CMO Impact
Achieving Personal & Career Success

CMO Club Spotlight: Christine Heckart of Brocade

Sarah Grindeland
November 22, 2016

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Christine Heckart, CMO of Brocade Communications.

This week, we’re turning our marketing spotlight onto Christine Heckart, CMO of Brocade Communications.

1. What was your first (or favorite) job?  

I loved my first job which was as a product manager for a service provider called WilTel. I got to figure out the process for launching new products and was the product manager that launched the industry’s first frame relay service, WilPak.

It allowed me to learn every aspect of the business, understand the technology, and interact directly with customers as well as executives. It was an unbelievable experience for someone just out of college.

2. What are the 3 most important components for your personal and professional success?

I married the right guy, I had several great sponsors that gave me big opportunities (Joe Zell and Roy Wilkens at WilTel, Danny Briere at TeleChoice, Scott Kriens at Juniper Networks), and I had incredible teammates that inspired me, supported me and taught me.

3. Name an “inflection point” experience that prepared you for your current position. 

The biggest inflection point in my career was being hired by Scott Kriens to be the CMO at Juniper Networks when I had previously been President of TeleChoice, a consulting firm.

I was only 35 and he made a big bet on me – in part because we had had past experiences working together. I did some great things at Juniper, but I also made a lot of mistakes. I had never dealt with the politics of a company and didn’t always know how to influence in an appropriate way. In short, I was immature. But I learned an enormous amount from my team and peers – as well as Scott. Additionally, the move to Silicon Valley and into a CMO role changed my life and my family’s fortune. I am eternally grateful and work hard to pay it forward now.

4. What characteristics do you value most when hiring new marketing talent for your team?

I value leadership. By this, I mean the ability to see a path forward and mobilize a team, solve problems with integrity, uplift people with vision and positive energy, and ensure the right people are in the right roles. People can learn technology, they can learn different marketing roles, but if they don’t have good leadership skills it hurts the whole team.

5. What technology are you looking forward to using or implementing for your brand in the next six months? 

I’m excited about implementing a new technology from 6sense that uses predictive intelligence to find buyers that are in the market for your products right now. They deliver significant improvement in pipeline metrics, conversion rates, and deal size – all important to our sales force. It’s very exciting. I loved the technology so much that I joined the company’s board. 

6. Which book would you recommend to your fellow CMO Club members right now?

If you’ve never read Good to Great by Jim Collins, you must. I’m a huge believer in finding the essence of a company and getting the right people on the bus, and this book will help you do just that.

7. Name one Head of Marketing who impresses you today and tell us why.

Even though she’s my competitor, I’m really impressed by Karen Walker at Cisco. She is the first person in that CMO position with a solid marketing background and has consolidated a distributed marketing organization, re-organized the team, and brought increased focus and energy to the brand. I’m a big fan of hers.

8. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

One of my favorite mantras is, “Think big, start small and move fast.”

It was a saying developed years ago by a woman that I’ve worked with at four different companies and it encompasses a great methodology in six simple words. Think big – reaching out in the future to define success and motivate people around a big end goal. Start small – by finding the things you can do right now to make a difference. Move fast – by mapping out a roadmap to get from here to there, not letting ‘perfect’ slow you down, and being willing to iterate and adjust. Think big, start small and move fast.

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