Interview with Heather Zynczak, Chief Marketing Officer, Pluralsight

Heather Zynczak CMO Pluralsight
Heather Zynczak
Heather Zynczak
Chief Marketing Officer, Pluralsight
Pluralsight

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role at Pluralsight and your journey there.

My passion for technology began at an early age. I landed my first job in coding and spent years as a developer after that. This kicked off my path to CMO with a very technical start, but I quickly felt the urge to be more involved in the strategic side of things. I earned my MBA from The Wharton School and then moved to Silicon Valley at the height of the “dot com” boom. Startups were everywhere, and I gained a lot of experience in strategic product development and marketing in a fast-paced, agile environment. I learned the importance of rooting business decisions in data and analytics rather than gut feelings.

Developing this data-driven approach early on set the rest of my career in motion. I made the jump to Oracle and SAP to learn industry best practices from established players. I worked with some of the best in the business during this time, and then took these experiences with me when I moved to Utah and joined Domo as CMO in 2012.

I was drawn to Pluralsight because of its mission to close the technology skills gap. Since joining last year, my inner developer has loved working for a company that has such a strong impact on technologists across the world.

MTS: What does Pluralsight’s skill measurement system consist of and do assessment scores integrate with other learning management systems?

Technology is rapidly evolving, making it hard for technology professionals and teams to keep their skills current — and to really understand their level of proficiency in a given technology.

Our skill measurements technology gives IT professionals and leaders a way to evaluate and future proof their skill sets. In as little as five minutes, a tech pro can benchmark his or her skills and identify one’s skill gaps and strengths. Our platform will then also give he or she a customized learning path — outlining the exact courses she should take — to increase her proficiency. If a user needs help understanding a concept along the way, our platform gives them the ability to connect with a live mentor. This capability is powerful at the enterprise level because it allows CIOs and CTOs to understand the brilliance on their team, provide their teams with an efficient way to close their technology skills gap and, ultimately, deliver new innovations faster.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?

The technology skills gap costs the U.S. $1 trillion each year in lost productivity, impacting companies of all sizes and across every industry. In this year’s Fortune 500 CEO Survey, 71 percent of CEOs identified their companies as tech companies, yet tech’s progress is outpacing workers’ knowledge of it. Ultimately, this gap is going to significantly hurt innovation and slow progress.

MTS: How does your recent partnership with Adobe Experience Cloud help Pluralsight and its customers?

Marketing teams of today are more closely resembling technology teams than ever before, and that trend is only set to grow in the coming years. Gartner expects that CMOs will soon have a bigger IT budget than CIOs.

As such, CMOs and their teams feel the pressure to keep their technology skills current so they can leverage their tech investment to its full capacity and out-market their competition. Adobe Experience Cloud is one of the technologies that has become a critical tool for marketing teams to master.

Having recognized Pluralsight’s reputation for high-quality, expert-authored courses, Adobe turned to Pluralsight to empower digital marketers to master Adobe Experience Cloud. Our experts author beginner- to advanced-level courses and host the courses on our technology learning platform, and Adobe validates that the courseware accurately represents the technology’s capabilities. As a result, Adobe Experience Cloud users are able to stay up-to-date on the necessary skills needed to master this technology.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

There are a number of technology trends driving the most interesting startups of today. The ones I’m watching closely are companies innovating in AI, VR and security.

I’m also really excited about the venture capital firms that are prioritizing female leadership and supporting female entrepreneurship. Women’s Venture Capital Fund has a portfolio of amazing organizations that are leading the way and have gender diverse leadership teams. Forerunner Ventures is another company that has an executive team comprised primarily of women.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

We have a robust marketing tech stack, which will grow as new technologies enter the market. We have backbone systems like Salesforce and Marketo, and we also use DemandBase (for ABM) and Adobe Marketing Cloud, including AEM and Analytics. All of of tools gives us a good handle on how campaigns are performing and help us optimize our spend and efforts.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)

We’re really excited about the results we’ve seen in our recent digital account based marketing (ABM) campaigns. Using LinkedIn, Twitter and other social channels, we were able to personalize messages received by executives in different roles within a target list of companies. As a result of this campaign, our conversion rates increased by 10 times the original. This was not only a highly successful campaign, but it was also a fun and creative way to reach our target audience.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?

