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Human Resources

The CMO Files: Michael Kogeler, Microsoft Middle-East and Africa

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: Michael Kogeler

Organisation: Microsoft Middle-East & Africa

Job title: COO and CMO

Location: Dubai, UAE

(1) Where were you born and raised?

Middelburg, the Netherlands

(2) What was your first job?  

Consultant at McKinsey and Company

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

A route planner on a XT Computer. It calculated the fastest route between two cities in the Netherlands and this was my first ‘wow moment’ with a technology product. We’re talking about 1985….

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

There is a whole list of people who influenced me during my career. People I admire range from Mickey Huibregtsen (MD at McKinsey) for his passion to set and reach objectives to Richard Branson for his creativity, to the late Steve Jobs for his quality and customer focus, to my CEO Steve Ballmer for his passion and excitement and Ali Faramawy, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Middle East & Africa, for his focus on people. But I am most influenced and inspired by the “ordinary” people around me in my personal and business life – e.g. my colleagues and my mentees from all over the world.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

When joining Microsoft in the Middle East and Africa, I was amazed by the massive potential that lies in the region. Microsoft is a contributor of realizing that potential, today and tomorrow. My aim was to identify the most strategic approach to make sure Microsoft makes an impact, and is building the business for the next 25 years. I am proud to say that I was one of the initiators of the Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, which is a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness. Definitely one of my greatest achievements – and also a lot of fun!

On a separate note, I try to be myself in everything I do. I am crazy enough already, so I don’t play games or equally just keep my mouth shut because I am not the most senior guy in the room. Call it Dutch pragmatism and being down to earth.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

Oh, I’ve had my fair share of those. But I don’t call them mistakes – as long as you learn from everything you do, no matter if you were right or wrong, there is no such thing as a mistake. I can talk about how many things I have learnt during my career - from saying no to Microsoft four times in my life, to trusting a person and joining his well-run company only to find out they were almost bankrupt. Or even when I declined someone’s offer to buy one of my old companies because I thought that it would be worth 10 times more in two years, and then having to file for bankruptcy eight months later. These things all made me who I am now, and I’m a better businessman as a result.

(7) What is your greatest strength?

My ability to motivate and challenge people, driving them into areas they have never thought of before while having a lot of fun in the meantime.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

I like to do too many things at once, and I am always open for new challenges and opportunities. I am also that person who gets bored when things are routine. It’s time for new challenges in that case.

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

Value, impact and outcomes from marketing in a sales world. In many companies, marketing budgets are the first to be slashed when the numbers drop, which is so wrong and shows the perceived value. I have always wanted to test not doing any marketing for a year just to prove its value.

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

My Mantra is a Chinese Proverb: “Talk Doesn’t Cook Rice”

The tyranny of the phrase “It cannot be done” makes me squirm

The combination of the two is my third one – a quote from an unknown Indian Guru: “If you have a problem and you cannot fix it, don’t worry as you cannot fix it. If you have a problem you can fix, don’t worry as you can fix it – so never worry”.

(11) What makes you stressed?

Micro-managers. Above and below me. I strongly believe in accountability of people, which comes with being given responsibility. And the consequences of this. I am a ‘no news is good news” manager. But I do read the newspapers and expect the bad news will spread fast.

(12) What do you do to relax?

I run (still trying to run a marathon), listen to music, play with my kids, do water sports, read, play with IT stuff, gadgets and travel.

(13) What is your favourite song?

My Dutch favourite song is “Stil In Mij” by van Dik Hout (Dutch band) but the English version is “5:06 AM, In Every Stranger Eyes” by Roger Waters. This is the song I expect to be played at my funeral :)

(14) Which book taught you most?

“Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson.

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

A.F.C. Ajax – my favourite Dutch football team since I was six years old.

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

For the past few years, I’ve had the privilege to work in over 38 countries around the world. I don’t have a preference for any specific country to be honest – the people and culture are so unique in every country and I enjoy that every minute of that.

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

I don’t think there is one company which is best at marketing – there are so many aspects, disciplines and outcomes in marketing that the majority of companies do a good job in some of these areas. I have not seen one company which has got it all. If you find it, give me call. I would love to learn from them.

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

The diversity in people, markets, cultures, products, challenges and ever-changing world of the Middle East and Africa region. It is just fascinating.

(19) What is your favourite book?

There are many books I like and I have read. I don’t have a favourite one, but I always recommend Freakonomics which explains the world from a different angle and perspective.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

Sometimes I am so deeply engaged in working on something that my brain keeps moving at night and I stay awake.I usually  get out of bed to work on it so I can sleep on afterwards. And my passion to get things going gets me out of bed at a time that people call night - however I just call it early morning :)

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