The CMO Files: Mary Clark, Synchronoss
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The CMO Files: Mary Clark, Synchronoss

Name: Mary Clark

Organization: Synchronoss

Job title: CMO and EVP Product

Location:New Jersey, US

Mary Clark joined the Synchronoss team in January 2018 and serves as Chief Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer. In this role, Clark is responsible for product management, marketing and communications. Throughout her 25 years in mobile, she has held several executive-level positions and serves as a Board member for The CTIA Wireless Foundation and The CMO Advisory Council.


 

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Annapolis, Maryland, which is home to the US Naval Academy. Interestingly enough, I was actually one of the last few children born on the naval academy base. Annapolis is an amazing place and I was lucky to grow up there.

What was your first job? I was a walking tour guide in Annapolis when I was 14 years old. I did an hour and a half walking tour. 45 minutes took place in downtown Annapolis and the other 45 minutes took place at the Naval Academy.

My first job in telecoms started in 1992, selling mobile phones. I got into it following my return from Japan, where I lived and taught conversational English to Japanese executives. I needed a job and this one was 100% commission. I sold the Motorola Startac Lite and the 8000M, the original brick phone. I loved my time there, and that was the moment when I became a total technology geek.

What was the first product you got really excited about? Definitely the mobile phone - the Motorola Startac Lite especially. At the time, it was a really big deal because no device had been made as small before. Typically, devices were so big and unwieldy, whereas the Startac was the first clamshell. It really defined the height of device snobbery - it was revolutionary, cutting edge and at the time, I was making a lot of money selling them!

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My father has had the greatest influence on my career. My dad has a Masters in Aerospace Engineering and was in the Navy for 28 years, with varied experience - from working on lasers, to the Space Shuttle, to running a portion of the National Reconnaissance Office. He was the first person to talk to me about leadership, and the idea that I could be a leader. Even to this day, nobody has spoken to me in the same way, and he made me believe that I could channel my natural assertiveness in a way that could be instrumental. He helped build my self-confidence.

What has been your greatest achievement? Professionally speaking, my greatest achievement has been my ability to stay in the mobile industry - particularly in a leadership role. I continue to grow and expand and take on more responsibility.

If I was to pinpoint a specific career achievement, it would be the MACH acquisition while I was at Syniverse. As the business owner for the acquisition, I was fortunate to work with a diverse team to bring a competitive case to the European Commission which resulted in the successful merger.

At the time, it was a huge task to undertake, and when I put myself forward to participate in this acquisition, I had no idea what it really meant. It was a huge effort, it took several months, a lot of documentation and did take a toll on work/life balance but it was a great experience to be part of such a huge effort. It really changed my perspective of my own capability and of my career, I learned a great deal and it gave me a lot of confidence to push myself for greater challenges.

What has been your biggest mistake? The biggest mistake I consistently make is when I start to doubt myself and a lack of confidence creeps in.

What is your greatest strength? My ability to communicate well. That's something I focus on a great deal whether that be personal, corporate, or even written communications. I spend a lot of time and energy on always trying to improve that.

What is your biggest weakness? I think this goes back to my biggest mistake. My susceptibility to having doubts and insecurities.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? In my role as CMO, the aspect most neglected by peers is not being held accountable for understanding the business and being directly tied to the success of the business. But at the same time, peers can often underestimate the influence and impact a CMO can have.

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? My mantra is definitely "sheer force of will". No question. I don't like the word paradigm, it's too often used. It was the word during the 1G to 2G transition, and everyone used it, so much so that I've got paradigm fatigue!

What makes you stressed? When I don't feel confident in a tactic or strategy. Again, that's back on the theme of letting insecurity in.

What do you do to relax? My number one thing is spending time with my two teenage boys, and just getting the opportunity to sit, catch up and just hang out with them. I also like to cook, read, walk, and watch movies and I also enjoy a glass of wine when I'm relaxing. I love to throw parties to catch up with the friends I haven't seen while I've been out on the road. I spend so much time travelling, I just don't have the time to check in with them otherwise, and it's so important to me to maintain these friendships.

What is your favourite song? I like everything from classic rock to hip-hop. I'm all over the place and there's too many songs to consider to narrow it down to just one. My playlist goes from 60s music all the way up to today. I have older brothers and so I was greatly informed by their taste in music as a little kid, my affinity for classic rock is all thanks to them.

Which book taught you most? Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham. It's about a man who struggles to understand his place in life after the end of WW1, and reading it as a young college graduate, I found it really helpful and influential.

At the time, I had just finished school - half a year earlier than my peers - and it was just after the crash of 1987, so the job market was tough. I initially wanted to join the PR field but it was extremely difficult. Razor's Edge helped me realise the importance of not getting too wound up by plans or things in general not going your way. It just gave me a level-headed perspective and taught me not to take things so seriously - and the best bit about it, I stumbled across the book by chance.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow? I used to but not currently. I enjoy American football and soccer, especially Euro and Premier League. I also enjoy watching golf championships, hockey and ice hockey. Lacrosse, and particularly women's lacrosse is also a great watch, but if I'm honest, I just don't have time to follow a sport. The little spare time I get, I'm busy doing other things.

Which country would you like to work in? London, England. That all comes back to the fact that England is my second home, my father was stationed in London while he was in the Navy in the late 70s and so I was very fortunate to attend school there. I remember every weekend, my parents would take us to see a cathedral, or a manor house, or a castle, or sometimes we'd go across the channel to Europe and spend holidays there. At the time, I had a wonderful teacher who was passionate about English history and it was at that point that I really became an anglophile. Plus, my career has taken me to London many times - I've been managing teams in London since 1998, so that's 20 years of me going to London.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? Nordstrom has consistently been a great marketer from my personal experience.

What do you love most about your job? The problems I get to solve and the people I get to work with. My favourite kind of day is when I get to touch every aspect of my job in a single day, whether I'm working on communications, product marketing, or product strategy, or perhaps interacting with the development or product teams. That's a real red-letter day.

What is your favourite book? I've had so many over the years. This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart is one I've read a million times. I'm a pretty big fan of popular fiction, mostly swaying between historical fiction and historical romance novels. I enjoy books that allow you to escape reality.

What keeps you awake at night? Nothing in particular. Usually it's the list of things to do the next day. Or if I let myself watch a scary movie - then forget it. I can't sleep a wink.

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