How I Became CMO of a Multinational Energy Company

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The world is getting smaller, and its resources are growing scarcer by the day.

The advent of the commercial Web browser in 1994 changed everything, connecting continents, countries and cultures in a way that was inconceivable to earlier generations at a velocity that was unfathomable before its invention. I remember writing a paper at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy about work in this area being conducted by the federal government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

The Internet is largely responsible for the connected planet in which we live, but its emergence also brings an urgency to the effective and efficient use of our resources. Twenty years later, these disruptions have led me to join Schneider Electric, an iconic electrical equipment supplier turned leader in power management and sustainability. It wasn’t just the opportunity to work for a top-tier industrial giant, but it was the chance to work for a global power player that is part of the solution for creating a more efficient, more sustainable world.

How I arrived here isn’t quite as straight forward. I was aiming for a career in diplomacy and international relations, but a funny thing happened on my way to the Kremlin. In 1989 – just as I was finishing at Tufts – the storied Berlin Wall came crumbling down, as did the structure of the Soviet Union two years later.   So much for my designs on becoming a world-famous Kremlinologist for the U.S. State Department. My Russian language skills and years of academic training in international affairs seemingly went down the proverbial drain. Or so I thought.

At that point, I did what any young enterprising American who needed to find a use for his graduate degree would do: I started selling databases for Larry Ellison’s Oracle in Kazakhstan. Over the next several years, I was able to watch an information technology industry emerge from the ashes of the USSR and even got a chance to participate in the massive rebuilding of the infrastructure of this exciting region.

And that was the beginning of my fulfilling sojourn as an information technology executive and global citizen. After 13 years at Oracle in various sales and marketing roles in five different countries, I joined SAP – the Waldorf, Germany-based innovator of business automation software – starting in Singapore and then relocating to New York City. After a few years, I took a chance with a private-equity backed turnaround opportunity at Siemens Enterprise Communications as chief marketing officer.  It was a tough situation trying to rebuild the storied Munich-based telecommunications concern over the course of four years. But, I had the honor of leading the complete rebranding of the company to “Unify” and directing the commercial vision for Project Ansible, a next-generation cloud platform for unifying business communications. This may seem like a retrospective analysis of my career, but I would like people to understand the context in which I will build a foundation for new ideas and content.

Which brings me to my current role as chief marketing officer of Schneider Electric, a truly global company based in Paris devoted to making our more connected world run more efficiently and become more self-sustaining. 
They say that everything in life happens for a reason. And if that is the case, then my reason for being at Schneider is to help companies improve the way they operate and, in particular, help them use less of the world’s precious resources as they conduct their business. It’s time to spread the word about sustainability, smart grids and connected energy.

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