As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company’s Marketing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Lowden.
Dan is the Chief Marketing Officer at HUMAN (formerly White Ops) and has more than 20 years of executive-level experience in technology marketing. He has successfully driven brand leadership and demand generation for large enterprises and fast-growth companies in cyber security, wireless services, and mobile computing. Previously in the cyber security space, Dan was CMO at Digital Shadows, CMO at Invincea (acquired by Sophos), and VP of Marketing at vArmour. Previous roles also include VP of Marketing at Digby (acquired by Phunware), VP of Marketing and Business Development at Wayport (Acquired by AT&T), and marketing leadership roles at IBM ThinkPad, NEC Technologies and Sharp Electronics. Dan holds an MBA in International Business from Rutgers Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science from Rider University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I never pictured myself as a tech marketing leader. I did not have a technical background but I was interested enough in the technology to learn enough about what it was and what value and the benefits it created for customers. I have joined many amazing companies over the year who were run by technical founders. The product was amazing but no one could tell the story so that people could understand it. I found out over time that that is what I am good at. Telling the story in the best way possible so customers would want to build a relationship with my company as the product helped them solve an important problem and enabled them to be more effective at their jobs. If you do that well, you can have a tremendous impact on the company and helping many people.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I met Bill Gates at a Microsoft event many years ago. Microsoft was launching a new operating system and needed partners to be on stage with them to show how great their product was. We were a 70 person startup and Microsoft needed us to be a part of their story. That’s when magic happens. Large companies need amazing startups to look cool. We made Microsoft look cool. Bill Gates announced our partnership on stage with a global audience, making us look like we were the global leaders in our space. All of this exposure was absolutely free and my company grew exceptional fast because of this event as everyone thought if Microsoft picked us, they should too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Don’t lay-up.” In the world of golf, it means go for the hardest shot over water and go for the pin. Playing safe by laying up is not an option. Go all out to win every time. In business, this means take risks. If you fail, you get up and try again and learn and get better. If you don’t lay-up, it puts you in the best position to win.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?
Call Your Shots, by Thomas J. Miller. It enables companies to create winning strategies by unlocking value, unifying teams, avoiding peril and making the company unstoppable. There are many great stories in the book. Shot calling has helped me focus on what’s important that will best impact the company.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
HUMAN (formerly White Ops) was founded in 2012 in a Brooklyn sci-fi bookstore. We protect enterprises from bot attacks to keep digital experiences human. Our Mission is to protect the internet by disrupting the economics of cybercrime. It is a bold statement and we live and breathe it every day. The most amazing humans from top companies want to join us as we are taking bad actors down and protecting what matters, engagement with real humans. This makes us stand out. Our competitors talk about technology. We talk about knowing who is real and ensuring engagement with real humans. Our customers join us on this mission as they believe in it too. They all wear HUMAN t-shirts.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Find something that has a positive impact on the world that you like doing and do it extremely well. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, your education etc. All that matters is that you are all-in and when you are, you can be unstoppable and incredibly valuable to the company and the team you work for.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I was at IBM working for a senior marketing executive. I loved IBM but I had decided to leave the company to dive in and join a startup. It was a big risk and my boss at the time told me I should stay at IBM and that startups were too risky. He was right but I am glad I decided to do it anyway. I had faith in myself that no matter what happened, I would turn out ok from the experience. That startup was tough for the first few years but ended up be a great success.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
With every company I have joined over the years, I go all in. My fellow team members and customers who I work with see that I work hard, have integrity and that I can be trusted. This has enabled me to build an amazing network of colleagues and friends in business where we all help each other to be successful. I am still friends with a CTO of a large company I worked with over 20 years ago. We can ping each other and respond in minutes. In the end, that all that matters and goes a long way in being instrumental to your success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?
I feel deeply responsible for the success of the entire business. It’s not only about my success or my direct report’s success, it’s about the company’s success. Employees of the company may not realize it but C-suite executives think about how do we ensure the company’s future success as a lot of jobs and investment are relying on us to make the right decisions. It’s a lot of pressure and effort. It’s also a great reward when you see everyone in the company benefitting as the company grows.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CMO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I think being a successful CMO is a very difficult role. My goal is to show the strategic impact marketing can have on the company’s success. I have done this over and over and investors, employees and management are surprised when they see that marketing is much more than a cost center or name recognition. I like to demonstrate impact by showing that marketing is driving revenue, helping sales be successful closing deals and that our customers like us. When that happens, the myth of marketing goes away and people realize ow important marketing is to the success of the company.
What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most important thing is to listen. I make the best decisions when I gather all my knowledge and experience to address an issue or an opportunity and then hear my team provide their views. I end up making better decisions because of listening to them. When you do this with a new team, you create a culture of collaboration and trust.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
The hardest part is getting every employee in the boat rowing in the same direction. In order to do this, you need every employee to be all in and understanding of the strategy and goals of the company. If everyone is aligned, it is much easier to go fast and execute.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- How much of an honor it is to represent a brand as the CMO.
- How every day is different with new challenges and opportunities.
- If you have an amazing team, you can pretty much overcome any obstacle.
- How important it is to do things differently than your competition and the industry to stand out.
- How small companies can disrupt big companies or partner with big companies to create an amazing opportunity to make a big difference in the world.
In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
- Work hard and set a great example
- Demonstrate integrity and earn trust
- Learn from failure, test, try new things, constantly adapt and improve
I knew a very smart and technical engineer who thought it was a waste of time to publish a blog. I convinced him to do one and promised I would do my best to help it get published. He finally wrote one, we submitted it to CIO a magazine and his blog was published across a 2-page spread and he received a great response from fellow employees and customers. He was shocked. He showed it to his grandmother. He came back and wrote many more blogs and we have been friends ever since.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I have to say that at my company HUMAN, the movement of ‘keeping it human’ has been expanded to ‘Keep Music Human.’ We protect music streaming and ticketing companies by ensuring music is listened to by real humans and that real humans are buying ticket, not bots. We protect artists and fans. It is a movement as everyone who goes to concerts and loves music has been negatively impacted by bot buying tickets or impacting the most popular songs. We stop the bots, ensuring real human engagement.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Connect with me on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/danlowden