Building Better CMOs
Building Better CMOs
Dara Treseder (Autodesk) Transcript, Part 2
Greg Stuart: This is Building Better CMOs. Let's get back to my conversation with Dara Treseder, the chief marketing officer at Autodesk.

Listen, I want to go back to one thing you said earlier that I kept meaning to touch on. You said earlier that you measured or tested creative. And there's some people, a little old-school I'll admit, who don't think that creative either should be tested or evaluated. I don't know, maybe that's not a debate that really matters to us anymore. But what did you do to assess that you had the right orientation to what you were ultimately going to produce?

Dara Treseder: Well, when I say I tested creative, maybe just to be clear on what I meant by that is I was testing how creative effectiveness would work for Autodesk in our different industries. Because the company hadn't done TV advertising in a very long time, I don't even know. It was just not something we'd done. And so it was important for me before going out and saying, "Hey, let's go hard here," to test and figure out does this work for us? Does this resonate with our key audiences? And so we did that test, which showed us, "Yes, it does, and here's how you can utilize it." And gave us the confidence that we had to do what we ended up doing with the Oscars and building that muscle.

So that's what I meant. I think it's important when you have a theory, or a hypothesis, to test that hypothesis. Because the test you do will either validate your hypothesis or invalidate it. And either way I think that's success because if it invalidates it, then it prevents you from overinvesting in a tactic or strategy that's not going to work. And if it validates it, then it gives you the gumption and the credibility to be able to move forward.

GS: Have you been in other situations where the creative either didn't play, or because you were doing some analysis you found out it wasn't really working and you had to totally rejigger? Do you have an example of that by chance?

DT: Oh yeah, absolutely.

GS: Oh yeah, let me tell you.

DT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I remember that one.

GS: Dara, what I love the most, I love when you meet people outside the business and they think, "Oh, marketing and advertising manipulates consumers." I'm like, "No, you have no idea how much power consumers have." I've been crushed by being wrong from consumers more often than I feel like I've ever manipulated somebody or something silly.

DT: No, no, no...

GS: That's very old-school hucksterism, but it's silly.

DT: ...the power is with the people.

GS: The powers is with the people. No kidding.

DT: I actually think marketing leans in and it gives us the permission to take the step. So I think that's what it does, but it's not so much manipulation as maybe energizing us and giving us that nudge that we need to do what we already wanted to do.

GS: Yeah, exactly. How'd you figure out it wasn't working? Or when were you like, "Oh my god, we just got that wrong." Give an example for people on that, maybe lessons learned.

DT: So I won't say the company. I will just say in a far away land, long, long ago I was in a role overseeing marketing, and we had launched this creative that I had had very high hopes for. It was rooted in deep insight. We had done a lot of work, and in fact, it's actually one of my mentors and friends who gave me the phrase and said, "It was on target, but it was not bullseye." It sort of worked, but it didn't work the way we needed it to. And the reason for that was we were trying to do something we hadn't done before. And I remember when we were first pitched on the idea by the agency, I thought to myself, "This is a lot." Because when you're trying to grab attention, I'm a big believer in simplicity. Because I think when you're trying to do a lot with an ad... You know when you fall in love with your own idea, and you think it's a lot funnier than everybody else thinks it is.

GS: If I like it, I'm suspicious is kind of my...

DT: Exactly. You fall in love with your own idea. You like it a little too much. And I'll never forget when the rough cut came back and I watched it, I cried. I'm not even going to lie.

GS: Oh, really. You knew, "This is not going to work."

DT: I was like, "This is not going to work." I literally cried and I was crying. My husband, whose office was next to mine, he came in and he was like, "Honey, you okay?" And I was like, "Can I show you something? I want you to tell me what you really think." And he was like, "I'm sure it's not that bad. I'm sure it's not that bad." I play for him and he was like, "Oh, it's bad, you got to fix that. You're going to get fired."

He's a marine, so he always calls it like it is. And I was like, "Oh no, oh no." And I was like, "Who else can I show this?" So I take it down, and I show my kids and my goddaughter who lives with us. And they watched it and they were all like, "I don't know what this is. I'm not sure what you're trying to do." And so I realized, I said, "Whoa, this is not good." So I remember calling my head of creative and being like, "This is not it. We got to figure it out." So we're working, trying to get it to a good place. We get it to a good place, but it's good, not great. And we needed great, but we were out of time. And we had to launch with what we had, and we got results that were good, not great, and it was supposed to be great.

