Norman Guadagno is a fan of strong narratives, stories that have a powerful impact on his audience. And while his job as Carbonite’s Senior Vice President of Marketing requires him to focus on lots of details, he’s not a fan of striving for perfection. In fact, Norman would advise you to aim for excellent instead of perfect. That way, you get more done.
Norman earned a graduate degree in industrial psychology from Rice University and then capitalized on his passion for understanding what makes people tick – both employees and customers alike – in senior marketing positions at companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. Prior to Carbonite, Norman was Senior Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Wire Stone, a well-known marketing agency headquartered in San Francisco. He joined Carbonite as Senior Vice President of Marketing in January of 2016.
I recently asked Norman to talk with me for our new series spotlighting the careers of various Carbonite executives. He shared his philosophy on marketing, getting things done and how he has built a successful career around his unique skills.
What can you tell me about your management philosophy?
Norman Guadagno: I'm a believer in giving people a lot of freedom and I find ways to encourage people to take ownership of what they are doing. The marketing profession – and particularly high-tech marketing – rewards people who take ownership of their outcomes and that's why I drive teams based on outcomes. I don't care if I don't see you. I don 't care how you do your work. But I care about outcomes and I care about commitments. Are you going to deliver what you say you're going to deliver when you say you'll deliver it? Will it be high quality? I also know that – and this is particularly true of younger staff members – some people tend to believe that things need to be perfect. I try to teach teams that nothing is ever perfect. If you have something on your desk and you're spending a lot of time trying to perfect it, that is zero value to marketing. But an imperfect thing out in the world that we can get feedback on – that's high-value marketing.
You became Carbonite's Senior Vice President of Marketing at the beginning of 2016. How's it been so far?
Guadagno: I think the company is on the right track and I think we're doing high quality, good marketing. I think people feel challenged and excited and I think we have even more opportunities ahead. I'm having a lot of fun. It's both the hardest job that I've had and also one of the most rewarding. I like it here for lots of reasons: I get the opportunity to feel like I'm having an impact as a marketer, having an impact as a manager and mentor, and having an impact as a business person. There are a lot of great challenges and there's a lot of new stuff that I'm learning.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals who aren't sure about which career path to take?
Guadagno: That's a great question because it's something you think about a great deal as you move past it. I've given this advice to others and I do believe it: You can't be afraid to do anything. It may seem at the time like, 'Why the heck would I do this thing?' But almost every experience is going to help you shape your perspective and your world view and get you closer to what ultimately is the right fit. You may not know what that right fit is right now. But every experience teaches you things you like and don't like and helps you sharpen your vision and get you closer to finding that right fit.
What are the things you've discovered that you like and don't like about your career?
Guadagno: At this point I know very well what I like and don't like. I really get a lot of satisfaction from mentoring people. I get a lot of satisfaction from public speaking and storytelling. I also get a lot of satisfaction from ideation. I'm not a big fan of digging deep, deep, deep into numbers. I do it, I understand it and it's part of my job. But it's not where I want to spend a lot of my time. Throughout your career you learn to calibrate what you like and don't like and every experience is going to help you add another piece to that puzzle.
Finally, what was it like to meet Steve Jobs and what did you learn from him?
Guadagno: Early in my career I worked for a company called Ashton-Tate, the creators of the popular dBASE database application. During that time, I became Product Manager for a spreadsheet solution that we were creating for NeXT Inc., the computer company founded by Steve Jobs when he was in between stints at Apple. I got to go to NeXT headquarters and meet Steve and present what we were doing. I can honestly say that in my one hour of meeting with Steve at whatever tender age I was at the time, that he was far and away the most charismatic human being I've ever encountered. We did our presentation and then Steve said, "I'm going to show you something but you have to raise your hands and swear not to tell anyone." And we just all raised our hands because that's the power of a persuasive person. Then he unveiled the next generation NeXT computer. But what really made an impression on me was his persuasive power. That's a seminal moment in my career. If you can just be persuasive and tell people what you're going to do and then do it – it works. Steve was the kind of powerful human being that in one hour can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.
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