Human Resources

CMO Files: Dave Ginsburg, Pluribus Networks

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: Dave Ginsburg

Organisation: Pluribus Networks

Job title: CMO

Location:  Palo Alto, CA




Where were you born and raised? 
I was born in Utica, NY, but moved around a bit. First to Miami Beach, then to upstate New York, to Delaware, and then back to Miami for grades 1-12. I went to college at RPI in Troy, NY.     

What was your first job?  
Flipping burgers at McDonald’s on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. I smelled like a grease pit at the end of the day. There, I learned the meaning of a minimum wage and sweat but saved the cash for an Apple II.

What was the first product you got really excited about?   
Thinking about ‘products’ that I’d go out and buy, it was probably the Apple. There were a few different PCs around, some much cheaper, but the Apple caught my eye.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 
I’d have to say my wife. We are both in the same industries, and help each other out. We bounce ideas off each other, and coach one another on our gaps. She is also a CMO so it helps to brainstorm with a trusted source and she’s really good on the people skills. 

What has been your greatest achievement? 
It may seem trite, but it’s my two daughters. How they think and their abilities. I see some of myself in both of them, and look forward to also all the wonderful things they’ll experience over the next decades. Every month is new to all of us.

What has been your biggest mistake? 
Probably on the career front, I’ve remained loyal to a company and its products after the ‘expiration’ date or after a change in control where I did not see a clear path forward.

What is your greatest strength?  
Persistence, though some say it is sometimes too much. But I do like to set a goal, and see projects to completion. As part of this, an ability to synthesize the moving parts…. an understanding of the bigger picture but being aware of critical details.  I like the old adage of the jar filled with rocks, then sand, and then water. You need to be aware of all three to be successful. To see the trees though the forest, but at the same time not lose sight of the forest.

What is your biggest weakness? 
I still don’t walk the halls enough, though getting better. And I’m more likely to sit and eat at my desk to keep working rather than take colleagues out to lunch. I need to consciously work on this. In marketing, more-so than some other parts of the business, there is a need to interface with people who have what I’d call stronger or softer personalities. This is a work in progress for me.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   
My background is engineering, so I come to the CMO role though that lens. I can say I don’t have as much respect for those who just want the ‘soft skills’ without fully understanding the product and technology.  They come across very smooth, but like used car salespeople. So, my guidance would be to understand the tech, even if it is not in your comfort zone, since the industry as a whole is becoming more sophisticated. But once again, I’m looking at this through the lens of technology B2B.     

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?  
Not sure what the exact word would be, but close to ‘just do it’ as Nike writes. I don’t like indecision, and would rather make a partially informed decision that turns out later to be wrong, than no decision at all.   However, people don’t consider me to be too quick to jump to conclusions, so there is a balance. On the squirm side, it is maybe not a single phrase, but language that takes the form of passive-aggressive… I’d call it ‘extreme type b’ to an extent. Sometimes hard to place, but I know it when I see it and it raises the hair on my back.

What makes you stressed? 
Seeing what I’m doing is not resulting in any forward momentum… spinning in circles. I’m told I have a lot of energy, sometimes too much, and I like to see that directed. I suspect many feel the same in this role.

What do you do to relax? 
I still find time to read. At our house we have one room that is a library, and I’ve held onto the books I’ve collected since childhood. Sometimes I’ll purchase a new book and load it on the Kindle, but other times I’ll dig into my collection. Like an old friend. 

What is your favourite song?
‘Désenchantée’. I can’t say that the lyrics are upbeat, but I love the music and find myself playing it a lot.  At times it probably feels in the world as if we are all on the edge of a precipice.

Which book taught you most?  
‘Atlas Shrugged’, but please don’t call me a Randite. I know there are many criticisms of her, but there is something about progress and independence that struck a chord. It’s probably the only book of this length that I’ve read 3 or more times. Sadly, they butchered it for the movie. Some novels should just be left alone.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow? 
When I was growing up, I really followed the Dolphins. We all did in Miami. And then at RPI we had an NCAA-winning hockey team, and in fact, camped out on what we called Hockey Line for season tickets.  Sort of like what you see in front of an Apple Store before an iPhone launch. When I moved to Europe, it was more soccer (aka football), but since I’ve moved back to the US I’ve not been that close to any one team with maybe the exception of the Sharks. I just can’t get myself to like the 49ers. It must be that old AFC-NFC rivalry.  

Which country would you like to work in? 
We really like Italy and France, and could see ourselves spending time in either after the kids are in college.   Whether I’d have the correct work attitude would need to be seen, but I did work for a German company while living in Heidelberg for two years, then Cisco in Germany for two more, and then Cisco in the UK for another two.  So I do have some experience with overseas teams.  I’d probably want to live somewhere where I could pick up the language, and I’m not great at this, so APAC could be more challenging.   Argentina could also be an interesting experience, as we spent our holidays there two years ago.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? 
Pluribus Networks J Seriously, you really need to split it between consumer (B2C) and business (B2B).   On the technology consumer front, I’m probably not alone in calling out Apple. They get it. They know how to build that emotional bond, and great products just help seal it. Tesla and GoPro do the same. B2B is more difficult, but I’ve seen good marketing from some of the software companies – Salesforce, VMware, and Oracle. This is reflected in their user communities. For hardware, some good work from Aruba and Ruckus Wireless.

What do you love most about your job? 
I’m a technologist at heart, so being able to position a leading product and see its success in the market.   At the same time, seeing people embrace this positioning. 

What is your favourite book? 
‘Ringworld’ by Larry Niven. It’s a compelling blend of fantasy and technology, and the success is creating a world, if one could call it that, that blurs the lines to the here and now. It is part of his future history, which of all the science fiction canons is probably the most engaging. Note that I didn’t pick a current management or self-help book ;)

What keeps you awake at night?   
We have a 10 month old King Charles Cavalier that runs outside at 4 in the morning and barks at the deer in our neighborbood. But on the work front… not often, but sometimes when I’ve taken an action or said something, and don’t know how it will play out the next day. You’re in bed bouncing off scenarios with your mind racing.   


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