It was supposed to be this really big thing. I will tell you what I learned from that. What I learned from that is trust your instincts. As a CMO, as a marketer, you've got these instincts. And I remember when I thought, "This is too much." And that was exactly what it was, it was too much. It was too much to communicate in the 30-second spots we had to communicate it in. It was too complex. And that was a big lesson, it was like, "Trust your instincts." If your instincts are telling you that something is too much, it's not working, don't ignore that voice. It's important. Marketing is art and science. Don't ignore the art side of things because the best marketing unifies the art and science, that's when you get the magic.

GS: Oh, I love that. I know. Listen, I've been in those situations. Another thing I always hated, I hated sitting in a room with everybody else without any other distraction in a conference room and watching the ad. I'm like, "This is not anybody's experience." And then we would play it over and over again, which is no one's experience ever on the consumer side. And so I've always been a big believer, "I want to see it in context. I don't want to see it in isolation, because that's not how anybody's ever going to know it."

DT: And my big thing now is you got to also play it with the sound off and see whether it grabs you or not.

GS: Oh, right, right, right. Listen, there's so many ad formats today, which is both wonderful and horrifying at maybe some level. But what do you think about the movement to shorter ads, lower attention or maybe higher attention, but faster environments like mobile typical? How do you plan and orient around some of those today?

DT: I think you've got to have a mix. So every time you're working to pull something together, you need to look at your full marketing mix. And I think you need to think about all the environments that might make sense for you to show up in to your target audiences. And some of that will be those short, six-second ads. Some of them will be the traditional 30-second, 15-second, 10-second. Some of them will be you want to tell a full story, and you may want a longer time format where you can bring people in and suck them in.

And so I think you've got to think through, "Okay, what am I trying to say? What are the different avenues that I need to say it in?" And what I will say is try to make it custom built. So what I found is when you think, "Oh, I'm just going to make a 60-second and I'm just going to cut it." Without actually saying, "What is the right version of the six second." I'm not saying don't be efficient and shoot it all at the same time, but don't just think, "I'm going to cut it."

Think about what you want each of those to be, because that allows you to actually be a lot more effective. Custom-built, purpose-built ads are so much better than when you try to force something in. You ever seen that six-second ad and you're like, "What the hell was that?" It's because someone just took something and they were like, "Well, let's try to make it six seconds." As opposed to be thinking about, "What can I communicate effectively in six seconds? Okay, let's shoot it all together. So we're saving time, we're saving money," but it's purpose built.

GS: So speaking of formats, have you seen your old employer Apple's climate ad yet?

DT: Yes, of course.

GS: What do you think? Come on. You don't work there anymore. Autodesk doesn't have a relationship with Apple. Do you? I don't know. I don't have any idea. Can you speak freely on this one or...

DT: Here's what I would say, I appreciate the strategy. ESG has been under attack. We are in a season where ESG is under attack, DE&I is under attack. And what I love about what Apple did was it said, "We're not the kind of company that just blows with the wind. We have our values. We have stuff that's important to us, and it's always been important to us, and it's always going to be important to us. And that's sustainability." And I love that Apple leaned into that, at Autodesk sustainability is important to us, too. So it was very heartening to see a company take a stand like that at a time when it's maybe not the trendy thing to do. I also liked that they did that in a creative way, in a different way than what was expected. It wasn't your traditional. And of course, I'm sure there will be... Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I'm sure you're going to see a lot of companies starting to do this. But before Apple did it, I hadn't really seen anyone else release an ESG report with that type of gusto and creativity.

So it was lovely to see them try something different and do something different. And it was effective. At the end of the day, the amount of times people were pinging me about that ad that day, it was more than 30. More than 30 people, whether it was within my company, outside my company. So imagine that, and I'm just one person. The multiplier effect of that, they got their message across.

GS: I think they did a pretty phenomenal job. And you know what's funny, I felt like they really humanized a company, they humanized Tim Cook a little bit, too. It kind of made Apple seem not the big bad company, because they were accountable to Mother Nature and she was wonderful in that ad. Just her performance was incredible. I thought, "Well played. Well played." Apple always takes the high road.

