Behind The Scenes: An In Depth Look at Life as the Chief Innovation Officer At Tealium

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jay Calavas, Chief Innovation Officer at Tealium, to get an in-depth look at his role, his inspiration and his keys to success.

Tell us a little bit about your role as Chief Innovation Officer at Tealium and how you got started in the martech industry.

It all began at WebSideStory where I was fortunate to be right out of college and disrupting the analytics space. We created the javascript tag – which enabled companies to collect data in real-time so brands could have an actual lens into what was happening on their website, which created a tremendous boom in digital marketing technology. This tag gave companies the ability to collect and act on data, which further enhanced their customers experiences. This ignited the MarTech revolution with the javascript tag as the foundation.

Fast forward 12 years later when Tealium was founded. There was a large array of available technologies for brands to use, but there wasn’t necessarily an efficient way to manage all the technologies and data that they required. The concept of Tealium was created as a way to help the industry manage all of this data and to route it to the ever increasing number of martech vendors. Ultimately, Tealium was founded to help companies gain total control and ownership of that data and the single view of the customer. We believed that was going to be the most critical part of the evolution in this industry.

So what exactly does a Chief Innovation Officer do?

It’s my job to launch and grow our technologies. I work directly with the technology team to orchestrate go-to-market strategies, I drive global enablement, sales processes, training and of course evangelizing and selling. My job is getting people to think differently about how we work, what we produce, how we look at data and, ultimately, how to truly accomplish digital transformation.

What kind of innovation do you focus on? Products? Ideas? Processes? All of it?

Being a disruptive technology is a huge opportunity in the martech space, but it can also be a huge challenge. Brands may or may not know how a new product fits into their world of already existing technologies and solutions. It’s my role to educate the market on what that fit is, and work with our team on how to approach and challenge organizations when talking about this new type of technology.

Why do you think some companies struggle with innovation?

When I look at the now 5500+ different martech vendors out there, I think what most frequently happens is that those companies look at an existing vertical and they try to innovate within that same world, creating something within a pre-existing industry. They want to build a better email marketing system, testing tool or analytics tool. That type of innovation can stifle an organization because their innovation is now limited within that verticals parameters.

More successful innovation comes from creating a new process, product or technology in a net new field, where one is given more of an opportunity to grow and thrive.

What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made around innovation?

Having lived through the entire martech landscape evolution I’ve been fortunate enough to see the incredible amount of growth and creativity this space has had. I’ve learned the importance of being agile through every observed failure and success.

Why is it important for companies to have a CIO?

Most organizations are laid out by a C suite – the CMO, CEO, CFO, CTO – and these are all functional department heads, that have enormous organizations, who are mainly focused on scaling their operations. And yes, of course innovation still happens within those roles and departments, but they may not be getting out into the field because they’re busy scaling their teams, infrastructure and specific charters.

A CIO has the luxury of straddling both the technology side of the house and the sales/marketing side of the house, while being able to marry those together in creating powerful ideation. The key is capturing the voice of the market and marrying it with the vision of the company. This provides a foundation for internal growth and market facing precision.

What’s the one thing that keeps you up at night?

I always ask myself if we’re innovating enough. And if we’re not – why not? And what can we do to change that?

What brands inspire you with their innovation?

I’m always interested in the retail industry, continuously looking at Amazon and asking myself what I think their next move is going to be. The Whole Foods acquisition was such a genius maneuver to move from a product focused company to a logistics focused company. Whole Foods is the perfect example of what it looks like to strategically create and place outposts where they can have a logistical footprint while creating an incredible amount of brand awareness and brand dominance. I’m continuously inspired by our friends over at Amazon.

What’s one word that best describes how you work?

Passionately.

What technology do you use everyday that you can’t imagine living without?

I love Slack – I’m a Slack man. It really is the perfect communication medium. Any modern technology team is most likely part of a distributed organization where people are on the road and all over the place. Slack is a crucial technology for an organization to have as it’s one, centralized medium that allows for quick communication and collaboration. Our company is able to answer things quickly and it really helps create an incredible sense of community.

What do you do when you’re in an innovative rut?

I read everyday. I haven’t read an actual book in I can’t tell you how long – but I read articles and whitepapers and that’s how I’m finding new concepts, ideas and learnings. I read Chiefmartec.com, Techcrunch.com, CMO.com, Entrepreneur.com, eMarketer.com, adexchanger.com, Forbes.com and MarTechAdvisor.com. Getting inspiration from the martech space is the best thing for me when I feel like I’m hitting a wall, it really does help me get inspired.

What do you believe is the secret to success?

Passion is ultimately what drives success. There is no doubt that the team you have and customers you serve result in your ultimate success.  I love my team and we put our customer at the center of everything we do.

What is one thing you would say to brands who aren’t putting innovation first? And don’t know how to get started even thinking about innovation?

It’s a harsh reality – but stagnation and complacency are not going to serve organizations well. If companies aren’t thinking right now about innovation and digital transformation and about putting the customer at the center of everything they do – they’re missing a great opportunity.

Thank you Jay!

Be sure to be on the lookout for more inside looks and in-depth chats with the team here at Tealium.  

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