CMO Insights: Eva Tsai, Chief Marketing Officer of Algolia

February 5, 2019

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Eva Tsai, CMO at Algolia.

In this video, Eva talks about:

  • Approaching marketing from an engineer’s perspective and the importance of analytics
  • Michelin Star Marketing and how AI can help marketers anticipate their customers’ needs
  • The importance of resourcefulness and the ability to learn new skill sets as a marketer

Learn more about Eva from her LinkedIn profile and follow Algolia on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, president and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, we have industry icon and veteran Eva Tsai, who is Chief Marketing Officer at Algolia. Eva, welcome to the show.

Eva Tsai:

Thank you, Jeff. Glad to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I’ve known you for a long time now, probably nine years, I think, going back to your time at Citrix and one of the things I always that struck me about you from, from day one, you are always performance driven, always about the analytics, always about the math. And I think by that probably explains a lot of your success, but where, where did you get that from? Like, were you always that way, or did you have something earlier in your career that kind of inspired you?

Eva Tsai:

Yes. Interesting. So my journey to marketing is very different from typical marketer. I started out as an engineer. I went to MIT majored in computer science for both bachelor’s and master’s. And then afterwards I worked as a developer and consultant in it for the first 10 years of my life before I moved over to marketing. So when I moved over to marketing, I look at if I’m find outsider’s perspective, probably a typical engineer perspective, and I’m thinking, geez, all of this money and all the things that marketing wants doing did any of that matter. So thickly, I really want it to measure everything that marketing was doing and whether that will contribute to the, you know to, to, to the end result. And I didn’t realize that at a time, but then by doing this, that ended up being my core DNA in terms of, you know, building the foundation of my success for marketing for the second half of my career up to this point.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s funny. I can relate to that cause I started off in engineering too, and I ended up,

Eva Tsai:

Yeah. So you probably had that outsider perspective. It’s like, how would any of this matter? Right.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s a, well, I actually, even before that, I in my teenage years I worked in a bunch of restaurants and then up in New Jersey and you know, you work with these Greek diners and then they made you count everything and scrape the ketchup out of the bottle and count sugar packets and all that. So I think I was taught from a very young age, measure, everything account for everything don’t waste anything. Right. So we learned that in engineering too. So how did you, how did you make the change from engineering? It’s a marketing. What was it that inspired you to go in this direction?

Eva Tsai:

I have to say that I kept on thinking about it early in my career. I wouldn’t realize it at the time, but I’m thinking, I’m thinking that if I could have one super power, what would that be? And then about patting yourself my life, I realized that if I could have one superpower, the power I covered, the one I really wanted to have is the ability to see the future because the future fascinates me and I so much wanted to actually piece together, Oh, the human interaction, that data, the science and all that. And trying to literally just pure on the corner to see what the future will be like. And marketing is really like that to me, is a combination of psychology, behavioral science, and also big data. And I feel like I’m getting paid to do what I really have. What I have always wanted to do is almost like the most practical paying job that could have that closely mirrors, that dream job that I want to have.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love that. All right. So let’s, let’s test those superhero powers. Let’s go out to the year 2030 now, 12 years, 12 years from today. What’s marketing going to be like

Eva Tsai:

I have to say that there’s whole so much of the AI and then machine learning going on at one point that probably five years ago, when I wasn’t really doing a lot of performance marketing, what I wanted to do was really try to design this whole marketing engine that we’ll be sending out. You know, the ideal state for marketing for me, I think will be what I called Michelin star marketing. I always enjoy dining and the Michelin star restaurant part of it because the food that part of it is amazing quality of service that somehow those servers just have this amazing ability to predict that what you are going to have at that point in time. If I were to drop a fork before I have to say anything that will bring a fork to me. And if I ever get up to go to the bathroom or that goal to leave the restaurant, they just know they will bring the jacket to me. 

If they see that I’m about to beat the restaurant. So everything is just so amazingly timely. And I never had to ask why. So I want me to actually get marketing to the point that it’s this whole big machine machine learning AI state that I could be talking to you or health heading, vacationing highlight. And yet there’s this, you know, self design machine and I will be sending out personalized and relevant over the next best offer to whoever prospects that presume we are talking to at the most appropriate time. Can we get there? It would be so great.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So if, if machines and AI, they’re gonna, I mean, they’re already having an impact on marketing and, and let’s say your prediction holds true. How then does marketing changed the people, the skills? Do you have the same teams? Do you have the same structure or how does that change? Does, does, does it go away even? I mean, because machines will market to machines.

Eva Tsai:

I actually think it probably will be very similar to how we ask the, you know, a whole lot of the ultimation field that oftentimes feel that people talk about machine learning. AI will displace a lot of jobs. And then I see probably going to that way as well, that a lot of the tactical things, and then DP, double things can be ultimately made by machines and the marketing, the skill set when you really need to be up level, designing the strategy and designing the roadmap and also tweaking and tweaking the machines so that the jobs are not going away. But Lily, that was shipped away. I hate to say, I don’t think that there’s any blue collar resources marketing, but essentially that the jobs skillset will be shifting more from the blue collar skillset to white collar collar skillset. Okay.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And I see you’ve been managing people for years now. Have you had to adapt or change as, as the workforce is changing?

