Human Resources

CMO Files: Sean Jackson, CMO, EXASOL

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:  Sean Jackson

Organisation:  EXASOL

Job title:  Chief Marketing Officer

Location:   Worldwide

                            (1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in the North-East of England where my parents met.  We lived on a farm until I was a teenager when we left the North and headed South where I finished school and went to University.  

(2) What was your first job?  

My first paying job was as a paperboy.  I was 12 and thought I was rich when I collected my few ponds at the end of the working week.  I spent a number of years getting up at dawn to deliver the daily newspapers to the fine folk of Surbiton. 

My first career job was working for an event and marketing agency on the outskirts of Munich – our biggest client back then was Compaq and we helped to run their training events, product launches and other campaigns across Europe

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

It was a high-availability software solution for disaster recovery.  It was only when I met customers who were using the solution and saw how it protected their business operations by guaranteeing business uptime when I truly appreciated the product and what it could do.

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

I have been fortunate to have had a few bosses who really appreciated my abilities and my output.  I believe that companies are nothing without its people.  It’s not about the product or software per se, it’s more about the people.  They make the difference.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

I am immensely proud to have been a valued member of staff at all the companies I have worked at.  Plus, my meeting royalty at CeBIT in Hannover one year was a highlight – Prince Andrew visited our booth and I got to talk to him about the company I was working at.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

When I started out in marketing, I didn’t fully appreciate how important it is to make marketing an integral part of the sales engine.  Clearly, I learned quickly that marketing is redundant if nothing translates into sales and business wins.

(7) What is your greatest strength?

The ability to stand back and look at marketing strategically to understand what is working, what is not and what is the right thing to do.  Sometimes, marketers can get so bogged down in the weeds of tactics that they forget to evaluate the entire output. 

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

Not saying no enough.  Sometimes, marketers can be put upon by all parts of the business as everyone tries to give you their input.  I have learned through the years to not get side-tracked by other people’s wish lists and focus on the job at hand.

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

The ability to communicate is as important today as it ever was.  Not only external communication to prospects, customers, partners and the market in general, but communicating internally is just as crucial so that others in the company can see what marketing is up to and what it is delivering.

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

I live by the mantra of “getting stuff done” as I believe there are too many marketers who talk a good talk but then expect someone else to deliver the goods.  Phrases that make me squirm include “paradigm shifts”, “inflection points” and “move the needle.”  Who talks like that?  But the word I cannot stand to hear has to be “awesome.”  There is nothing wrong with the word itself but, sadly, it is so overused that it has lost its true significance.  The view of the Cinque Terre in Italy may be awesome, but drinking a chai latte is not.

(11) What makes you stressed?

Nothing.  I don’t believe in getting stressed, it’s of no help to anyone, let alone myself.  Also, I believe if you manage your work and other people’s expectations well enough, you can avoid stress.

(12) What do you do to relax?

I have recently started to go running, which I never thought I would do.  I find it exhilarating and allows you to switch off.  Plus, it’s a cheap and fun exercise to do.  Otherwise, I love heading the West End to see a play or a show. 

(13) What is your favourite song?

I was born in the 1970s so I grew up listening to 1980s music, which I still love.  Anything from the 80s is always a winner.  It’s the one playlist that I listen to the most on my iPhone.

(14) Which book taught you most?

Two books stick in my mind.  Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder and The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.  One teaches you about philosophy and the other about the inequalities of life and how socialism came to the fore in the UK.

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

I am not your typically football supporter so I can’t take part in conversations that discuss Arsenal, Chelsea or Man U.  But I do follow rugby and look forward to the Six Nations tournament every year.

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

I have been lucky enough to work in the UK, US, France and Germany throughout my career.  I would love to work in Asia at some point give the sheer vibrancy of the region.

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

Apple.  They make the consumer feel good.

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

The variety of the work.  Marketing is more than just doing one thing, there’s a whole mix of activities that I am involved in, whether it be briefing a journalist, defining the strategy, working with a partner or presenting at an event.  I love the fact that no two days are ever the same.

(19) What is your favourite book?

It would have to be a John Grisham courtroom thriller. 

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing really.  I try to focus on having a good night’s sleep.  That way, I am refreshed and raring to go the next day.


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