Desi CMO Sequel: From Maximum City to the Big Apple

Two weeks ago I moved back to New York after spending 4 years in India. I’m not very good at good byes nor getting over jet lag, which is probably why I’ve been a little low key over the last few weeks as I made the transition. Suffice to say, I miss India and especially my friends, my dog (who was adopted by by wonderful Bandra best friend) and my colleagues. Some of you have asked if I will continue my Desi CMO blog. There is no question in my mind about that! Once a Desi CMO, always a Desi CMO! For Bollywood buffs, think of this as a sequel, like Dabaang 2, except with a Bandra Girl as the protagonist vs. a Bandra Bhai, and a location change (don’t Bollywood actors love international film shoots, especially New York? What was that Ranbir Kapoor/Priyanka Chopra movie shot here?) See? I’m still totally Desi, so not to worry.  

While New York is home for me, my time in India as a Desi CMO has given me a completely fresh and unique perspective on my new role as Vice President of Marketing, North America Systems and Technology Group (STG). While in India I was very active with the digital, data driven and B2B marketing communities. I also blogged and tweeted many of my learnings from these communities but now I have the opportunity to apply them to my new role, which, in many ways, is like joining a new company because its a new, much larger geography (and therefore new clients and buying behavior). After spending 12 years in Software, I will now focus on marketing IT Infrastructure like expert integrated systems, mainframes, x86 and POWER-based servers, disk, tape and network storage systems. Much to learn and even more to do!

 As a self proclaimed Chief Marketing Technologist, there is nothing more exciting and motivating than learning about new technologies, especially about IT architecture choices that CIOs make that could reshape entire industries. The CIO is the hero of this story, but his decisions clearly have an impact on how the business functions deliver customer service, make decisions and collaborate across their value chain. Which makes it even more important for CMOs to do their homework and collaborate closely with their CIO.  I believed this before, and I believe it even more now!

In the couple of weeks I have been on the ground there are 5 fast start lessons I have learned that I wanted to share about making this kind of transition. I welcome any advice you have for me as I get going!

1. Start Outside In. I spent the first week on the job traveling to meet our largest business partner who is critical to our business success. I could immediately see how we were perceived from the Outside In.  This was definitely a better way to get oriented that reading our own corporate website or sales kit. If nothing else, it keeps you grounded on what really matters, which is Client First. 

 2.  Data Driven Marketing. For the first time in years, I am not an expert in the product/solution set I am responsible for marketing (yet). This is a little unsettling and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty with the technology but, in the interim, I am studying and analyzing the data that drives the business decisions. Internal, external, historical, predictive, you name it, I’m looking at it. So at least before I have any opinion, about anything, let alone make a decision, I will base it on data and not instinct. The good news is, we have excellent analytics to rely on so I don’t have to ask for or invest in any new systems. Just pour a big cup of tea and get cracking!

3.  Aligning with Sales. My new boss Paulo rocks. I’m not just saying it to say it but, honestly, he totally gets it. He knows what marketing can do and he doesn’t see me as an IMC person, but really a business leader who can help drive business results. He’s giving me a lot of air cover and opportunities to learn but also letting me have a voice with my peer group outside just talking about campaigns and events. Any CMO who has this kind of support from their CEO has nothing to fear. 

4. Stay Cool. I mean literally. If you take a new role in the middle of the Summer, when its 100 degrees F both when you are walking to work and back, you need to keep your water bottle handy or you’ll end up with migraines and heat stroke (I’ve already had 2). Oh, yes, and keep your cool with your new team (especially the long winded types who request 1 hour conference calls for work that needs a 10 minute chat). You need them more than they need you!

5. Keep Running. It’s easy to forget all the things you loved when you move cities/jobs. You have to make an effort to integrate them into your routine early. In my case, its running. I really enjoy running in Central Park and have signed up for my quarterly 10K and Half Marathon and am starting to train already. Coach Srini will be proud!  In the work context, it’s easy to get paralyzed by all the things that aren’t set up like office, phone, business cards, credit cards etc. But if you wait to start your new job until you get totally settled, you will be waiting a long time and miss your opportunity to make a great early impression. All I need was a cell phone, a computer and a bed to sleep in and I was ready to go. The rest will happen! 

So there it is. My first #DesiCMOinNY blog. I look forward to your advice and also if you are ever in New York, drop me a tweet and we’ll catch up!

Desi CMO Sequel: From Maximum City to the Big AppleVirginia Sharma is the Vice President, Marketing, North America Systems and Technology Group at IBM. 

Reproduced with permission from her blog (Views are of the author and not IBMs)

Article image courtesy google


  1. Great Virginia. I have been following up your blogs pretty closely. You have not only spoken about your transition to a new place or a place where you returned after couple of years but some of the key things that are critical when you take up any new task. It looks like to me a everyday stuff that we all should execute. Looks like you have put every marketing person story in just few key bullets….I do this everyday… Keep my self cool… those people exist all the time, read data to make informed decisions, however not always we do a good job; we must do it, outside in view is most ciritcal that we miss in our roles. Nice stuff. Thank You and lot ot learn out of this


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