This week’s spotlight shines on Steven Nghe, Digital Product Innovation Manager at Kloeckner Metals Corporation, and Atlanta Chapter CMO Club member.
1. Steven, what was your first (or favorite) job?
My first job was with a small IT mom-and-pop company, right after graduating from college. I was the fifth person on their team.
The great thing about working for a small company when you’re just out of college is you get to wear many hats. You really have to adopt a mindset of “Oh, I should probably get my hands involved in everything” rather than “That’s not part of my job.” It taught me to be able to be flexible in any situation and to never feel limited by whatever my “role” is—and that shaped my mentality moving forward in my career. I feel very grateful for that experience.
2. What are the three most important components for your personal and professional success?
- Attitude: You can’t get caught up in “I did this for a client, so it’s all about me.” You need to have the kind of positive attitude that will build trust within others, so they know they can rely on you. This is especially important if you’re collaborating with others—a positive attitude will help you to better understand what people need; and also help you stay focused on creating and maintaining good relationships. Having had a positive attitude, I’ve become known as someone who is willing to work with anyone. This has enabled me to step into certain types of projects and develop skills that others might not have been able to.
- Initiative: It’s important to put yourself out there and realize that everyone is your client—not just your actual business clients, but the people you work with on a daily basis. Taking initiative shows that you’re taking ownership of and pride in your own work.
- Open-mindedness: Even though I entered the working world with a marketing background, I worked as a project manager and even a developer earlier on in my career. I don’t get caught up in what my career path “needs” to look like; and I have been willing to accept that there is more than one way of doing things. This mindset has been very helpful in propelling my career.
3. Name an “inflection point” experience that prepared you for your current position.
When you’ve only worked for SMBs, you think it would be great to work for a big name brand—and it is, for some people! Personally, I’ve worked in different industries, in organizations of many different sizes; and my career path has taught me that that I don’t have to work at a larger organization to feel fulfilled or content within my career path. I love wearing many hats, but when you’re in a bigger company, everyone’s role is much more defined. As a result, it can be harder to “cross over” onto other projects that you may be interested in, compared to being able to do so with a smaller or startup business.
While working for one larger organization, I also learned that it would be hard to continue to grow in that environment. At that time, my director told me that unless someone were to leave, there may not be much of an opportunity for me to move up in the business. The great thing about a smaller company is that you don’t feel as restricted, and there is often more of an opportunity to define your own career path, as well as what you want to accomplish for your employer. That was super-appealing for the role I have now at Kloeckner Metals.
4. What characteristics do you value most when hiring new marketing talent for your team?
I only have two full-time employees on my team including myself, so I rely quite a lot on contractors. When I’m hiring freelancers, I really look for people who demonstrate a sense of ownership in their work. Even if they’re a contractor, I want to know they care about the work they’re doing—that they approach things with a certain skill-set, that they respect their own clients, and that they are focused on bringing value to whomever hires them. Basically, I want them to act and feel like a full-time employee, even though they’re actually not.
5. Which book would you recommend to your fellow CMO Club members right now?
There is this short but very useful book called “The Art of Design Thinking” by Jose Bentancur. It’s all about setting the right mindset to introduce innovative thinking into your organization. The thing I love about it is it’s very practical and down-to-earth, not just about buzzwords and what’s “trendy.”
6. Name one Head of Marketing who impresses you today and tell us why.
I don’t know her personally, but I’ve been really impressed by Katrina Craigwell, who is the VP of Brand and Revenue Marketing at GE Digital. It’s been kind of neat to see someone fairly young in the manufacturing space, who has accomplished so much. She’s had this ability to scale communications channels and software throughout an entire organization from North America to Europe to Asia. I have a friend who worked for her, who has been nothing but complimentary of her leadership style.
7. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?
It’s important to know that nobody can be great at absolutely everything. Yes, it’s nice to be well-rounded in terms of knowledge and skill-set. But rather than kill yourself trying to be an expert at 10 things, I believe in identifying those few skills you’re great at, and then honing in on and building them. Then you can consider yourself an expert at a few things, rather than mediocre at a greater number of things.
As an example, I’m a decent writer but I also know writing is a specialized skill; so I believe in hiring an expert writer when I need written content. Basically, it’s important to assess ourselves with a sober judgment.