Marketing technologist to Isaac Asimov: eat your heart out

Sheldon Monteiro: MarTech Speaker

The following is another great guest Q&A conducted by Claire Schoen, an interview with Sheldon Monteiro of SapientNitro, who will be one of our featured speakers at MarTech later this month.

Sheldon Monteiro, Global Chief Technology Officer of SapientNitro, has spent more than twenty years working at the crossroads of customer experience and technology, as a technologist and also as a driving force for change in how marketers, storytellers and technologists work together to create immersive and engaging customer experiences. We recently spoke with him about his role at SapientNitro, his views on marketing and technology, and what we can expect to hear from him at the upcoming MarTech Conference.

Keep reading for an up close and personal interview with Sheldon, and then secure your place to meet him at MarTech.

What is your role at SapientNitro?

As our global CTO, I have two primary roles. The first is the client side. I work with our client teams, partnering with our clients to help them realize a better future for their business, by creating transformative experiences and business models that improve their customers’ lives.
Technology — search, social, and mobility — has shifted power to consumers, who expect two-way dialog and exceptional service from brands.

SapientNitro works with clients in several industries — retail, financial services, automotive, travel & hospitality, healthcare, and telecommunications. Across these industries, marketing and brand building is more important than ever.

But brand building has evolved. We help our clients transform to create entire ecosystems, where their brand story comes to life at every customer touchpoint — whether that be advertising communications, a brand website or mobile application, an in-store or in-venue experience, or even using new formats like augmented or virtual reality. We imagine, build and evolve these experiences, and all the systems and processes that support them, including the gnarly legacy systems in the data center. Our goal is for our clients to move beyond making ads to creating worlds where their story becomes part of the consumer’s story.

What I enjoy most about this part of my role is the interdisciplinary nature of the work — strategists, marketers, brand creatives, data scientists, mobile and front-end technologists, enterprise technologists, business and technology operations — all working together with our clients in pursuit of exceptional consumer experiences and business outcomes. The variety of business, marketing and technology problems we get to solve is breathtaking. I have the privilege of presiding over stuff that would have made Issac Asimov faint dead away in astonishment. The technology we design, install and manage was unimagined when I was born. This is really cool stuff.

That’s the client side. In addition, internally within SapientNitro, I focus on evolving our technology capabilities and how we work. Our global footprint allows us to distribute work to locations with the best talent and economics. We have 6,000 technologists at SapientNitro, and I am accountable for what we do, where we do it, and our engineering practices including DevOps, methodology, and tools.

I spend a lot of time thinking about talent development, how our teams and clients collaborate, and the systems, processes and culture to ensure exceptional quality and predictable delivery. What I love about this part of my role is the potential to rethink the entire service delivery chain to create an amazing workplace, help our people realize their fullest potential, and improve not just what we do, but the experience our clients have working with us.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I had a nomadic childhood. Ours was a close-knit family, but my parents moved around a lot — I attended 6 different schools and 4 colleges. Sadly, I don’t have a single grade school friend I’m in touch with today. But for what I lost in roots, I gained in perspective: different cultures, types of people, value systems, and educational experiences. It had a huge impact on how I think, and on my attitude towards change. It doesn’t mean I like disruptive change more or less than anybody else, but I have the benefit of many years of learning to accept radical change as part of everyday life.

Immediately after college, where I majored in physics and computer science, I found myself in Thailand, where a vacation turned into a two-year stint building systems for the financial industry — more specifically, graphical trading systems for brokers at the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Working with brokers was a phenomenal experience. These folks live on volatility. They don’t just accept it — more volatility literally means more opportunities to make money, and they need the information and technology to exploit that volatility. Little did I know, thriving in volatility would serve me well years later in marketing technology.

After grad school, I was fortunate to have a number of job opportunities. One of those was with a fast growing technology services company in Boston, promising a focus on culture, teamwork, and cool technology to solve customer problems. On my first visit to their offices, I was blown away by the people, open spaces, and design centers where they conducted customer workshops. Two weeks later, I signed up with Sapient as an entry-level engineer as employee #196.

Sapient has changed a lot over the past 20 years. Today, we are over 12,000 people and well north of a billion in revenues. Here, I’ve had incredible opportunities to be an entrepreneur, to do amazing work, and to break new boundaries with innovative technology. Like my childhood, Sapient is close-knit, but we prosper on — and even instigate — change as a way of life.

What will you be speaking about at the MarTech Conference?

Thom Langford, ‎Chief Information Security Officer of Publicis Groupe, and I will be doing a presentation titled “Level Up Your Martech Information Security Smarts in 8 Steps.”

In a research survey we conducted at the very first MarTech conference, one key finding was that information security was dead last in the self-reported current skill sets of practicing marketing technologists. Contrast this with the number and devastating impact caused by security breaches and incidents we’ve seen over the past 24 months across industries and the public sector. Real damage has been done and the stakes are getting higher every day.

Marketing technologists have a duty — a mandate — to develop trustworthy systems that are secure, reliable, and available. Thom and I will be speaking about marketing technologists’ roles as stewards in the area of information security and how they can level up to this responsibility.

Any advice for a newly minted college graduate going into marketing?

Simply, if you want to succeed in a career you need to be good at more than one thing. It used to be that we’d develop a depth in one skill, and then as our careers progressed, we acquired broad but shallow coverage of other skills, otherwise known as the T-shaped leader.

Things have changed.

Today, individuals who combine technical depth, business acumen, creative flair, and the ability to inspire and lead others are needed at all levels. Smart creative, marketing technologist, digital strategist, data scientist — the hot roles today are unicorns that span more than one discipline. If you were a STEM major, study marketing and creative fields. If you were an art major, learn to code. Be curious. Seek diversity. Paint outside the lines. Say “yes” to new challenges. And build strong and lasting relationships with people who are not like you.

What do you like to do in your free time — hobbies?

I love my Kamado cooker (aka “The Big Green Egg”) and use it all the time. There’s nothing like being able to fire up the grill for a low and slow cook in the dead of winter in Chicago. Of course being who I am, my grill has all manner of gadgets — IoT enabled thermometers and vents to self-regulate. And, if the temperature drifts out of range, my Android Wear watch buzzes and tells me so.

Thank you Claire and Sheldon!

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Comments

  1. Scott, thanks for the insight. I love reading your posts, and they are always inspiring when thinking about my own personal progression.

    I love the fact that Sheldon actually identifies with brand as a technologist and how the use of technology can immerse people in a brand and build efficacy. The idea of an ‘old school’ brand CMO is changing to include deep skill sets in technology, strategy, creative thinking and leadership.

    And to quote Sheldon, “thriving in volatility” is what it takes to be a great Marketing technologist. This might be my new mantra!

    Thanks for sharing.

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