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Chris Capossela, CMO of Microsoft: Don't Plan Too Far Ahead

Chris Capossela speaking at the VIP Speaker Event

As chief marketing officer of Microsoft, Chris Capossela shapes the image of the company. But to get there, he has taken an unconventional path. He has worked in almost every department at the company. Among his roles, he has been a speechwriter for Bill Gates and worked as director of business operations in Paris. However, Capossela firmly believes his unusual path has helped him in his role of CMO. 

Capossela recently spoke at The University of Texas at Austin as a part of the VIP Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by Texas American Marketing Association and the McCombs School of Business. Capossela discussed his career path and emphasized the importance of taking jobs you find interesting.

After his talk, he answered questions from both the moderator and the members of the audience.

What has prepared you for the role of CMO?

At Microsoft, I've taken a very nontraditional career path and taken a lot of lateral moves. I've moved from marketing, to engineering, to sales, back to marketing, and I've worked on things that were company-wide as opposed to just working on Windows or just working on Xbox. It gave me a broader perspective and that is something that leaders are often looking for: somebody who isn't just a thoroughbred in one area but has actually shown capacity to do a bunch of different things.

When you graduated from college, did you have a career plan?

I'm a disaster when it comes to long-term planning. I've never had a five-year plan. I've never had a 10-year plan. I've always just done the job that was right in front of me. When a new opportunity popped up, always went for the job that I thought would be the most fun. I always went for the job that I had the most passion for. At the end of the day, you're going to have to make a tough call, and I will always go for the job that's interesting.

Never take a job that you think is going to lead to something. It's not. No hiring manager says,"You did the right four jobs before this one. I will put you in the job." None, zero. They're going to talk to you and they're going to ask you tough questions.

Go for the thing you're psyched to do every single day; otherwise, you're taking medicine every day. You're not going to do your best work when you do something you don't love, and then you're not going to get the job opportunity because you're not doing your best work.

Why did having so many seemingly random jobs work to get you to CMO?

I don't think that at any stage you can map out 10 years of job choices knowing that those put you in the best position to be the CMO.

I followed my interesting, wacky jobs. I worked for Bill Gates as his speech assistant when everybody told me not to do that because it's a weird job. "What are you going to do after that job?" That's what everyone said. Yes, I did all the grunt work, I woke him up in the morning, but I also did the messaging for the most important guy in our industry for many years. I helped him craft his message. Did that make me a better CMO? You bet your ass, of course it did.

Comments

#1 Great article! Chris is

Great article! Chris is amazing and I'm glad his story is being told but I'm convinced that Chris' path is no longer the "unconventional" path. I think his path is the norm. Show me where more than 50% of people in today's workforce do the same job for 35 years or have a linear career path and I'll concede he is an outlier but perhaps we've got this reversed. The idea of having many roles and jobs is really more "conventional" these days and I think we just need to accept it rather than label it as the "unconventional" path.

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