slowed down for no reason.


(12)  What do you do to relax?

I golf, do stuff with the kids, sit on the beach - not necessarily in that order.


(13)  What is your favourite song?

"Lights" by Journey


(14)  Which book taught you most?

Geoffrey More's "Crossing the Chasm" is a simple, excellent, "business classic" read.


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

All the above! Since I'm a Bay Area native, I mostly follow the 49ers, Giants, Warriors.


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

I've worked in the U.K. and have had responsibilities all over the world. But if I had to choose… I might want to work in Japan.


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

Apple really has done a great job by harnessing the power of their brand. They can charge a premium just by the mention of their brand, coupled with user experience. Also, Salesforce; I credit Marc Benioff with creating an entirely new category. They've built the space we sit in now called "the cloud."


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

I love giving something new to customers, a benefit or service they haven't been able to experience or do before. Also, I really enjoy doing something great with people that I really like.


(19)  What is your favourite book?

"Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide" by Jon Warshawsky is great. Essentially, the gist of the book is that marketers communicate in "cryptospeak" that no one understands. Warshawsky imparts an invaluable lesson: communicate like a real human.


(20)  What keeps you awake at night?

As a marketer, you're trying to keep an entire company aligned. There are many complex pieces that are constantly ticking. But the important thing is keep focused on driving revenue and moving the business forward.


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