Marketer to Watch: Ed Locher of Esri

Ed Locher, Head of
Programs, Esri

To help you meet your peers and facilitate even more learning, we are featuring your fellow Future CMO Club Members. This week, Ed Locher, Head of Programs at Esri, shares what he's learned about leadership and why he's excited to be an engineer in a marketing world.

1. What was your first (or favorite) job?

My first job out of grad school was in Integrated Marketing Communications at IBM. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was the perfect training ground for an eager young professional that had a lot of academic knowledge, but not much in the way of professional experience.

It taught me how to prioritize in a world of constrained resources; how to build consensus across very disparate stakeholder groups; how to navigate large organizations, internalizing the importance of building meaningful and lasting relationships; And finally, I learned that constantly striving for improvement is more important than any tactical success.

But - while my role at IBM was extremely valuable and great preparation for the rest of my career - it still doesn’t surpass being a lifeguard on Lake Geneva Wisconsin as my favorite job.

2. Can you name an “inflection point” moment or a particularly influential mentor during your career that helped prepare you for your current position? 

Ironically, the answer to both of these questions is the same.

Bert Turner, my SVP of Sales and Marketing at DigitalGlobe, completely transformed my point of view on leadership. Previously, I believed that the best way to deliver results was to expect those that I led and worked with to do things the way I would have done them myself. I (erroneously) believed that leadership was teaching a bunch of people to be just like me. It had worked for me personally - surely it would work professionally!

She taught me that unleashing the power of a diverse set of individuals is far more effective, efficient and rewarding. Because of her, I became more empathetic, more concerned about discovering others' strengths and more coachable. In the process, I like to believe I've become a much more effective leader, too!

When I stopped trying to turn my team into an army of Ed’s, I became more successful and influential than I ever had been in the past - truly a defining moment in my career.

3. How has marketing changed over the last five years? What trends are you excited about right now? 

Wow, what hasn’t changed. I recently had a conversation with my boss about how “all of a sudden” you need to be an engineer to be an effective marketer. And this really excites me for a couple of reasons.

First, it validates what I learned in graduate school. When I entered, I thought marketing was someone in a chicken suit on a street corner handing out fliers (sophisticated marketing was advanced media buys and integrating messaging across platforms). In school, my marketing professor showed me that analytics, hypotheses, testing, and data-driven decision making is what separates the good from the great. It took awhile for me to finally arrive at this conclusion myself, but that’s clearly the direction the wind is blowing right now as technology, people, and processes are all reaching a level of sophistication that will enable marketers to realize the ultimate goal of personalized marketing at scale.

And second - by happy circumstance - I have degrees in Chemistry and a Masters degree in Engineering. So, I feel like the way my brain has been trained to think has positioned me well to benefit from this evolution.

4. Name one CMO or Head of Marketing who impresses you today and why.

I am continually impressed by Marianna Kantor, my current CMO at Esri. Her courage to undertake the challenge of completely redefining marketing in a well-established, male-dominated, technology company is unlike any I have seen before. Not only is she incredibly savvy with her approach to this challenge while bringing a wealth of technical marketing experience (she is an Electrical Engineer by training, so she truly gets the importance of metrics and analytics), but her ability to lead a diverse team is a pleasure to watch.

I learn something new from her every day - and this hasn’t happened too often in my career.

5. Name 1 or 2 characteristics that you think are invaluable for a marketer in today's ever-evolving world.

The ability to assimilate and act upon data in real-time - this includes the wherewithal to build a system to deliver this insight, as well as act upon it once it’s delivering information.

And, I also believe that a highly developed sense of empathy is critical to success. Today’s marketer is expected to know the customer, the technology, the legal/compliance/risk profile, the operations, every customer touchpoint, and so, so much more. Without a highly advanced ability to connect with each of these on a personal level, the marketer is literally just spraying and praying for results.

6. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

Make the complex simple. Always.

7. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years? 

With any luck, leading the marketing function of a growing technology company that is working to fundamentally change the way people address their most difficult challenges.