Human Resources

CMO Files: Ivo Totev, CMO, UNIT4

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:  Ivo Totev

Organisation: UNIT4

Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: Utrecht / The Netherlands






(1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Sofia / Bulgaria. My parents were orchestra musicians, and I was still a baby when we first moved on to other countries. At the age of 26 we had moved 26 times, and I had lived in several different countries.   

(2) What was your first job?

I was 16 and worked during the summer break for a company that assembled slot machines. I learned two lessons: soldering of electronic components and the fact that you should not count on luck in the long term. The software of these machines was designed in a way that playing over a longer period would make you lose a certain portion of your money, no matter what. And: I remember thinking back then that the first lesson would be more valuable. 

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

It was definitely the PalmV PDA, called personal digital assistants back then. I remember spending hours and hours trying to adapt my handwriting, so that the device would recognize what I was trying to type in. Pretty difficult exercise, however the idea to move away from paper-based organizers was so exciting!

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

Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData – always positive, no matter what. Roman is a serial entrepreneur, and we got to know each other at Sun Microsystems in 2000 when Sun acquired NetBeans, his first company. Throughout the time we have known each other he has been a constant source of inspiration; in good times when his projects were taking off; and in challenging times, when he had to take a step back and rework his initial ideas.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

Losing 40 pounds in 6 months. On the professional side, I believe my achievements can only be effectively gauged by the people who work with me, so we’d have to ask them. I can say, however, that few notable achievements have been down to me alone. There’s always a team involved.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

Leaving California. My wife and I promised our kids we would come back to Europe after we finished some important professional projects – and promises need to be kept! Looking back I’d have loved to stay in the Bay Area. It seems the mistake was making that promise in the first place. We definitely will consider going back in a few years.

(7) What is your greatest strength?

I love building and working in teams. I was a rower throughout high-school and the beginning of university. It was at that time I discovered that for me it was a much greater pleasure to win a race as a team of four, than winning alone. Today every success is built on succeeding quickly alongside many different aspects. That only works with motivated teams and a great flow of positive energy.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

I love sweets, especially when I work long hours. This might explain my answer to the earlier question!

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

In high tech marketing we all get excited by the cool offerings from our companies. The temptation is to think that all we need to do is to communicate the great things we do. In reality customers and prospects are busy keeping up with their own projects and the sheer amount of change happening in our world. So making time to put ourselves in the shoes of the audiences we want to communicate to is something we have to do constantly.

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

I studied Electrical Engineering. Once a piece of hardware is produced you cannot quickly change it, no matter how much you need it to work differently for a presentation in a couple of hours’ time. One of my professors used to say “if you can’t fix it, feature it”. Still love that phrase. This attitude has helped me many times throughout my career.

A phrase I have difficulties with is something like: “Don’t go there. We tried many times in the past and it did not work.” So often it comes down to the detail and by looking at something from a new angle you can find a way for it to work. So I don’t like to hear that!

(11) What makes you stressed?

When I sense that the perception of reality between senior leadership and the rest of a company starts to diverge. This is the worst thing that can happen to any company.

(12) What do you do to relax?

Running, cycling and swimming. Usually I develop my best ideas while exercising.

(13) What is your favourite song?

My all-time favourite is Virtual Insanity from Jamiroquai. My recent favourite is Rather Be from Clean Bandit.

(14) Which book taught you most?

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore probably had the biggest influence on me. It was not long after university when the book came out. I was working back then for a start-up, and we all loved it and so often talked about the book and quoted it.

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

I love Formula 1, and I love the Scuderia Ferrari, although they are doing miserably the last few years.

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

I love many places throughout the world, however nothing comes close to the Bay Area.

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

Red Bull! To achieve such a level of awareness and coolness with such a limited set of products is remarkable.

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

No day is like the next. There’s so much to learn and explore, especially with digital changing the ways we engage with customers and prospects in almost real-time!

(19) What is your favourite book?

I love poems from Heinrich Heine. A refreshing contrast to our digital, high tech world.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

I sleep very well. If I was ever to wake up during a night it would be something family related.



« Q&A With Wesley Lynch, CEO and Founder of Snapplify


Coupa Seeks a Coup in Enterprise Spending »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?