The Power of the Marketing Mentor

One thing the Direct Marketing News 2015 40 Under 40 winners have in common is a thirst for continuous learning. They look for guidance and inspiration wherever they might find it. Not surprisingly, mentors have influenced these marketing leaders throughout their careers. Here, they reveal their mentors and discuss what they learned that had a significant impact on their career.

The Kickstarter

Danielle Avalone, VP, Account Services, Lanmark360 Inc.
Howard Klein [president and owner of Lanmark360]. He took me under his wing, even from the beginning. I remember him staying with me at work until 11 at night. From him I learned what’s involved to keep an agency going and strong.

Dan Barcus, Executive Director of Acquisition Marketing, Comcast
I am blessed to have a couple.

Diana Baldwin, gave me my first shot in marketing, taught me the foundations of direct marketing, and made an indelible impression on my career.

Luci Rainey, who is actually my current manager, is another. Luci and I were brought together by divine intervention, and she has built on the foundation that Diana formed. She, unfortunately, is correct about 95% of the time, which makes arguments a challenge, but it does help keep me humble.

Kyle Christensen, VP, Marketing, Invoca

Tien Tzuo, CEO and founder of Zuora and former CMO of Salesforce. Tien taught me how to think beyond marketing. He taught me to understand all components of the business, from marketing to product to sales to customer support, and of course, the customers themselves. When you see the entire ecosystem working together, and understand how one thing affects another, it helps you to be more effective at your own job.

The Boss

Brad Bedoe, Director, Lead Generation Marketing, Fleetmatics

The first is Brendan Sullivan, who’s now CEO [of another company]. He’s the one who brought me here to Fleetmatics. He’s been a professional mentor to me throughout the years. The other is my current boss, Kathleen Finato, CMO of Fleetmatics. Every day she adds to my career. Those two people have been invaluable to my career.

Donald J. Gallant, Director of Analytics, Marketsmith Inc.
Within the organization here, [it’s] my supervisor Carina Pologruto. If I was struggling with anything, she’d always be there to answer my questions and provide support. She’s guided me along this path to help me to where I am today…. I learned everything that I could learn about the direct marketing industry [from her]. She’s a [long-time] pro at direct mail, email, and DRTV. I feel like I’m about on the same level as her in all of these aspects, because she was willing to give me the time to just work with me and make sure that I fully understood everything I was doing.

Alia Kemet, U.S. Media Director, IKEA
I don’t have an actual mentor; I wish I did. I’ve had amazing managers. Our current CMO, Leontyne Green Sykes, I would probably have to mention as most influential in my career. Working with her has helped me to be fearless in my ideas and what I bring to the table. Some of my best achievements within my job have been because I’ve had someone believe in me, and who is extremely strategic. [Ideas] have to be backed up by analytics and have to be based in strategy. That’s something I really took from working with Leontyne—an amazing strategist.

I’ve been really lucky; I’ve never had a bad boss ever.

Patricia Korth-McDonnell, Partner and Managing Director, West Coast, Huge

I have two mentors that are also my bosses; that’s a rare privilege. Both our CEO [Aaron Shapiro] and our COO [Shirley Au] have been mentors to me, and I’ve learned very different and complimentary things from the two of them. From our CEO I’ve learned to trust my gut and be bold; our job is to help carve the path forward, take risks. And from Shirley, our COO, I’ve just learned to value and respect the people in our organization and assume that they’re all as smart and as motivated and responsible for our business as I am—not treat people like employees but treat everyone like a partner.

Jamie LaRose, VP, Digital Marketing, Home Lending, Wells Fargo

My manager at Bank of America empowered me to try things and learn from mistakes, but also relish in success. He was highly supportive of doing things differently, and having me lead those initiatives.

Donald Patrick Lim, Chief Digital Officer, ABS-CBN Corp.

I always had mentors in every course of my career. My first boss taught me how to do real marketing. My second boss taught me that if you treat people well enough and respect them, you can get them to do anything you want them to do. My third boss, who is a stockbroker, taught me that I can only become a good marketing person if I understand finance and how marketing fits into financial statements. My fourth boss taught me that marketing and sales is nothing if you do not do it to serve our countrymen.

Joel Moore, Director, Strategic Leadership, Force 3

Force 3 CEO Mike Greene. He’s done a few things that have been really special. He let me come in here and take a look at the brand and its marketing, and gave me the autonomy to fix things. Mike played a big part in my success by allowing me to do this, and helped guide me through challenges. He gives practical guidance and is a fantastic mentor.

Jessica Nielsen, VP, Communications and Marketing, Information Systems and Global Solutions Division, Lockheed Martin

My former boss Donna Uchida taught me that life is too short not to have fun and enjoy where you’re working. So many people get caught up in either the money or the prestige, and they end up hating their job. It’s sort of simple, but it means something to me.

