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Authenticity is the new law of marketing leadership

Authenticity is the new law of marketing leadership


Interview with Emma Chalwin

Marketing and technology have long been male-dominated fields. Depictions like “Mad Men” and “The Social Network” build legends of the male, creative genius driving the industries forward through the potency of their vision, often at the expense of their team. In a digital, integrated, post #metoo era, that form of leadership is doomed to fail. According to Emma Chalwin, SVP of AMER marketing at Salesforce, success in marketing today hinges on building a team with diverse perspectives, leveraging data creatively, and above all, being authentic. 

Chalwin has almost 25 years of experience in tech marketing and is known for representing and uplifting women in leadership. She’s worked for companies like McAfee, Macrovision and Adobe, racking up experience across the globe. At Salesforce her responsibilities include demand generation, integrated marketing campaigns, and paid digital strategy for the US and Canada. In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Chalwin to talk about how marketing has changed during her career and got her take on being a woman in leadership.

Q: How has working in the technology industry changed over time in terms of marketing roles?


A: There’s been a huge amount of change since the beginning of my career. Then, I was always the only female at the table, and it was a challenge to get my voice heard. It was hard to find role models, and I really couldn’t be what I couldn’t see. It’s wonderful to see companies committing to diversity across all areas now: race, socio-economic, gender and sexuality. That makes the technology industry more vibrant and fosters creativity in marketing and teams.

There has also been an evolution in marketing. Back then it was more about the creative side. It’s shifted in culture and work from Mad Men to math men and women. I love that now it’s more about how people are engaging with what you’re doing. It’s incredibly helpful that we now have data measuring how to be a better marketer. Data has been the secret sauce to our success, no matter where I’ve worked.

Q: Do you see any big differences for women in marketing or the technology industry today as opposed to when you started your career?

A: There’s more women, obviously, which is super helpful. It’s nice to have role models within marketing, and I think more women are taking on leadership roles in tech and a data-science capacity. I feel like across the board big corporations are really starting to bring diversity into their leadership teams, and it’s a priority at the most successful organizations in the world. I will never join an organization now that doesn’t have good representation on their board and their executive leadership team.

There’s much more commitment to leveling the playing field coming from businesses today. There’s a focus on encouraging girls to learn code — and just encouraging girls early on in life now — which technology corporations are taking a big part in. Salesforce has spent a lot of money worldwide to encourage girls to learn these skills, and emphasizes employees giving back to our community and volunteering.

Q: You emphasized data’s emerging role in marketing today. What appeals to you more, the art or science of marketing?

A:  I’ve been drawn to creative side most of my career, but now I tend to channel my inner creativity when I look at what the data is telling me. I really had to retrain my brain to get good at it and having people on my team that triumph in the data, that let it drive their soul, has helped. It’s about what you bring to the data. Data alone can’t substitute the human touch. We’re looking to build relationships and personalized messages. Having the blend of art, science, creativity and data really sets apart the field of marketing.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome breaking into a leadership position? Do you think there are commonalities for women or it’s just a personal learning experience?

A: For myself over the years and for many of the women I mentor now it’s actually self-belief and confidence. We have saboteurs on shoulders that second guess our talents, and that is way more prevalent in women. I mentor men as well, and confidence issues are not high on the list of challenges we discuss.

It’s important for bright young talent to know: If you don’t tick all the boxes that’s okay. You can work hard and get there. I really work to provide a platform for these individuals to shine and show their potential. 

Q: Do you have a north star value, habit, or routine that has been essential to your success?

A: I think its integrity and authenticity. It’s fundamental to who I am that I’m the same person at work and at home. Family is my north star, and I also consider my team a family. They ground me.  As a leader nothing is more important that ensuring that every person on my team can be their authentic self at work every day and really help them be experts at their craft. I’ve got their back, and I’ll let you know if I’m thrilled or if we need to make some changes. Being authentic has really been essential to my success as a leader.

Q: What are the most important things to consider when building a team? What kind of talent do you look for?

A: I have a good habit of hiring people who are smarter than myself.  Grit, determination and passion are qualities I look for. I’m mindful of the balance between IQ and EQ. I always hire talent that has a diverse perspective and diverse backgrounds. It helps encourage out-the-box thinking and challenges the status quo. It encourages an innovative spirit in the team. I don’t think you get the best team if all you look at are top universities. Some of my best hires have been from the university of life. I don’t’ just hire from technology industry, either.

Q: How do you measure success as a leader? 

A: There are a lot of ways, and I’m really hard on myself. But, probably the most important thing is being driven by your values and creating an environment where people can succeed.

For your team to succeed you need to be clear about what the success of the team looks like. Be decisive about the path you go down. Be courageous. Leadership to me is about how you make people feel. If you want people to grow, make sure you’re on the right path.

On my team we talk a lot about soul versus salary. Soul is what you do every day that makes you jump out of bed. Salary is about the things that you have to do to get your job done that don’t set you alight or get you motivated. I really try to build this into our teams’ development plan. If you have people working in roles that motivate their soul, you get fantastic output. It is a much better, long-term development for each individual.

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