DT: Yes, I thought the same. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing as a marketer is be memorable. You've got to be memorable. And it was memorable. I can't tell you how many ads I've seen. I don't remember anything about them. It was memorable.

GS: Or that I don't feel a need to see them again. I brought it home and showed it to my wife, I said...

DT: See, there you go.

GS: ... "You got to see this, this is really well done." There we go, extended impression. Well played, Apple. Good job.

So you talked about creativity in all parts of the organization. We focus on the visualization of the ads here a lot, because that's what's always sexy and interesting about our business at some level. But talk about the creativity in other parts of the business here for a little bit. What does that mean? You said that at the very beginning.

DT: I've really tried to make sure that we are applying creativity to our planning process, for example, how we plan. I think it's really important when we're planning that not only are we planning for what I think of as baked, but how are we also planning for the unexpected? The only thing we know after the past five years is there's stuff we don't know that's going to happen, and how are we prepared for that? You have to leave space for the agile and opportunistic. And so when we're planning, we are thoughtful because if you spend a hundred of your resources on the plan and then things happen that you don't know, how do you deal with those things? You're not ready to deal with them. You're not able to deal with them. So we plan 80 percent for what's baked, we leave 20 percent to be agile and opportunistic. That's us...

GS: Oh, you do? Wow.

DT: ... being opportunistic.

GS: Oh wow. You leave that in the budget. You leave that in your time commitments in the programs?

DT: We have a plan for that. Absolutely.

GS: Oh, interesting.

DT: And then within the 80 percent that is planned, 70 percent of that's got to be tried and true. So this we know I put in X, I get Y. Twenty percent, it's going to be an innovation on that 70 percent. Because it's like how are we making that 70 percent better?

GS: Classic Silicon Valley innovation form: 70 percent of what you know works, 20 percent of...

DT: 20 percent innovation...

GS: ... what you think worked or...

DT: And then...

GS: ... could be made better.

DT: ... 10 percent for the...

GS: 10 percent...

DT: ... radical ideas.

GS: ... wild, crazy ass ideas.

DT: Exactly. And so we use that framework for the 80 percent, and then 20 percent we have it for the agile and unexpected.

GS: I think that's a big deal. Listen, I did have an opportunity to write a book a number of years ago on market. It was around the creation of multi-touch attribution, which taught me more about our market than anything. And so we repeated that as a part of it. And one of the other theses we did around that 10 percent, I think this is one of the most interesting things that me and others struck upon—I don't want to be too self-congratulatory on that.

But was to realize that look for things that are impactful, but don't focus on efficiency or cost-effectiveness to begin with. If you focus on efficiency, you'll miss the bigger opportunity. And that's where I think you take those 10 percent crazy ideas, "Go, wow, that really worked. Let's move it over to 20 percent. Now let's see if we can iterate to make it efficient. Because right now it's way too... We couldn't be doing that again, and again, that doesn't make any sense from an economic investment standpoint." That was one of the important lessons that I've used in those kinds of things. Let's make sure that we figure out where to go, and then figure out how to make it really work for us. And then if it doesn't pan out, then eventually get rid of it.

DT: Exactly. I think that's exactly how to think about it, because the reality is when you want different results you can't do things exactly the way you've always done them and expect different results. So how do you build that innovation into the planning process?

GS: So Dara let's shift here a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about what it takes to get to the C-suite. So you've been a CMO three times now?

DT: Four times.

GS: Four times. Crazy. Wow. At your age, too, that's really nuts. When did you start to realize that maybe you had a shot to do something like that?

DT: I'll never forget the moment. I had done some of those kind of classical when you're in a senior leadership position, and you're considered important potential succession. And I'd done one of those assessments. And I was getting the results from the coach that had conducted the assessment. And the person said to me—and this was our big boss—and he said to me, "This CEO really believes in you." I knew he valued my work. I knew he thought well of me. But it hadn't clicked to me that he really believed in me and thought I could have the top job. And the coach was like, "I just want to share some of his comments with you." And started to share those comments with me, and I was in tears. Because at the time I was doing the work, I knew I could get there. I knew I could, but I didn't think I would. And I didn't think I would because I didn't think anyone would give me the shot.