Eva Tsai:

Yes, I would. I would say part of my management philosophy is that first of all, one of them I made in my career is that I think I stay in a job to loan due to the low loyalty I have with my boss at a time. So if I’m by experience, I’ve realized that, you know, as a manager is my job to work myself all the, my current job. And then that has always been something that I pushed myself to do, because if I believe that I need to work myself on my current job, then what that means is that I will continue to push the envelope and continue to push for innovation at best was career goals for myself and for my team teammates, the team members on my team. So yeah, you know, I feel that as job changing and all that people would continue to have new skillset.

If I’m actually doing the same job that I’m doing today, then I feel that I have failed. And then the same thing in terms of my team members. I always tell them that my job or my commitment to you is to actually get you much closer to you drink. So think about that, what you would like to do. And then you’ll current job is not just your ideal job. The current job is actually a preparation for your ideal job preparation for your next job. So tell me why your next job will be, or next, next job will be, and we’ll work to get you closer to your next, next job, ideal job. So yes, continue to lend new skillset and, you know, that’s how we act different from machines, right?

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. I think that’s a really healthy attitude towards it, you know, cause I, I think a lot of executives constantly stress with the turnover and certainly in today’s climate, if people stay for a year or two there they’re constantly moving to develop. And so it seems like you just get to a point where you have your team where you want it and then someone’s leaving again. But it sounds like you almost you’re, you’re creating it. You want that to happen? You’re, you’re creating an environment where there’s constant movement. Okay. So what’s what’s your, how do you recruit into that then? So do you have like a, I guess a farming system, do you have like all people kind of lined up to kind of come in and keep to take over the newer jobs and I’m pushing people forward? Or how does it work?

Eva Tsai:

A lot of times that I think about, you know, like the playbook is really how sales has been doing it. I look at how sales developing their people when it comes out, they have inside salespeople, once they have material down, well, they move on to outside sales and start on the SMB, small and mid business segment and then move on to the market segments and finding out to enterprise. I feel that marketing has a, some way to that full whole lot of email marketing that tends to be the one that’s actually turning the fast, fastest, because that tend to be a fairly mechanical part of the job. So then a lot of the marketers will have to decide that way that they want to have that in house or whether they wanted to outsource to an agency, right. That couldn’t do that for their full time job.

So think about that. And on top of it, the same way to people coming in, what their career path will be. Do they actually want it to start out in marketing ops and move on to a dimension onto growth and then the sound way to the PMM and then go on to corporate marketing or some sodas. So leadership, they have different ways that people would like to pick up different skillset. And sometimes they’re not necessarily leaning near about sometimes horizontal so they can build out their portfolio for their next dream job. So trying to understand what the ideal job for that person is, and then they are the plan. And also they are that into what the organization would need. Oftentimes that will come up to the tailor specific, personalized career plan for the person.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. And what, what are the one or two polys you look for and an employee that you want to join your team?

Eva Tsai:

I want you to say, I want you to say no surprise ability to learn. I believe in growth mindset rather than fixed mindset. I have two, two daughters. One is 10 year old, one is seven year old. And when I just went to their back to school night last week, the teachers were talking about that. It’s really imperative for kids to believe in growth mindset, that it’s only as they putting the effort they can expand and then continue to lend new skillsets. So that’s something I really, really look for in the people, the people I try to hire. The second thing I look for is a resource when those, Oh, grit, that ability to actually adapt to the new situation. I feel that nowadays with the technology continuing to change and the business continue to shift, there are so many different variables that we all have to tackle and deal with. So the ability to just go with the flow and try to figure out what’s the best way forward and never be surprised or disappointed by what’s going down. So resourcefulness or as grit is the second thing I’m looking for.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. I like that. So we were talking a little bit before the interview started about you’re the first CMO at Algolia. They haven’t had marketing before. What is that? What is that like when a company doesn’t doesn’t have marketing you’re coming in and you’re trying to get it established

Eva Tsai:

Violist view the interesting experience. This is the first time I have ever worked in an environment that just never had any prior knowledge of marketing before the company. This is actually exactly the reason I joined company that this company I used to be a developer. And then I believe that a new type of marketing is this what I called product, that gold company, that the product was speak for itself, sell itself pretty much. So the company Algolia is exactly that type. The two founders that they have PhD in computer science, they have decades of experience in search. So they built this amazing product that provide a Google like search experience for all the business out there, hosted through AICPA, API, and associates, extremely complicated problem to tackle. I, when I lost a developer, you know, more than 10 years ago, in 2000 hours, our architect for the first walmart.com site at the time that we are dealing with search.

