CMO Files: Syed Hoda, CMO, ParStream

CMO Files: Syed Hoda, CMO, ParStream

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:  Syed Hoda                          

Organisation:  ParStream

Job title:  Chief Marketing Officer

Location:  Palo Alto, California




(1) Where were you born and raised? 
Born in Patna, India. Raised in Corning, NY, a small town in upstate New York, USA.    

(2) What was your first job? 
IBM Sales Representative

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about? 
Unfortunately, I’m going to date myself here. The car phone!  I received my first car phone as an IBM Sales Rep. It completely transformed my typical work day and had a profound effect on my productivity.  My car became my office, which enabled me to physically meet with 2-3 additional customers every day.  That’s 40-50 additional customer meetings per month, and a huge increase in my sales pipeline.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 
My father. He had a successful career running R&D for a technology company. He was completely self-made…he supported himself in getting educated and eventually earned a PhD.  He never took his job for granted and always gave his very best effort…every single day.  He instilled the same qualities in me. No matter how old you get, it always feels good to make your dad proud.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?  
Lifelong friendships with colleagues, from my very first job and every single position thereafter.  I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with and for some truly great individuals.  I’m still in touch with many of these individuals…we meet for dinner…or, connect on Facebook, etc.  We’ve learned so much from each other.  Many of them helped shape my career path and influenced who I am today.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake? 
Early in my career, I placed too much importance on companies/titles/salaries, and as a result, didn’t take enough risks.  It was not until my mid-30’s that I started to focus much more on the potential growth/learning experiences of a new job opportunity.  A few years ago, I was choosing between two different roles at Cisco when I received some excellent advice from Rob Lloyd (President, Cisco)…he said “don’t worry about titles, pick the role where you’ll be working with the best people around you…working on initiatives that have the greatest impact on the company’s success.”  I wish I had heard Rob’s advice many years ago!

(7) What is your greatest strength? 
My passion for “the customer”.  The fact that customers pay us for our products should be important enough. But, well beyond “the check”, customers often bet their business on our company.  We need to treasure that trust…each and every single day, in everything we do.  I’ve always been a strong customer advocate and make sure that the customer’s voice is always heard in every corner of our organization.

(8) What is your biggest weakness? 
Patience, or lack thereof.  I have a severe allergy for meetings with someone presenting forty PowerPoint slides to deliver three slides of “real” content.   You all know exactly what I’m talking about!  Unfortunately, I’ve attended way too many of “those” meetings.  On the bright side, however, I was able to catch-up on lots of emails during those meetings J

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? 
The art of connecting technology to business needs through storytelling.  While people appreciate this concept in theory, they often go back to “pushing products” and don’t take the time to develop and articulate a story to help “connect” with the audience.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? 
My mantra: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (Maya Angelou).  I haven’t always followed it and have made many mistakes along the way, but eventually learned just how true that statement is, from many different perspectives.
Squirm: “Because, that’s how we’ve always done it.”

(11) What makes you stressed? 
IDG Connect interviews.  Just kidding!  A lack of good communications creates stress, especially during the critical stages of a project.  No one likes surprises, it’s important to share good news AND bad news.  It’s amazing just how many issues get quickly resolved just by better communications!

(12) What do you do to relax? 
I love playing basketball with my two teen boys.  When they were very young, they thought I was NBA All Star material…now, they block and steal the ball the moment I get my hands on it.  But, it’s still one of my favourite ways to relax.

(13) What is your favourite song?
Very difficult to choose one…having been a former DJ during my college years, I have many, many “favourite” songs! …driving songs, dancing songs, songs for late night/drinks, songs for morning/chill with coffee, etc.  Sorry, can’t choose “one”!

(14) Which book taught you most? 
An “old school” classic! Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy may be one of the greatest business books ever written, because it ingrained a simple yet powerful framework into our strategic thinking.  There are many variations, but Porter is the original and all of his concepts are still relevant today.

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow? 
I LOVE NFL football (American football) with a passion.  During the season, my Sundays (and Monday nights!) are filled with football.

(16) Which country would you like to work in? 
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked and lived in four different countries on three different continents…and would love to do it again.  I’ve never lived in South America, so I’d pick Buenos Aires, Argentina.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing? 
Apple.  I know this is a popular answer within the tech marketing community, but who can argue with a company that can completely sell-out a barely-announced product in just a few hours?  Consistently!  Steve Jobs often downplayed marketing’s importance in public forums, but the reality is that he was a marketing genius. No company in the history of technology has captured mind-share AND heart-share quite like Apple.

(18) What do you love most about your job? 
Working in a start-up is one of the most exciting and rewarding career experiences I’ve ever had. Every single day, my colleagues and I have a direct influence in building and shaping a company.  There’s no environment quite like it, where one wears many different “hats” throughout the day…a bit of chaos is perfectly normal…and the team starts to truly feel like a family away from home!

(19) What is your favourite book? 
Similar to my answer for “favourite song”…too difficult to select “a” book. But, I do have a soft spot for A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking.  I really felt smarter after reading it.  Me and 10 million other people!

(20) What keeps you awake at night?
Good music and engaging conversations!  But, I don’t think that was the intent of this question!  Professionally, stress doesn’t keep me awake at night.  Positive experiences keep me awake…the art of the possible, an exciting new project, a high-profile keynote presentation…sort of like wishing it was Christmas morning already! 


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