GS: Really?

DT: And to hear that someone saw me in that position, and at the time the top job was not vacant, there was someone else in it and I wasn't in it. But the fact that this man who's still a great mentor of mine saw me in such a positive way was so inspiring to me. And I'll never forget, I kind of left that meeting and I said... Of course, also, there were all the things I needed to work on as well. I put a PowerPoint together that day, I got home late. I put a PowerPoint together, and I went to my husband and I said, "I want us to make an investment in me because I believe I can be a CMO, but I have to work on all these things." And it was a short-term thing. So that coach was only going to be with me for that assessment. He was gone.

And I was like, "I want to actually hire someone to be alongside me as I develop and work on all these other things I need to work on, so that when I do get that top job I am ready to go and I can keep it. I can keep myself at that level." And I remember the pitch to my husband and he was like, "Okay, let's talk about it. What's the time to pay back?" And I had a whole time to pay back. Here's when we're going to get the ROI and the value of our investment. Here's what it's going to look like.

And he was so wonderful because he was like, "Okay, all right, let's make the investment." It was time bound, so it was like, "If it doesn't happen we're going to-" And you know what, I think about that a lot because many times people are waiting for someone else to invest in them. And it's like, "Well, oh, I never got this." You know what, you got to invest in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, how do you expect anyone else to believe in you. So we made that investment and hired a coach...

GS: You did.

DT: ... to work with me and help me accomplish this. And it was expensive, it wasn't cheap because I wanted to get a really good coach. It was an expensive investment, but we made that investment for me to pay personally to hire someone to help me.

GS: The company didn't do it, you did it yourself.

DT: No, the company didn't do it because at the time, those coaches were really for people in the top job at that place. I wasn't in the top job, so I got a little thing to help me with that assessment, but I was like, "I want to be in the top job." And so I was like, "I need this." And so I paid for that myself.

GS: Dara, I think that's so smart. It's brilliant. In fact, I've never heard anybody else who's ever said that. Listen, Bob Pittman spoke at one of our events, iHeart Media. He opened with, "The only advantage of getting older is pattern recognition." I have pattern recognition now. I'm of the age, I have pattern recognition. And as I look back I think if you're serious, listen, not everybody's serious about business or serious about succeeding, that's okay, whatever. If you are, if you don't have a coach, I think you're a fool. I think you must have somebody alongside to guide you. All great performers, all great athletes have coaches. Of course they do. And so if you're serious, if you really want to play the game you have to have it. And so have I for decades. I totally agree. Single greatest investment you made was a coach?

DT: Absolutely, that was the big investment. I worked with that coach to get into that top job.

GS: Why is a coach important? Why is that getting help, a coach, seeking support, insight outside of yourself, why is that important as you look back on it now? Why did it matter?

DT: Just like you said, every great athlete needs a coach. And I think you're a business athlete. So you might not be running on the track or playing in the US Open or in Wimbledon, but you're an athlete in the corporate sense and you need a coach. And what I found the coach did was help me with three things. My coach really helped me build my confidence as a leader. And as a leader if you're not confident, it's hard for you to lead. Nobody wants to follow a shaky person. The minute you realize... Think about it, if you were on an airplane and the pilot was like, "Hey everyone, I'm not really sure what we're doing."

GS: We'd never fly again.

DT: We'd never fly that airline ever again. No one wants to be on the ship of a captain who does not know where they're going. And so having that confidence I think is really, really, really, really important, that piece is really important. The second thing that a coach really helps you to do is it helps you hone your intuition as a leader. That's one of the things, that instinct that you have. There's a saying, I believe it might be Amazon who has this saying, that leaders are mostly right, and they're in that position because they're mostly right. They're not always right. No one is always right.

GS: No is always right.

DT: But leaders are mostly right. And the reason they're mostly right is that pattern recognition, is their ability to have the right instincts and be able to have the right judgment. And you need to learn how to do that, it's a muscle. The more you use it, the better you get. And having a coach where you can reflect on when I didn't use it, when I didn't lean into it, when I used it too much, that is so important. And so my coach really helped me with honing that intuition and being able to master and trust my instincts. And then the last piece of it is really as a leader you have to be able to take risks. Part of leading is taking risks. But you're not just taking nilly willy risks. You're taking what I like to call clear-eyed risk. What is a clear-eyed risk?