Success for a marketing team can be won or lost by technology. It is crucial to hire a team with strong technology skills, and then set them up for success by investing in their learning and skills development. The best marketers are going to be extremely tech savvy and knowledgeable about the latest trends in tech. Right now, I think it’s important for teams to understand AI, big data, machine learning and other emerging technologies, and then use this knowledge to create new experiences in order to stay ahead of the competition.

THIS IS HOW I WORK

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

Data-driven. I am a data-driven person. The most important decisions in my life, both personal and professional, are often made after hours of data analysis. In today’s world, everything is measurable, and as a marketer, this allows me to know what campaigns are working and why, where to allocate budget and ultimately how to steer my team towards success.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I can’t live without email. It’s my favorite communication tool. In a world with texting, Facebook Messenger and Slack, email is old school–I know, but it’s the best way to get my attention. I promise my team that I’ll respond to any email they send within 48 hours.

In addition to that, I am a addicted to my marketing dashboard. I live and breathe analytics, so having constant access to those numbers is crucial to my success as a leader.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Again, call me old school, but one of the best productivity “hacks” that I’ve found is embracing the tried and true moments of quiet time. No matter how chaotic my schedule gets, I find time every day to go without any outside input or distractions — no phone calls, screens, listening of any kind — and revel in the silence; I usually like to do this when I’m running or biking. During really hectic times, though, I use my car ride home from work to turn off my radio and my phone for 15 minutes of pure silence. It’s during these moments when I come up with my best ideas that help increase productivity.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you 
consume information?)

I’m an avid reader, and I’ve dabbled in most kinds of literature. I enjoy reading things that foster innovative ideas and challenge me to think differently. Recently, I’ve had an appetite for historical fiction and biographies. I’m currently reading a biography on Eleanor Roosevelt who has become one of my favorite historical figures.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to believe in myself and my ability to succeed. When I walk into major meetings and presentations, I don’t hope that I’m the right person for the job or presenting materials that the others will like. I know that I am the right fit and that I’m delivering content that matters. I also know that success can be driven by internal factors; the most capable employee can fail if she doesn’t believe in herself and only hopes that others do instead. Ultimately, if you don’t believe in you, who will? Why should anyone else?

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success? 


As a leader, I know that success doesn’t rely on me being the most visible or the loudest person in the room; I don’t even have to be the smartest person in the room. Instead, I focus on surrounding myself with the smartest and most creative people and look to them for great ideas, and then leverage my experience to identify which of those ideas will succeed. I’ve found that some of the best ideas come from newer or younger employees, once you give them the chance to speak up and exercise their creativity.

Giving everyone on my team a seat at the table gives them a greater attachment to a project and its success, and this leads to an increase in creativity and success for the entire team.

MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

I would love to see Michelle Obama’s answers to these questions. As both the First Lady and as a private citizen now, she has had such an impressive impact as a powerful female leader. I’ve always viewed her as one of the best examples of success as a working mother. She seems to be not only highly dedicated to her family and promoting positive values, but also extremely accomplished both academically and professionally.

MTS: Thank you Ross! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Heather is currently CMO of Pluralsight, the world’s leading technology learning platform for enterprises. Prior to Pluralsight, Heather was CMO of Domo, where her marketing organization fueled one of the fastest growing tech start ups. She has also held executive positions at some of the world’s largest enterprise technology companies, including SAP and Oracle. She has also led teams at several Silicon Valley startups and served as a business consultant for top firms, including Accenture, The Boston Consulting Group and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Heather’s passion for tech started with her early years as a software developer, which has also been helpful in driving her analytically-focused marketing strategy.

In addition to her everyday work, Heather is passionate about about helping advance women in the workplace and female leadership across the tech industry.

We are the technology learning platform. We help technology leaders evaluate the technical abilities of their teams, align learning to key business objectives and close skills gaps in critical areas like cloud, mobile, security and data.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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