Adam Padilla, President and Chief Creative Officer, Brandfire

Brandfire cofounder Jesse Itzler. I’ve always looked up to him as a symbol of the ultimate entrepreneur. He taught me that if you dream big and believe that you can do anything, then you can.

Ben Roberts, VP of Marketing Operations, Acumen Brands

My current CMO, David Echegoyen. I’m very analytical and scientific at heart, so people have taken a back seat to how I approach a problem, and that’s something I recognized about myself. David has helped me integrate the human side of managing people and work, and I think I am a better leader because of it.

Dhanusha Sivajee, EVP of Marketing, XO Group Inc.

I moved to the U.S. and New York straight after college to start a PR and event management role.  My manager was obsessed with making every detail count and it’s something that’s stuck with me ever since.

Charlotte Tsou, SVP, Regional Head of Analytics and CRM, HSBC

Ling Hai, currently the co-president of Asia Pacific at MasterCard, who was my manager at HSBC when I started my first international assignment in Shanghai. His enthusiasm and intelligence inspired me as to how to deliver in the emerging and international markets.

Justin Yoshimura, SVP, Loyalty Services Group, Merkle Inc.

I have had and continue to have many mentors. I’m obsessed with learning. One of these mentors is Ron Loder, founder of Loder Drew & Associates. From him, I learned to treat people fairly and to compensate them for their hard work, since they’re the ones who do the heavy lifting. 

A Kindred Spirit

Kirsten Bjork-Jones, Director, Global Marketing Communications, Edmund Optics

My mentor is a CEO and owner of a digital marketing company. We get together several times a year. It’s these informal meetings where we share conversations on being a successful mom and businesswoman.

Courtney Caldwell, Founder, The Write One

Danielle Wanderer, now-CEO at SplashLab, challenged me to take unexpected opportunities and to think big. Sergeant Major Turner McGarity showed me how to rally individuals from different backgrounds around a unified goal and cross the finish line with no casualties. Tom Edwards is currently the chief digital officer at Epsilon, but nearly 10 years ago, at Telligent, he helped me understand that if you don’t invest in your own authentic brand, you’ll miss opportunities to set yourself apart.

Aaron Ginn, Growth Product Manager, Everlane

It would be Dr. Spencer Plumlee. He’s a theologian. He mentored me for about three or four years and had the greatest impact in my life by far. I’ve had lots, lots, and lots of other mentors.… One of the big secrets of success for a lot of people is wisdom from others.

Jerry Jao, CEO and Founder, Retention Science
 I have a lot of mentors. One is Ann Lewnes, CMO of Adobe. She’s helped me a lot; specifically, she told me that being a marketer you shouldn’t be shy about who you are; and to be bold about the decisions you make. She taught me a lot about being who I am, to be comfortable [in my own skin], and to pursue things I’m excited about…. It’s exactly what all of us need to do. It’s pretty much all the little things that make us different. It’s what we think, who we are, what we bring to the table, and how we communicate.

Amrit Kirpalani, Founder and CEO, NectarOM
I do have a mentor. In fact, I have a spiritual teacher, Sathya Sai Baba. The main thing I learned [is] the Love-All-Serve-All [motto]—regardless of what I do in business or what I do on personal a personal level, it’s all driven by that one very specific statement.

Greg Mazen, Director of Creative Services, Boy Scouts of America
Amanda, a senior recruiter for a staffing agency. She spent 20 years in the field. When I met her, it was a casual conversation. She started pouring knowledge into me, and got me into marketing. She always keeps me abreast of marketing trends. She’s been my lifeline in this business.

Cecile Thirion, Marketing Director – Government and Transportation, Xerox Transportation

A doctor of engineering of an IPO was very supportive. He was confident and encouraging. You need to have cheerleaders around you who will push you when you have doubts.


Cristina Bozas, Creative Chief Officer, Pólvora Advertising

My husband. More than a mentor, he’s my partner, and his perseverance has taught me that to be successful, you have to work hard and be passionate.

Yasmeen Coning, VP, Head of Marketing, Genesis Media LLC

My parents; their work ethic, focus, and dedication really set the bar for me at a young age. They continue to inspire me every day.

Coltrane Curtis, Founder and Managing Partner, Team Epiphany

 First, my father. From him I learned integrity, hustle, and the importance of education. Second is Seth Gerszberg, creator of Complex magazine, Zoo York, and G-Unit Apparel. I met him during my time at Marc Ecko. He taught me the importance of family (it comes first), how to create community as a business, and courage.

Judge Graham, President, Sq1

My mentor has always been my father. He worked three jobs his whole life, and [he had this] ability to make me appreciate things and understand the value of hard work.