A clear-eyed risk is where you gather as much data as you can, you strip away uncertainty, and then you make a decision with conviction. And that ability to make a clear-eyed risk, you need to have someone you can talk to as you're thinking through those risks. And having a coach, an unbiased, objective person that can talk through that with you is really, really helpful. I have found that to be invaluable.

GS: You know what it is for me, you're never making decisions with perfect information ever, ever. And that is the nature of business because, in fact, the more advanced you have to make further out decisions that have even lower sets of data to make decisions upon, so it's intuition largely. And decision-making is what will help you to succeed or fail. It's just that simple. It's just about making better decisions, a few percentage point better decisions that I would've made on my own. And sometimes they're colossally better decisions, that comes up every once in a while. But it's like many decisions made a little bit better than I would've otherwise made them.

DT: Absolutely.

GS: And that I just think it makes all the difference. I'll tell you something else, Dara, I don't get into this with the board much. I have a PhD in organizational psych on retainer at the MMA, and I have for over 10 years.

DT: Oh, wow.

GS: And he is available to anyone in the company who wants to just seek a perspective around... And there could be a myriad of things, how they make decisions, how they may even make personal decisions for themselves, how they organize their own work, how they align themselves to the company if they feel misaligned. If they're struggling with something personally to find a way out of that or path out of it. Sometimes it's if they feel like they need to have what might be otherwise a challenging or an uncomfortable conversation with me or somebody else, then they have an outlet for doing that because it's all about just improving the corporate, the overall organism decision-making at some level. He's unbelievably invaluable.

DT: That's amazing, what a great resource you have for you.

GS: No, no, no, no and to provide it for the company. And you know what's funny, I tell a lot of candidates we have that. I don't think I've ever heard anybody say, "Yeah, I've heard of that." They've all said, "Really? I've never heard of that." It's very funny to me. It feels like corporate America kind of somehow misses that. I guess do we just expect people to all know what they're doing and figure it out all the time on their own? It feels funny to me.

DT: Yeah. Well, I think one of the wonderful things at Autodesk is we do have those type of resources for our employees as well, so that they can get any help they need. Because I think one of the things that is so important is the mental health and well-being of your employees. And so having that resource that can help you with that is so key and so important.

GS: I agree. Especially, again, in some of these companies who really value human resources, and the role that it can play, that help people just stay... A conversation we'll sometimes have with the staff of the MMA is to say, "Okay, listen, we're here to provide well-being services for you, but we'd like to hear what is your well-being plan? What are you doing to take care of yourself to be most effective? To be tuned up as an athlete here at the company, to try to do the best work you can every day, to feel most challenged by that, and to take on the most challenging work." When people can succeed on that, they feel their own sense of personal benefit, that pays dividends to the company and the individual.

DT: Absolutely. Absolutely. We're all in charge of our own well-being.

GS: Correct.

DT: I love that.

GS: There's a big part of you I've heard you speak in other places around what you do around your well-being. Do you mind sharing with people some of what you do around managing your own life and access to life and so on? I know your meditation and there's other tools that you have.

DT: It's funny to be talking about this on a business podcast, but I believe in the power of gratitude like we talked about. So I make sure that I practice gratitude. I believe that we are what we think and what we consume. And so I'm very intentional about what I consume. And I'm also very intentional about making sure that I'm reducing negative thoughts. And I'm being very thoughtful about what I'm allowing to sit in my mind and in my heart. I know that that impacts how I show up as a leader in my professional life, but even as a wife and a mother in my personal life, so that is really important to me. I do pray and I meditate, and that's important to me. I have my spiritual practice that I do every single day, and I'm a woman of faith, and my spiritual practice really sustains me.

Everyone has got to find their thing. But it's funny because I've been in roles where my life is very public, what is happening to me everyone can read about it. And in those moments I've had friends text me and they're like, "How are you doing it?" My answer is always the same, "I couldn't do it without my faith." Even when things are amazing, it keeps me humble. Because it reminds me that I'm no better than anybody else. I don't deserve it more than anybody else. I'm just filled with gratitude that I have the opportunity to walk in what I'm walking in, but that humility is so key. And so I work constantly to stay humble. And then when things are going bad and things are challenging, it gives me hope. It makes sure that I don't spiral into despair, but I remember that I'm still living and that there's hope. And so those two things, humility and hope, are the anchors of my life, and they're deeply rooted in my faith and in my spiritual practice.

