Human Resources

The CMO Files: Jon Schulz, Viant

Jon Schulz

 Organisation: Viant

 Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

 Location: Detroit, Michigan



1.      Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Michigan.  We moved around the state a bit with my father’s job as a State Trooper.  I truly love Michigan and the Midwest.      


2.      What was your first job? 
At the all-knowing age of 11, I embarked on my first professional role, delivering newspapers in my neighbourhood.

3.      What was the first product you got really excited about?   
his is a tough one, but if I’m honest the first product that I really got excited about and identified with – was a motorcycle. I loved my Yamaha dirt bike growing up!

4.      Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Like many individuals that have enjoyed some career success, I have many people to thank. However, one of my first and most profound influencers was Dr. Richard Hartley, the professor of my first business computing class. My undergraduate years were pre-internet, but really learning and understanding the growing impact of advanced software and hardware on business operations and decision making made me rethink my career aspirations and built my career-long passion around technology.

5.      What has been your greatest achievement?
By far my family is my greatest achievement. I have an amazing family, including two children that I am so proud of and I’m also lucky enough to have had a very rewarding and diverse career.

6.      What has been your biggest mistake?
Professionally, I wish I had ventured out and explored more entrepreneurial opportunities earlier in my career.  Big companies served me well and were a great training ground, but I’ve really found my place in the fast-moving world of smaller companies.

7.      What is your greatest strength?
I’ve been told that I’m good at taking complex ideas and concepts and making them easy to understand – not a bad skill for a Marketer.  I work very hard to continue improving as a leader with a focus on developing our younger talent. 

8.      What is your biggest weakness?
I can overinvest time on certain projects. I can be a perfectionist, which admittedly has its pros and cons, but that has meant that I sometimes overcommit my time to a project in order to avoid failure.  No one bats 1.000 or completes all of their passes.  Hard decisions need to be made from time to time.

9.      What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?  
Marketing and Sales are often at odds with each other and because of this dichotomy Marketing can sometimes take on a life of its own, becoming disconnected from the day-to-day business operations. This is where Marketers can start to lose track of why they are here – to drive company growth. In order to move forward it is extremely important that Marketing and Sales are a strong team working together towards a common goal.

10.   Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
My mantra or inspirational phrase is “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. I believe that focus and hard work will drive positive outcomes.  “You got lucky,” means you busted your butt and had the right idea at the right time AND were savvy enough to capitalized on it.
What I find very disappointing is too much focus on “me”.  Many companies today still have strong internal politics and systems that encourage self-promotion or out shinning your co-workers.  I firmly believe that the most successful organizations put the team ahead of the individual.  Not everyone is a leader, but leaders also don’t succeed on their own.  This is true in sports and I believe it holds true in business as well.

11.   What makes you stressed?
What stresses me the most are misaligned business objectives. Nothing irritates me more than when people within the same organisation are working towards different goals and pulling in opposite directions.

12.   What do you do to relax?
Spending time with my family at our lake cottage in Northern Michigan always helps me unwind and forget stresses.

13.   What is your favourite song?
Photograph by Def Leppard – I am definitely an 80s hair band fan!

14.   Which book taught you most?
I really enjoyed Steve Jobs’ biography written by Walter Isaacson.  A man leading a truly innovative company with products and services that changed peoples lives.  But also the story behind the story and the personal sacrifice and poor relationships that plagued him along the way.  As a society we love to glamourize things we see, but our own realities should tell us that no one is without struggle.

15.   Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
I’m a big sports fan and enjoy watching a lot of different teams and sports.  My two passions are Indiana University men’s basketball and Detroit Red Wings hockey.

16.   Which country would you like to work in?
I have had the opportunity to travel internationally a fair bit and have seen many beautiful places.  One country I have not yet visited that looks interesting is Australia.  However, I’m fortunate enough to be in the best country in the world and there is no place I’d rather live and work than the USA!

17.   Which company do you think has the best marketing?
Both living in Michigan and my career background at Ford have made me very passionate about the automotive industry.  Within automotive, Fiat Chrysler has done an outstanding job moving from the typical “car on road” or “money on the hood” advertising you see everywhere to very inspirational and brand building campaigns starting with their historic “Imported from Detroit” breakthrough ad during the 2011 Super Bowl.

18.   What do you love most about your job?
Apart from the organisation itself and what we do every day, I love the people I work with.

19.   What is your favourite book?
Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs which I mentioned earlier.  Well researched and well written and in my opinion a very fair and balanced account of a truly visionary and innovative businessman, harsh yet seemingly effective leader and very conflicted family man.

20.     What keeps you awake at night?
Trying to control the uncontrollable.  We can do everything we need to do, but can still miss the mark based on changes in government or industry regulation, the introduction of new technologies or business models we never conceived and there is always the risk of key talent loss.  There is never a lack of challenges, but how you manage through the difficult times really defines you and what you are made of.


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