Chad Hallert, Strategy Director, Noble Studios

I’ve had a lot of mentors. One of the things that I try to do when I meet successful people and leaders is to take something away that they do that inspires me. I don’t know that I’ve ever met one person that was my mentor in every aspect of their life.

But if I had to select one, it would be my wife [Nisha Hallert]. She has her own career as the director of sales and special events for the Nevada Museum of Art; she has a side business where she runs high-end floral design for events; she coaches my daughter’s soccer team; she’s the team manager for my son’s soccer team; and she’s an amazing mom, makes time for me, and is very supportive. She inspires me in that she’s able to do all of this and still maintain balance in her life. Anytime I start feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or stressed out, I look at her and look at the grace she handles all of these things with and it inspires me to do better and to get through it.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO, Chairman, and Owner, Hawthorne Direct
I’ve had several mentors throughout the different stages of my career and the different industries I’ve been in. They weren’t mentors who were given to me. They’re people who I sought out, I saw a connection with, and [I knew they] could definitely help support me.

[One mentor would be] my father, Tim Hawthorne. He’s been a great influence on my career, and I obviously respect him so much because he helped pioneer an entirely new industry—[the] direct response TV industry—and built a company. I know how challenging it is to build, maintain, and grow a company—all while maintaining a strong value system of integrity, valuing his employees and clients, keeping a healthy balance of personal and professional, and always giving back to the community.

Elizabeth Holub, Marketing Manager; Interim Manager, Performance Promotion, Carl Fischer Music & Theodore Presser Company

This might sound cheesy, but my mentor is my mom. She’s also a PR and marketing professional. Growing up with her she always had me and my sister involved with whatever she was doing marketing- and PR-wise. We brainstormed with her, we worked events with her; any time I have a business question or a marketing question I can call her and ask specific questions—I get an answer not from a mom perspective but from the marketing-PR aspect.

Betsy Miller Daitch, Senior Marketing Manager, Investment Management, S&P Capital

I’ve had a number of loose mentors. My parents have been great. They’re both entrepreneurs. They’ve consistently tried new things. Growing up, I always heard them talking about different business ideas and strategies. A lot of that has been ingrained in me through osmosis.

Jessica Nable, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Epsilon
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had multiple mentors. I learned the value of relationships and professionalism. He’s not a mentor per se, but I’m very happy that I have a spouse who has been successful in his career and I’ve been able to use him as a resource.

Natasha Raja, VP of Marketing and Customer Service, Dice Holdings

My family. My dad, Anjan Raja, taught me how to build an empire from the ground up, how to take care of your team, and most important, how to lead fearlessly.  My mom, Minal Raja, taught me the importance of education, and how to be humble and giving. My brother, Nilanshu Raja, taught me not to ever settle, always be true to yourself, and don’t ever give up.


The Team

Jennifer Capistran, Senior Director, Merkle Analytics, Merkle Inc.
I am currently one of two women from my company who are part of a mentoring program run through Network 2000, which is a greater Baltimore area association that champions female leaders through advocacy, education, and mentorship. I had first learned of the program through our CFO, Jean Holder, who is a Network member herself, and applied earlier this year. The program is a mix of formal training sessions and one-on-one time with accomplished mentors. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn from a number of respected experts in their fields, as well as a way to connect with other peers who are highly energized about shaping their careers.

Rachel Carpenter, Global Marketing and Sales Leader, Mercer

I have had dozens of mentors: managers, professors, or coworkers who advised me on career and personal development decisions. I’m incredibly grateful to all of them, particularly since one of them, a professor at Northwestern University, guided me toward marketing and advertising.

Bhumika Dadbhawala, Senior Director of Business Development and Partnerships, Drawbridge
I’ve had many mentors in my career, and I’ve been lucky that they’ve come in the form of my managers, organization leaders, and colleagues. But more recently, it’s been my company’s CEO Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan. She’s grown one of the fastest private companies in such a short period of time. I’ve learned from her that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and to question yourself on what’s the worst that could happen. Because of this I think I’ve been less afraid to take risks and think of new ideas. I appreciate the fact that we have someone like this around and someone I can talk to, bounce ideas [off of], and gain guidance from.

Pedro L. Rodriguez, Director of Integrated Marketing, People en Español

I’ve been fortunate enough to always find one person who I trust and who guides me, so I won’t name just one. They each homed in on the fact that I’m not typically successful; I’m sort of all about, this is my personality, this is what I bring to the table, and this is how I’m going to help you. They were able to push me in the right direction, so I’m really thankful to each one of them.

Tania Yuki, Founder and CEO, Shareablee

I didn’t have just one; I’ve had many over the years. I believe that as you evolve throughout your own personal development, as well as your company’s development, you need advice from lots of people.  Over the years I’ve learned how to position my strengths and move forward in my career, all the way through to how to pitch investors for the company you’re founding, and everything in between.

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