GS: It's funny, I don't think it's my place to say so, and I know HR would never let me say this. But the advice that I'd love to give to people—and I think I can say it here more broadly, because I couldn't say it to the individual—is listen, there's two answers: get God or a therapist. Life is hard. There's struggle. Get help somewhere. You got to have something. It's funny, too, you went to Harvard. So Harvard MBA has a class, it's called Happiness, and it was covered in the Wall Street Journal a little bit. And they had done a study on what determines happiness, and they said there were four elements that are happiness. And their thesis was that they need to teach MBAs to be happy because it's such a requirement in companies today that we make employees happy.

And their thesis was, "If you're not happy, how can you make anybody else happy?" It's great. And they said there were four things. The first two are friends and family. Everybody was going to get that right. I've never had anybody get that one wrong yet. You got to have friends and family, those are the first two elements of it. The third one was challenging work, and they didn't say work with purpose. I agree with Scott Galloway, I think it's stupid we tell people purposeful work. Tax accountants don't feel like they have purposeful work, I suspect. Knock it off. It's just like challenging work is enough. And that's one of the reasons I think I'm happy. I have very challenging work. You have challenging work, you can see you're excited about it. The fourth one's interesting, it's a philosophy of life, which is a variation of what religion can be in some regards or faith can be. But I think we don't emphasize that enough.

You need to have an orientation to how life works to get yourself to the right place sometimes, because life can be hard on times and life can throw tough things at you, really dramatic, tough things. I feel like we don't give people enough orientation to that. I wonder if that isn't one of the coming trends at some point into the future.

DT: Yeah. It's interesting because at Stanford there was a class called Interpersonal Dynamics, which talked about...

GS: That was your favorite class there, too, didn't you say?

DT: That was my favorite class.

GS: I've seen you say that elsewhere. What was the class about?

DT: Look, there's how you see yourself. There's how other people see you. There's how you think other people see you. And often there's a divide between those things. And the more you can harmonize those things and develop skills across the full facet of who you truly are, and become comfortable with yourself and how you show up, the happier you are and the more fulfilled you are. Everyone is going to have their own way they go about achieving that. And for me, I have found my spiritual practice to be how I go about achieving that. And for me, like I said, it's really anchored in those tenets of hope and humility.

GS: I have a special request for you, Dara.

DT: Okay.

GS: I don't know that you've met my daughters at the CEO/CMO Summit. I don't remember if I have actually introduced you to them or not. One thing that I notice about them is that I think it's maybe pervasive. So I'd be curious... you can tell me I'm wrong, by the way that's fine on this. I'm not so sure that young women today have confidence in the way that sometimes young men exhibit themselves around business. And so I've often wondered if we don't need to somehow do more work to give them confidence. You strike me as somebody with an extraordinary amount... a woman with extraordinary amount of confidence today. So I guess the question I'd ask you, or the journey you've been on, is what advice would you have for a young woman today? Both my daughters are entering the workforce for the first time now, and it's going to be interesting to see where they go. What advice do you have for young women today? And you can disagree with my thesis, you can say, "Greg-"

DT: I don't disagree with your thesis because it's always shocking to me... And this happens all the time, where men will show up for a role not really meeting the... and it's not so much qualifications because I'm a big believer in giving people opportunity. But not being willing to do what it takes to have that job. A woman shows up, she's already doing it, she's willing, but she's doubting herself. Whereas the man who's not willing to do the job is like, "Why haven't I got it yet?" That confidence. And I joke sometimes, but I'm like, "Wow, to have that confidence of-"

GS: Maybe it's a gift.

DT: What a gift.

GS: I don't know.

DT: What a gift. What a gift.

GS: We'll see.

