The CMO Files: Kevin Ruane, Syncsort

The CMO Files: Kevin Ruane, Syncsort

Name: Kevin Ruane

Organization: Syncsort

Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: Burlington, Mass.

Kevin Ruane is the Chief Marketing Officer of Syncsort. In this role, he leads the team responsible for demand generation, events, corporate communications, brand, web content, territory and product marketing. Ruane has a proven track record of building, managing and executing integrated marketing and communications programs for FORTUNE 500 corporations, global business units and privately-held companies experiencing rapid transformation in the enterprise software sector.

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Boston, but my family moved around a little bit during my childhood, so my school years were spent in Clifton Park, NY and Franklin, MA.

What was your first job? Growing up, my first job was as a counselor at a summer baseball camp, which was run by one of my baseball coaches and early mentors. I worked with the younger age groups, teaching them drills to master the fundamentals of baseball in the mornings and helping them bring together everything they had learned by playing scrimmages in the afternoon. It was a lot of fun! It also served as an early lesson on leading by example, as the younger players looked up to the older counselors and how we handled ourselves on the field.

My first professional job was as a junior associate at a mid-sized, tech public relations agency in the Greater Boston area. It was post-9/11 and it was a challenging job market for recent graduates, so I was extremely fortunate to connect with a few Syracuse University graduates, including a classmate of mine, who worked at the company to get my foot in the door. It was a great experience as I learned a lot working with technology companies of all sizes across a variety of sectors.

What was the first product you got really excited about? The first time I got really excited about a product was when Microsoft launched its first CRM offering. I recall there being great anticipation for the technology, and it was impressive to see how the introduction of a new product from a tech giant could move a market. At the time, I had a small CRM consultancy client in the Greater Boston area who became an early reseller and implementer of the product, which the CEO had strong opinions on. My team secured enough media coverage to get Microsoft's attention, so much so that they invited the CEO to be on their partner advisory board. Fast forward to today, and one of Syncsort's top selling data quality products is for Microsoft Dynamics CRM/365, so there's another reason for me to still be excited about the product years later.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? There were two major influences on my career.  The first was leaving a PR agency environment to join Oracle. I was part of the team that created the marketing model for the global industry business units Oracle established after making a series of acquisitions. I learned so much from the talented marketers I worked with, including Sean Ford, the executive leading the group.

The second major influence came from my current boss, Syncsort CEO Josh Rogers. He has trusted me with opportunities that have pushed me to continuously learn, grow and improve. Before I had even considered the possibility, he was the first person to see my potential to grow into the CMO position. I'm extremely grateful for the support I receive from Josh and the entire management team at Syncsort.

What has been your greatest achievement? In May 2018, Syncsort launched a corporate brand refresh, which was the most satisfying achievement of my career so far. After two years of transformational growth, Syncsort tripled our revenue and number of employees. We also greatly expanded our product portfolio and global presence. For these reasons, we needed to develop a clear, concise message to our employees, customers and business partners about what makes us unique. Thanks to the great contribution of so many across our company, we created an updated purpose statement, competitive advantage and visual identity. I'm extremely proud of what we delivered and look forward to building upon it as we continue to grow the business and deliver more value to our customers.

What has been your biggest mistake? Early in my career, the biggest mistake I made was trying to have all the answers. Over the years, I've learned the importance of surrounding myself with a great team. By trusting and listening to my team, and empowering them, we built a great culture and have achieved so much more together.

What is your greatest strength? It may sound simple, but I believe my greatest strength is caring about people and delivering quality work. Effort matters and it inspires me to surround myself with intellectually curious people who challenge themselves and others to be better.

What is your biggest weakness? I am not always the most patient person and have been known to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I've worked hard to channel my passion in positive ways and learn how to take a step back. I'm fortunate to have a supportive team who helps me improve and keep me honest in this area.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? I think my industry peers would agree there's always room for improvement with taking a data-driven approach to marketing investments and aligning them directly with key business metrics and goals. There is no question this is a challenging part of the job. Our stated purpose at Syncsort is ‘we organize data everywhere, to keep the world working,' so we take a data-driven approach to everything, which has served our marketing team extremely well in terms of the effectiveness of our demand generation and company visibility initiatives. 

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? As a huge New England Patriots fan, I love Head Coach Bill Belichick's mantra of ‘Do Your Job.' I once saw an interview where he made a great point that implied doing your job "well" is in this statement. I really like that.

The phrase that makes me squirm is "we've always done it that way." I'm a big believer in continuous improvement and innovation. This shouldn't be confused with ignoring the past, as there are foundational pieces and valuable lessons that can be learned and applied, but we always need to be thinking and adapting. It's especially important for marketing leaders to be forward-looking as we don't want to miss getting out ahead of an important new trend.

What makes you stressed? Inefficient use of time. Time is truly one of our most precious resources and how we use it is important. It impacts what we can achieve and is required to strike the right work-life balance to be a well-rounded person.

What do you do to relax? Spend time with my son, Lucas, and my daughter, Julia. Life slows down when I color, play games or sing songs with them. Time with them puts everything in perspective and reminds me of what is most important in life.

What is your favorite song? Anything by Metallica, but if I had to pick a favorite track, it would probably be "Wherever I May Roam."

Which book taught you most? Years ago, my Dad gave me Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements. I have a copy in my office and make a point to pick it up periodically. I find that it serves me well at work and in all other aspects of my life.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
I am a huge Boston sports fan, so depending on the time of year, you're likely to catch me watching the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots or Boston Celtics.

Which country would you like to work in? Spain. During my tenure at Oracle, I visited Barcelona a few times and had a chance to walk Las Ramblas and visit La Sagrada Familia. I had a chance to go back to Spain in 2018 during Syncsort's Partner Summit and this time fell in love with Alicante.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? From a marketing perspective, I've enjoyed watching Microsoft. It's exciting to see how they've evolved their brand and marketing over time, especially around the cloud. Beyond Microsoft, we work with several innovative, next-generation analytic platforms, like Hortonworks, Cloudera, Splunk and Collibra, and I admire their brand momentum, how fast they're growing and how they're leading the evolution in the space.

What do you love most about your job? It sounds cliché, but it's the people. In a fast-paced, innovative environment at a rapidly growing company like Syncsort, working with my colleagues across all parts of the company is what it's all about. That's what makes it special.

What is your favorite book? The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. Pausch passed away young, and as the father of two children, I'm moved by the legacy he left behind for his children with his lecture and the book on lessons he learned about the way to lead your life. During my time at Oracle, Jeff Zaslow visited our exhibition booth at an industry event, so I was able to meet him in person which was cool.

What keeps you awake at night? The world is changing so fast and technology is rapidly shifting and evolving. Our company has a great history of adjusting to major shifts in technology, helping our customers navigate the landscape. I feel a tremendous responsibility to our customers and partners to continue that rich tradition and stay ahead of the curve to help them navigate the next wave.


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