So I knew how complicated search could get. So I always want you to join us, ask, and then developer that company. And this is why, but as the foot style of joining such a company is that developers really don’t believe in marketing. In fact, that I think Google co-founders will famously saying that they wouldn’t need any marketing to sell their product, that the product would just be able to sell these cells. So I can being to Algolia with his kind of mentality. A lot of people don’t want to stand for marketing supposed to be doing, but gradually over the past half a year, we start to realize that marketing is really critical for brand awareness. So leadership demand, gen, as well as growth. And then, you know, going through that process, just a lot of educational alignment and also continuing to be gal who will be, you know, on this ride together to tackle change management. So it has been going well on that perspective in terms of, you know, educating learning and then aligning with the team.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So you’ve always you went to world-class tech school you’ve been in and around tech pretty much your whole career. How what’s your take on how technology has shaped the arc of marketing over the last 20 years and what’s going to happen in the next 20?

Eva Tsai:

I think that many of people, many people, your marketing has heard this before. And, and I feel the same way, way too, that I, in some way I feel that that technology has shifted so many facets of our life, right? Really when I started graduated from college 20 years ago, by the time that I don’t think that people really on this doing what internet would do Dallas before the.com days. So, and then marketers at the time by and large were more, what we call it. The corporate marketer marketing people tend to be the creative agency. People one classic is the, my older sister. She is actually a brand marketer in greater China. And she does all the hugely creative campaigns. She uses her right brand a whole lot. And yet the funny thing is that she, at the end of the day, she doesn’t even know how much she’s getting paid.

I mean, what she does is that every month or every quarter, she will actually send me whatever amount money she has and I will do all the investment for her. And whenever we talk, we gather we, yeah. And we, I can talk about interestingly that she does the old style of marketing, the creative type, and I do the new style marketing going up. We always feel that we too will completely different, but yeah, we both thought in marketing today, you know, and this is what I think that technology has changed marketing that if technology hasn’t been such a critical part of what we do, that digital digital transformation, I would say that people like me in terms of the background that I have would not be marketing today. And then as tax technology continue to take over Ultimates and an also optimized AB part of our job. I see that changing, we talk about before everything from manufacturing, all the way to a driverless car, and then all the ultimation being home appliances, as well as marketing sales, you know, it’s changing everything. So

Jeff Pedowitz:

Indeed it has. So Eva ,always great to talk to you. Great insights, amazing career you’ve built, and best of luck at Algolia going forward.

Eva Tsai:

Thank you.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Thanks for being on the program today.

Eva Tsai:

Alright, thanks. Bye bye.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay, bye.

You May Also Like…

REVTalks Masters: Ruben Varela

REVTalks Masters: Ruben Varela

In the new blog series, “REVTalks Masters” we sit down with a few of the speakers from our upcoming event, the REVTalks and dive into their stories to help you with your journey to revenue marketing.

read more
REVTalks Masters: Elle Woulfe

REVTalks Masters: Elle Woulfe

In the new blog series, “REVTalks Masters” we sit down with a few of the speakers from our upcoming event, the REVTalks and dive into their stories to help you with your journey to revenue marketing.

read more

Marketing Operations

Increase efficiency. Remove roadblocks.

Customer Experience

Wow Your Customers

Lead Management

Accelerate Leads to Revenue

Digital Transformation

Turn Strategy Into Action

Inbound Marketing

Right Channel, Right Message

Account-Based Marketing

Accelerate ABM Success

Flexible
Options

Four options. One result: Greater marketing-sourced revenue.

Marketo Engage

Marketo Platinum Partner

Pardot

Accelerate Leads to Revenue

Microsoft Dynamics

Optimize Your Instance

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Salesforce Certified Silver Partner

Salesforce CRM

12 Years of Integration Experience

Partners

Additional Technology Platforms

Oracle Eloqua

Oracle Platinum Partner

Adobe Experience Manager

Provide world-class experiences

Revenue Marketing University 

Training for marketers of all skill levels.

F5 Logo

F5 Network's Case Study

How a Network Security Giant Unified Global Marketing Operations

F5 Logo

Rackspace's Case Study

How a Cloud Solutions Provider Unifed And Expanded Global Marketing Capabilities

TraceLink’s Case Study

How a Supply-Chain Solution Provider Built Crucial Capabilities For Revenue

Xylem's Case Study

How a Global Water Solutions Company Nailed Marketing Automation To Win

Gilbarco Veeder-Root

Gilbarco Veeder-Root's Case Study

How a Global Fueling Leader Transitioned To Win

Telecomm Case Study

How A Multi-Channel Inbound Strategy Achieved A 600% Increase In ROI

A credit card, representing a Fortune 100 client of The Pedowitz Group's

Financial Services Case Study

How a Fortune 100 Credit Card Company Closed The Loop On Revenue

Resource Hub

Read, Watch and Download

Trending Topics

Our Most Popular Content

Blog

Our Latest Articles

CMO Insights

Hear From Industry Experts

Get Timely Insights

Take an interactive assessment and get immediate results

About TPG

How are we different? Get to know us a bit better!

Case Studies

See real results from customers just like you

How We Work With You

How can we help you?

Partners

Learn about some of our Partners.

Introducing: The Loop

 

Revenue models are outdated. Here’s your update.

About TPG

How are we different? Get to know us a bit better!

Case Studies

See real results from customers just like you

How We Work With You

How can we help you?

Partners

Learn about some of our Partners.

Introducing: The Loop

 

Revenue models are outdated. Here’s your update.