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Rick Jackson, CMO of Qlik, On Taking Risks and Standing Your Ground


If Rick Jackson had his way, he’d be flying jet fighters. Instead, this self-professed adrenaline junkie has made quite a name for himself at companies including HP, BEA Systems, VMware, and NeXT, Inc. – where he reported directly to Steve Jobs.

It’s been an interesting journey for a country boy from Tennessee, but it’s not hard to see how Rick’s risk taking and need for speed have translated into a vaunted career. “I love a challenge and tend to go with companies that are taking on massive juggernauts.”

Not only is Rick always at the ready for clashes with competitors, he’s willing to go toe to toe with anyone. “I’m the guy at the executive table that will speak up. I’ve always said that the moment I fear losing my job, I become incredibly less valuable.”

We’re doing more with a broader product line in the cloud and more focus on customer success and in a highly profitable way. The process has been amazing and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go through it.”

That fearlessness found him butting heads with Steve Jobs at NeXT Inc. and not backing down. When Steve refused to back a brainchild of Rick’s and said Rick would have to fund it himself, Rick did just that. After convincing some of NeXT’s customers to fund the project, Rick ultimately produced game-changing software that helped NeXT launch many products. “Steve gave me an inch and that’s all I needed.”

When Rick wasn’t fighting battles with Steve Jobs, he was learning from the ultimate product marketer. “I owe my entire marketing career to Steve. He taught me what marketing is really about: simplifying technology so people can visualize and understand its value.”

Rick has leveraged that wealth of knowledge throughout his career, including at the five companies where he’s held down the CMO spot: BEA Systems, Borland, VMware, Rackspace, and now Qlik. As he leads global marketing strategy and execution, Rick is helping Qlik continue building upon its market leadership position. “We’re doing more with a broader product line in the cloud and more focus on customer success and in a highly profitable way. The process has been amazing and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go through it.”

Some of Rick’s other keys to success:

  • Simplifying story lines. Rick knows how to elegantly convey the value of technology and connect it to a customer’s pain.
  • Codifying his leadership philosophy. Calling upon the core tenets of vision, culture and empathy enables Rick to lead teams to greatness.
  • Relying on a playbook. To transform marketing organizations into major growth engines, Rick calls upon a
    well-honed playbook.