Eight Questions with Alex Gobbi

The CMO of IT security powerhouse Secureworks on speaking the language of business, hiring and firing, and the pleasures of exploration


If you could teach a college class, what would be? It would be called “Ready, Fire, Aim” or “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” and it would cover the basics of good marketing – audience, message, outcome, media mix. In today’s age of urgency, speed, emails and texts, the volume of ineffective marketing is tremendous and the amount of waste is huge. While new technologies offer tremendous power, nothing beats using your noggin to think through the basics.

Now, if I could go back and take a class again, it would be Corporate Finance. Finance is the “language of business” and if you want to build credibility with the CFO and CEO, you need to know your key terms – CLV, CAC, ROI, DCF, CapEx and so on.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? I was given similar advice by two of my bosses. One would say “What’s on the Stop Doing list?”, the other used to say “Ruthlessly prioritize.” I’m not always great at it, but I try to remind myself to focus, focus, focus. What’s going to have the most impact? What can I stop doing, do later or delegate?

What is your favorite place in the world to visit? The next place on my list. Reality is, I love to travel and explore new places. I don’t have a single favorite. The pleasure comes in the discovery of each new place – the smells, the sounds, the food, the language, the customs, the architecture. Top of my list right now? Tanzania – Masai Mara and the Ngorongoro Crater to see the great migration.

What is hardest thing you’ve ever done? Laying off talented people. While it never gets easier, the hardest time was as a young leader, in the midst of the recession and post a large merger, I had to let go eight people on my team. I will never forget that day – it was one of the hardest days of my professional career.

What is the smartest marketing, communications or PR thing you’ve ever done? Hiring really talented people! Especially individuals with talents and skills that the team doesn’t have. At the same time, I also hire for attitude – through the interview, does the candidate project humility, curiosity and kindness?

What is your favorite quote? It’s from Aristophanes: “Open your mind before you open your mouth.”

What is your secret vice? Solitude – I’m an introvert by nature and I get my best thinking done when I’m alone, sitting on the screened porch reading, or with a pen and white sheet of paper, framing up concepts and ideas.

If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be? A social worker in the field of child protection and refugee support.

Eight questions with… is an occasional series where we ask marketers to share a little of their professional and personal insights. To suggest someone you’d like us to ask eight questions – or to answer them yourself! – go to https://arketi.com/8questions.

By Rory Carlton – August 24, 2018

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