DT: And it was funny because the other day I was coaching my daughter, she's doing her homework. She's in 2nd grade, she just turned eight. And she's doing her homework and I was coaching her on it. And I said to her, I said, "Look, when it's a test, I know you're not going to always be perfect, and you're going to make mistakes. When it's homework and you have the time to do it well, I want you to strive for excellence." And as I was saying it, I was thinking about why I was saying it. And the reason why I was saying it has been my journey as a black woman, where it's like I've always had to be prepared. There is not one job I've gone into that I haven't had my a 100-day plan done before I got the job, from when I was in the kind of C-suite level. I have been over-prepared.

I work so hard at everything that I do, I care so much. And the reason is it's how I have to be. To be in the position that I'm in, I have to work harder, I have to apply myself better. There can never be a question. It always has to be like, "Oh, oh, I get it. I see this is the level that Dara delivers at." And the reality is she's a black girl and that's going to be her... I hope that the world is more equitable. I'm not encouraged by some of the changes happening lately. I want her to be prepared for what life is. The reality is it's still hard as a woman. The reality is it's even harder if you are that and other things, there's that intersectionality like being a black woman or a Hispanic woman, that gap does exist.

But here's what I would say: be prepared. When you are prepared, when those opportunities come you're ready for it. And the preparation for me is what has given me confidence. It's funny because people look at me and they think I'm a confident person. I have learned confidence. It's actually one of the things I worked on with my coach. It's funny because when you have kids you see yourself in your kids. I by nature, growing up I was a people pleaser. It was kind of funny. My siblings would always say, "Don't tell Dara she's going to tell mommy and daddy because she wants to please everybody." I was always that kid. It's so funny now because whenever my mom wants to get something, and we siblings have our little group chat, she'll call me. I'm like, "Don't call me. I'm not going to be the weak link. I'm not going to tell you."

GS: I'm not going to tell.

DT: I had to learn as an executive that everyone's going to have an opinion on marketing. If I'm trying to please every single person, I'm not going to please our customers and I'm not going to deliver. I have to be willing to do what is right. And that was something I had to develop. But when you're prepared, it gives you confidence. When I've got my insights, it gives me confidence. So I would say to young women be prepared and know you already have what it takes. There are a lot of half-baked people walking around looking for fully baked people. And the reality is we're all a little half-baked, every single... It's true and if you don't think you're half-baked, well there you go that's the half that's not baked.

We're all a little bit like that. And the reality is that every single one of us, there is a first time someone gives us that opportunity to do something we haven't done before. And one of my greatest joys is giving a lot of people that first time opportunity. And I have been fortunate and blessed that someone has... Now I've been a CMO. It's like, "Okay, Dara is a CMO." But someone took a bet on me and gave me that first CMO job. I think it's so important that we are willing to give other people a chance, and when we're prepared we are able to meet those opportunities, and knowing that we already have what it takes allows us to walk into those opportunities.

GS: So the issue is confidence is critical. Double down on building confidence. Double down on building confidence is what you said. I remind my kids all the time, too, it's like, "Happiness is not a birthright, you have to work for it. Confidence is not-"

DT: You have to strive for it, and when you get it, you got to hold onto it.

GS: Absolutely. And confidence is not a given. There's maybe a few people out there who were maybe born with it. Let's assume most of us weren't. And you're right we had to earn it based on our experiences, so go build confidence. I love that. Good lesson.

Okay, Dara, I think that's all the time we have. I want to be respectful of that. I can't thank you enough for doing this. I can't thank you enough, too, for being really open about who you are and what you're trying to do in the world. I think there's not enough of that that goes around for people today. So I hope that for others out there it's an inspirational lesson for them. And they garner something from this and I sure did, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you

DT: Thank you so much. Thank you. I appreciate you.

GS: Thanks again to Dara Treseder from Autodesk for coming on Building Better CMOs. Now check the description of this episode for links to connect with Dara. And if you want to know more about MMA's work to unlock the power of marketing, please visit

Or you can attend any one of our 30-plus conferences in 15 countries where MMA operates. Or really, frankly, write me at Now, thank you so much for listening. Tap the link in the show notes to leave us a review. And if you're new to the show, please follow or subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find links to all those places and more at Our producer and podcast consultant is Eric Johnson from Building Better CMOs researcher and program manager is Aneta Palevska. Artwork is by Jason Chase. And a special thanks to Lacera Smith for keeping the trains running. This is Greg Stuart. I'll see you in two weeks.

Recent episodes: