CMO Q&A: Penny Wilson, Hootsuite

What led you to a career in marketing?  Was it an early decision or a more recent event?

I started my career in the financial services industry—with ten years in IT at Merrill Lynch. I decided to make marketing my main focus as the industry evolved to be more data and ROI driven. I love the ‘science’ behind marketing—where decisions can be developed or changed based on data.

Have you always been a marketer, or did you train for a different role prior to that (and if so, what?)?

I’ve spent my career helping companies better align their technologies with customer needs and experiences. After Merrill Lynch, I transitioned into marketing enterprise software—serving as the CMO and President of a 3D computer graphics company called Alias Research, and then as CMO at both Macromedia and Juniper Networks. A background in technology gave me a unique perspective as traditional marketing was shifting to digital marketing.

If you could pick out one thing you find most challenging about marketing, what would it be?

Corralling all the data that is available in order to turn it into useable insights. Finding a way to simplify is key.

How important is it for anyone joining your team today to be comfortable with data-driven marketing?

We live in a world where testing is a natural part of the digital marketing process. Marketers need to be comfortable with data and technology in order to improve their marketing strategy.

What’s the single most important component of your marketing stack (by description and/or vendor name)?

Call me biased, but I truly believe that social is a key component of our marketing stack. It allows us to connect with customers at scale and to create meaningful relationship moments online. To me, that’s what makes social a differentiator.

If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be?

If I started my career all over again, I might be a neuroscientist or a lawyer for Aboriginal rights. Both are topics I’m passionate about.

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