AiThority Interview with Harry Glaser, CMO at Sisense
Could you tell us about your role and journey into technology?
I lead Marketing at Sisense, and it has been an interesting journey to get here. I didn’t grow up in Marketing, instead, I started as a Programmer and was one of those kids that took apart VCR’s and put them back together for fun.
When I was about to graduate from the University of Rochester in New York, I had three offers on the table: one at a manufacturer in Upstate New York, one from EA to make video games, and one from Google to be a Product Manager. While I barely understood the role, I decided to take the offer from Google. I worked there for a couple of years and it was a great learning experience right out of college. I essentially had to forget everything I learned in school and re-learn it as really exciting technology was being invented right in front of me.
I soon decided that I no longer wanted to work for a large company and quit without a plan. I called up my old friend Tom O’Neil, knowing that if I could take up half the credit for whatever he was working on, I’d have a good career. Interestingly enough, it worked out. Tom quit his job at Microsoft and moved down to San Francisco. From there, we founded Periscope Data and, while we didn’t accomplish much in the first 3 years, we created a data product at the same time that Amazon created RedShift, and Snowflake launched, and we all grew together.
You’ve had a long track record of successfully working in diverse Marketing teams. How did you arrive at Sisense and what attracted you to the BI ecosystem?
After working with Periscope Data for seven years, we met Amir as we started to scale and move into the Business Intelligence space. At that time, Sisense was looking for Data Science technology to add to their platform, so we decided that merging was the best path to success, and we sold the company to Sisense. I now run the San Francisco office and I took over as CMO at Amir’s request.
How do you see BI platforms evolving into a more integrated tech stack for Marketing, Sales and Customer Analytics teams?
Right now, BI – and therefore data – is often an augmentation. Data is used to serve ads based on a user’s unique interest, more accurately track shipments, forecast when consumer prices will decrease/increase, and more. By augmenting models with actionable intelligence, businesses can do what they do better. But as things evolve, and the collection and operationalization of data becomes more effective and eventually automated, there will be a fundamental shift in how businesses operate. As opposed to harnessing data to serve as a feature of a functioning business model, using data will become the business model. Take Uber – their entire business model is based on data—where riders are, where drivers are, what are the traffic patterns at certain times of day, etc. So naturally, BI will become more integrated across a business’ entire tech stack, including Marketing, Sales, and Customer Analytics.
Google acquired Looker; Salesforce acquired Tableau. What roadmap do you foresee for Sisense and other BI platforms? Would it make sense to join a Marketing Cloud platform?
Empowering businesses to operationalize data from different sources (unlike Looker and Tableau, who naturally favor Google and Salesforce Clouds, respectively) is what sets us apart. Independence to manage data effectively, securely, and affordably means better business practices. And that’s how you beat the competition.
When it comes to data, organizations need scale, functionality, reliability, ease of use, and customization alongside security. To meet all these needs, organizations should make sure the vendors they partner with to host, store, share, and augmented data are free and independent of where data is physically being stored.
Could you tell us one outstanding use case scenario that helped you scale to next-level BI offerings?
A good example is how well integrated we were with Snowflake and Redshift when Tom and I founded Periscope. As we started our company at the same time as them and were well suited for Cloud data pipelines, there was nothing else if you wanted to work with rapid data. We got to invent technology with them and grow together.
According to you, which geographies and industries are leaders and laggards in adoption of BI tools? How does Sisense help to bridge this technology gap?
Healthcare, Finance, and Transportation are industries that are rife for the transformation that comes with Business Intelligence. Take Healthcare, for example. In the United States, we spend a disproportionate amount of capital on Healthcare—nearly twice what other, similarly-wealthy countries spend. And right now, much of medical decision making is made based on what the average person needs, and isn’t customized to someone’s unique health profile. But with new advancements in technology (think AI working to detect Cancer sooner and genetic testing), Healthcare will soon become a completely personalized experience. And it’s all made possible by data.
What are your predictions for the role of Embedded Analytics, Big Data and BI tools all coming together at Sisense? How do you see AI capabilities leading to quicker adoption of BI tools?
