Sunday, November 28, 2010;
Position: Chief operating officer of Vocus, a Lanham-based company that provides cloud-based marketing software that helps organizations generate awareness and influence buyers on the Web.
Career highlights: Chief marketing officer, Vocus; chief marketing officer, Fiberlink; marketing director, AT&T; sales manager, AT&T; account executive, AT&T.
Education: BA, History, Lafayette College; MBA, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
Personal: Lives in Gambrills with wife Melissa and children Alex and Hanna.
I was your typical high school jock. I did well enough to get into a good school and play football. Eventually I became less interested in sports and a much more well-rounded, serious person.
I was an engineering major because people told me I was good in math and science, but I didn't like it.
I remember an older alumnus told me to do what I love as best as I could and the company I eventually work for will train me. It was a transformative conversation. Within a week, I switched my major to history, a passion of mine.
I had no idea what I wanted to do professionally as a history major, but a professor told me to just work for the best company I could in whatever field, work for a couple years and go back to graduate school.
I immediately went to work for AT&T selling computers. It was the best experience of my life. It taught me that sales is the hardest job in the world, but the most important thing you can do for your company.
I became a sales manager and sold one of the largest deals in the company at that time.
Then I wanted to see what marketing was like. It served me well to work across departments at AT&T, from business-to-business marketing to working for the chairman's office on brand strategy.
I had established a track record of success in a variety of roles and they saw leadership potential. The company sent me to the Wharton School of Business to get my MBA through the executive program. Meanwhile, my job acquired TCI and the company assigned me to be the marketing liaison between the two organizations.
Monday morning I would fly to Denver, work for two weeks, then fly back to Philadelphia to go to school on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, I would drive home to see my wife and then fly back to Denver. I did that for about a year.
It was a really busy time, but one of the most rewarding of my career. I was surrounded by great people at Wharton while entering into an environment in the cable company that was full of bright marketing people.
I realized that no matter how far I rose, it would be difficult to get to a point where I could make an impact, so I decided for the first time that I would work for a smaller company.
I was recruited to Fiberlink. It was a small, $8 million to $12 million company when I joined and an $80 million company six years later when I left.
After the tech bubble burst, one of our suppliers that accounted for 90 percent of our revenue decided to stop allowing us to resell its product. But we made it through. I led the crafting of our marketing, which positioned us as a leader in mobile computing. We raised more than $70 million and grew the company.
Then I felt like it was time for me to move on.
I saw that Vocus was one of the founding companies of what is now on-demand or cloud-based computing. To be a part of the next wave of software is really exciting.
- Interview with Vanessa Mizell