CMOs: The Generals of a Marketing Army
The heads of most corporate divisions are all called “officers,” but it’s the chief marketing officer (CMO) that really fits the bill. They take on the role of an army general, surveying the commercial battlefield and generating tactics for their battalions of marketing soldiers. It is the CMO’s job to have a complete view of the front lines and devise strategies to lead their company to victory: being seen, understood and desired by current and potential clients.
Having a commanding officer in a field like marketing — where circumstances are always changing — is vital. A business needs someone with a full view of the theater who takes data from their teams and the current commercial landscape, makes quick decisions with that information and conveys those decisions clearly to those designated to carry them out.
Without a capable general at the helm, an army is a disorganized mess. Similarly, a CMO is required to keep a marketing department on track. That’s not the fault of the employees — without someone to consolidate, they will all be acting on different information and passing different decisions down the chain. The CMO helps the team move as one, like soldiers in formation.
Built In NYC has the perfect opportunity for aspiring CMOs to learn how to find their way into this position. Carly Brantz, CMO of DigitalOcean, talked about the career trajectory that brought her to the CMO position and offers advice on how to advance up the marketing ladder.
Give us a brief idea of your career trajectory at your current company. Where did you start, when did you get promoted into a leadership role and what did you do to get there?
I joined DigitalOcean in 2020 as the chief marketing officer, and I credit much of my current career trajectory to my time at two other tech companies, Return Path from 2005-2011, and SendGrid from 2011-2019. I have seen the role of the CMO evolve surrounding my career — I saw turnover in marketing leaders and styles, which resulted in experiencing a variety of different approaches to how a marketing department should be run. Each change I went through gave me exposure to a different area of marketing, including event marketing, email marketing, channel and partner marketing, and demand generation. When I was hired at SendGrid, I drew on my experience in multiple areas of marketing to build a strong foundation — which I could then grow and iterate on as the company evolved. All of these experiences have built up to my role at DigitalOcean.
What surprised you most about your new leadership role?
When I joined DigitalOcean in January 2020, the company had a strong product and market fit — but within marketing we needed to both put operational efficiencies in place to increase our growth and make changes to the team itself to ensure we could execute on our strategy. During a time of change like that, you have to establish a sense of trust and connection with your team. Unfortunately, I had limited time to do that before the pandemic hit.
What surprised me most was our ability to be effective in a remote setting, establish new processes that accelerated growth even at a very established company and find purpose and connection within the marketing team in such a difficult time. I’m incredibly proud of how we have come together as a team and company in the past two years and have achieved growth even while supporting our employees remotely.
Hire strong leaders who you know can scale their own teams quickly and efficiently.”
What advice do you have for marketers looking to move into a leadership role?
I give all marketers three pieces of advice. First, understand that process is critical to enable your department and organization to scale. Many marketers feel that metrics and processes can hamper creativity, but I believe that having an understanding of how your changes are making a real impact can foster even more creativity and empower marketers to try new things. Second, have a growth mindset. Marketing has changed by leaps and bounds over the past decade, and having the ability to look at things with a new lens and experiment with ideas that may challenge your thinking is critical to long-term success. Finally, hire strong leaders who you know can scale their own teams quickly and efficiently. When you believe in your leaders, you as a CMO can step back and think strategically while leveraging their strengths to grow specific parts of the business and shine in their areas of expertise.