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The CMO Files: Colette LaForce, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, AMD

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: Colette LaForce

Organization: AMD

Job title: Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer

Location: Austin, Texas

 

(1)           Where were you born and raised?

Born in Boston, and lived in three states and two different countries before I went off to university in Indiana.

 

(2)           What was your first job?

Creating my own version of Whole Foods—which was selling vegetables from my mom's garden out of my Radio Flyer wagon at about age five.  My first adult job was a lifeguard in high school. Definitely not a job where creative or alternative ideas for saving lives would have been appreciated. J

 

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

That would have to be the gorgeous IBM putty-colored PC my parents bought around 1985.  I remember some intense games of Carmen Sandiego on that machine, and it freed me to draw and write in ways I didn't previously imagine. Once I became a software programmer, I had an even deeper appreciation of what that first PC meant to me. It was even cooler than my Radio Flyer wagon.

 

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

All the art and philosophy teachers I had. Much of the creative thinking and ideation I bring to work has been cultivated and nurtured over the years by immersing myself in the arts.

 

(5)           What has been your greatest achievement?

No idea, but I'm excited for when it might happen.

 

(6)           What has been your biggest mistake?

I make lots of them so it is difficult to say what the biggest one has been or might be. I tend not to look back, but make sure that I store away the right takeaway from a mistake or error in judgment, and leverage those as guideposts for what not to do again in the future.

 

(7)           What is your greatest strength?

My energy and creativity around problem-solving, and extending past boundaries of traditional thinking (so they tell me).

 

(8)           What is your biggest weakness?

I'm a type-A leader, so I have to always be mindful of striking that balance between driving hard for results and bringing people along.

 

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

Perhaps the speed with which marketing is touching so many aspects of a company's ecology.   It's been said that "Marketing is the new HR" and it's largely true.  For example, the brand reinvigoration work I'm leading now at AMD is having a galvanizing effect on our employees that's felt across every team.  It's powerful stuff!

 

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

I love Nike's mantra of "just do it," because it is about living every moment to its full potential. I find myself thinking it all the time.

 

(11)       What makes you stressed?

I like pressure.  What would stress me out is not having something meaningful to do, but I can't imagine a scenario like that in this lifetime.

 

(12)       What do you do to relax?

Mocha, our Chocolate Lab, is really good at giving us the signal when it's time to shut down and go outside and play.   I paint and create mixed media works, and lately I've been experimenting a lot with aerosols (fancy name for spray paint)—though not in the Banksy model of street art. I do feel incredibly refreshed after I've spent time in my studio or outside working on a piece.

 

(13)       What is your favourite music?

Today it is Daft Punk and DeadMau5.  Tomorrow I have no idea.

 

(14)       Which book taught you most?

Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree."  It's a lovely story that you can take with you for a lifetime.

 

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

I was a swimmer in college. I had the opportunity to be at the London games and it was fun to see this new generation of swimmers tear up the pool.  I knew Ryan Lochte when he was a little kid hanging on deck during practices and I always enjoy seeing what the new crop of swimming talent will do next.

 

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

I like them all!  I am constantly traveling internationally for my job, and I haven't yet been to a place I wouldn't consider home someday.

 

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

I don't necessarily have a contender for "best" but am constantly inspired by the marketing I see all around us.  I think cutting through the noise requires a much tighter engagement with buyers nowadays, and those who have grounded their campaigns in the notion of purpose tend to be much more inspired in the way they communicate.  Apple, LuluLemon, Accenture and Nike come to mind.

 

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

Being here every day. I am very fortunate to be part of driving an epic transformation with a great team.  We can truly say we are at the center of a change that touches every aspect of our business and industry.  I love building and growing an enterprise into something more than it (or others) thought it could be.

 

(19)       What is your favourite book?

I have many, but one of my favorites is "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie.  It's the only business book I have ever recommended.

 

(20)       What keeps you awake at night?

I'm a natural worrier, so occasionally my brain goes into overdrive at night. I have learned to shut it down, recognizing that sleep and a healthy lifestyle are going to enable me to get through whatever comes next.  And if I can't sleep, I'm not one of those people who will lie there and try to count sheep.  I'll just get up and start my day early.  Sometimes the best ideas materialize before the sun comes up.

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