For Progress CMO Melissa Puls, the art of marketing runs in the family.
“If anyone was groomed to be a marketer, it’s me. From a very young age I was inspired by my mother, a senior marketing leader herself – a VP actually,” says Puls, “She was a woman holding senior roles at a time when that wasn’t the norm.”
The CMO for the enterprise software company says she has always been aware of the example her mother set for her, and has tried to follow her lead as a marketing executive. Puls took over as CMO for Progress in October, 2014. Prior to joining the software company, she served as a vice president for Iron Mountain’s Global Demand Center.
Puls led Progress’ major branding initiative this year after the company acquired the app development platform Telerik AD at the end of 2014.
“My team guided the organization through over a year of research and soul searching that unified the people and cultures of Progress and Telerik into a stronger whole,” says Puls, “Progress is now better aligned around one brand and one brand mission to help customers of all sizes tackle their business challenges.”
According to Puls, the branding campaign was a big success that helped educate the market about who Progress is and what they have to offer, “Progress has seen significant press and share-of-voice gains following a campaign that generated over 165 million impressions, 1.3 million clicks and hundreds of thousands of meaningful engagements.”
The CMO says she has always enjoyed the challenge of distilling the value companies bring to customers into cohesive messages.
“It’s the ultimate puzzle that shifts daily, forcing me to stay current and innovative. It’s a very rewarding career that I love.”
What mobile device can you not live without?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Apps that help me engage with and manage my team to keep our business moving forward. Those include Workday, Concur, Yammer, email, etc.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Facebook – it’s all about staying connected with people on an ongoing basis that you don’t get to see. I like how it makes the world a smaller place and serves as an outlet for personal expression.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Facebook, then work apps – approvals, reviews, etc.
Take me through your typical workday.
My schedule has a lot of variety, but a typical day in the office starts with me getting the kids off to school, then stopping briefly at MaryLou’s for coffee.
Once at work, I jump into anywhere from four to ten meetings, which include senior strategic conversations, direct report briefings where we dig into data to keep us moving in the right direction, and various media interviews. I also seek face-to-face interactions with people.
Those informal conversations in the halls, the kitchen or when I pop into offices, help me stay informed about what’s going on with staff at all levels on a personal and professional level.It’s exactly these relationships that form the glue of strong teams.
After a jammed day, I head home to spend some quality time with family before getting them off to bed and hopping back online to work. Progress is a global organization so there are people awake and working at all hours of the day and night around the world. My timely engagement keeps projects flowing, while enabling me to integrate my work and life in a truly meaningful way.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
By far, the most exciting project to work on has been the intense planning and stellar execution of our new company brand. However, the additional challenge came from balancing rebranding with the ongoing commitment for marketing to generate revenue.
That balancing act has not always been easy, and sometimes managing competing priorities can feel like a game of whack-a-mole, but it’s been a wonderful year, and we’ve all learned a lot along the way.
What does your office look like — any sentimental objects you can share?
My mother is a talented artist, so I have one of her paintings behind my desk.
I find scents rejuvenating, so always have scented candles in my office. I also have pictures of my kids – who are the center of my universe – and of my “girls,” the strong, independent awesome women with whom I have strong bonds and who each inspire me in their own unique way.
Together, the images and fragrances are an oasis of peace and calm amidst what can be a hectic life.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
A lot – the furthest and most interesting place I traveled to this year was Sofia, Bulgaria, for the unveiling of our new Progress brand. It was a noteworthy moment for such a strong Bulgarian icon like Telerik, known as the Google of Bulgaria, to successfully transition to Progress – complete with the building sign.
It was an important step for our unified company, and not without risk. I remain so proud of our employees, the noteworthy media coverage, and the great work we’re doing in the local Bulgarian communities. I was glad be there in person for the historic occasion.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
As a publicly traded company, I’m constantly thinking about how to increase shareholder value. Marketers love all the glitzy stuff with bells and whistles, but I must always be mindful of how initiatives impact company revenue.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
Years ago, I learned a great lesson. The company I was with at the time came off a tough quarter where we didn’t make our financial objectives. Despite this, I was pretty pleased with the performance of my marketing organization.
In my quarterly update to the senior executive team, I proudly recounted how well marketing did in hitting its objectives to generate leads, etc. Suddenly I was interrupted by the CEO who stood up, pounded his fist on the table, and said, “In all due respect, I don’t give a @#$% about what marketing did. We missed our revenue target. Do not celebrate success until we are successful as one team.”
That experience reminded me that marketing is only valuable if we’re contributing to the success of the business – it was an important shift for me away from activities towards impact.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
My mother is, by far, the person who’s had the greatest influence on my career. She’s the reason that marketing runs through my veins. Because of her, I was exposed to marketing at a very young age, as well as to the important and challenging decisions that leaders have to make.
She truly paved the way for women leaders who followed, and remains my mentor and confidante. I feel truly blessed to have her in my corner.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
The awareness that just because something has gone well, doesn’t mean it can’t be better. This applies to people as individuals as well as to teams.
It’s important to constantly challenge your team to be better, because that’s how they grow and that’s how the business grows.
This is an important function of my role, and for all leaders at our level: to motivate people in a positive way, briefly celebrate the wins, then inspire their drive to want better for themselves.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
A recent media training was the first time I watched myself give a presentation. I’ve avoided these videos like the plague, even though I’ve presented for years, including at large conferences.
Having now watched it, however, I readily admit that my fear was unfounded, and I’ve now embraced the experience in the spirit of continuous improvement. Actually, I think I did a pretty darn good job, but do have a few areas I’ll look to improve upon for next time. It was a huge turning point.
Why did you go into marketing?
My mom was the ultimate marketer and instilled a great love for it in me starting at a young age.
What other career would you like to try, and why?
I’d love to open up a quaint beachfront breakfast restaurant. I’d cook fresh, organic, high-end breakfasts to get people started on their day with a yummy meal and fun conversation. I’d then have the rest of the day to enjoy myself!
What’s the last business book you read, and what did you think of it?
“Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg – it empowered me to be fearless about how I approach my life and career, to go for it when every instinct is crying otherwise. It helped me feel good about being bold with my career, and to set a good example for other women at our company.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign caught your eye recently?
Stitch Fix – the value prop resonated with me as it was about making life easier for busy, style-conscious women.
This could be your Fix… or theirs! Give a Stitch Fix gift card this holiday season. Go on, get gifting: http://bit.ly/StitchFixGiftOfStyle.
Posted by Stitch Fix on Monday, November 14, 2016