The era of Big Data has empowered businesses to optimize and commoditize nearly every element of their operations, from the high-level complexities of client relationship management to the everyday maintenance of facilities and equipment. Whether it’s an entrepreneur working solo to staff their small startup, or a Chief People Officer managing thousands of employees for a global enterprise, it’s rare to find a leader who both believes their organization is taking full advantage of its data and knows how to use that data to build a better organization, that’s what we hope to help people do as they use Sisense, because it’s the future of the industry.
As for AI, we see that as something that will augment business intelligence by automating previously manual tasks, like our AI Exploration tool. It automatically generates visualizations and deeper insights from known KPIs by leveraging Machine Learning to explore underlying data and behavior of all users.
What Marketing-related challenges do you meet every day? How do technology and collaboration tools help you to overcome these?
Our everyday Marketing challenge is simply that it is very crowded and noisy space. It’s critical that we stand out in it, and that can be difficult. Whether it is press hits, interviews, ad campaigns, or blog posts, you have to get really good at speaking about your subject matter in a strong cadence. In terms of technology, Slack and Zoom are pretty critical for us.
Which Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support technologies do you leverage at Sisense?
We’ve built our Marketing stack on the Marketo/Salesforce combo. All our other tools – which include, Predictive Bid, 6sense, TrenDemon, Drift, Lusha, Zendesk, Asana, Meltwater, and others – are integrated with these platforms.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Marketing leader?
We are living in the perfect moment for AI to flourish because we have the data and connectivity to train AI. Thirty years ago, even if AI was prevalent, it wouldn’t have had the necessary inputs to operate properly. Innovators and developers have a lot of expectations to fill. The more AI is hyped, the more research that will be done. The more research that is conducted, the more we’ll see innovation and creation—all fueled by the power of data.
AI may never live up to the extreme hype, it will fundamentally change how people interact with the world. Society will conform to these advances, and we will do the same.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
The secret is that it’s not about the technology, but about human stories and human impact. What helps me to remember that everyone is going through their own journey, is considering the fact that most people are the star of their little movie. If I can get my team to understand how they relate to each other and their team as a whole, then I can help them reach the climax of the movie – the moment they will remember for the rest of their lives. If you can get the right people in the door, get them motivated and inspired, that’s the most important part of getting a company’s success.
One word that best describes how you work.
Unfocused: before the merger, I reserved half of my calendar and intentionally did not schedule because it’s too easy to react to my calendar all day and then go home, without having actually done anything. Now, I spend more than half my time working on company integration and team issues. I contribute altitude and elevation to our team by washing away the noise and bringing clarity into situations. I help give people perspective and help them come back to “why” of the company.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
The United Airlines mobile app, Hotel Tonight, Slack, Email, Calendar, Zoom, and Sisense.
Which superhero character/ movie do you most profoundly relate to?
I have a secret fondness for coming of age stories. I think that is most characterized by Spider-Man, particularly from the most recent film, “Into The Spider-verse.”
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
At a Senior level, you can see leaders get addicted to making decisions. I make sure my people have the authority, information, and relationships to do their jobs well and I try to empower people to make decisions on their own.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Charlie Jay Anderson’s Book called “The City in The Middle of The Night,” and I’m in the middle of Katherine Graham’s personal history.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My friend Josh once told me that the job of being CEO is so unique that no one is born good at it. Everyone has to learn it, and you have to commit to the personal changes that are required. You have to develop professional skills while also making the personal commitment.”
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I am a pretty good speaker and writer, and I think those are both underrated skills. I also think that the secret to success is my ability to make people feel good about themselves at a one-on-one level, and also feel inspired at an all-hands meeting. If you can do that, you’re on your way to becoming a leader.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Indra Nooyi, Ellen Powell, and Sarah Nahm.
Thank you, Harry! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Harry leads global marketing at Sisense and is the GM in San Francisco. He was the co-founder and CEO of Periscope Data, which merged with Sisense in May 2019 to deliver the only complete business intelligence and analytics platform in the industry.
Sisense offers the only independent analytics platform for builders to simplify complex data, and build and embed analytic apps that deliver insights to everyone inside and outside their organizations.
Sisense lets builders collaborate on a single platform, delivered in a hybrid, cloud-native environment with the industry’s lowest cost of ownership, to create true democratization of data and analytics. More than 2,000 customers across the globe rely on Sisense, including industry leaders like Tinder, Philips, Nasdaq, and the Salvation Army.