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Talent, Smarts, or Good Looks? What Do You Need to Succeed?
Chief Marketing Officer at AccuWeather
by, Chris Dessi
For John Dokes, CMO of AccuWeather it’s all three. Talent, smarts and good looks come naturally to John. I hate guys like that. But I just can’t find it in me to hate John. He’s such a good dude. But sometimes I allow myself to get irked. Like that time, a few weeks ago when my wife and I listened to the “John Dokes Quintet” at a Jazz club called Kitano, and I was angry. I approached John after his set and berated him.
“You can’t be all three!” I shouted. He flinched. “What?” I leaned in. “Dude, you cannot be all three.” He looked at me bewildered. I stepped closer, and enunciated as I spoke “you cannot be handsome, smart, and talented.” We both laughed. “It’s not fair.” It was the first time I had seen John perform live, and well – I was jealous. My wife cooed “he’s so cute” while he worked the room. Belting out Jazz tunes. I was immersed in John’s music. His band mates all creating in perfect synch. Dazzling us with their music, their style, and their all around cool vibe. It was dazzling to witness.
We mere mortals can be one of these things, sure. Two if we’re lucky. But most people aren’t all three. John Dokes is a triple threat. A super hero. The looks are obvious – but this dude is crazy smart too. He’s also a huge musical talent. He once mentioned to me that he played music as a hobby. Lately he’s brought his talents to the lucky folks at AccuWeather where he’s their Chief Marketing Officer. John is a true gentleman, a true entertainer and a true success. Perfect for a little chat with him about success, don’t you think?
Let’s do this.
Chris Dessi: I’ve known you for a few years now. You were successful when we met, and your star continues to rise. But I’m curious – when did you first consider yourself a success?
John Dokes: When I started tackling challenges outside of my comfort zone and started to see results. The first big step for me was moving from the west coast to New York to help drive initiatives at Marvel Entertainment. It was certainly a dream of mine and when I thought about how I would make that happen I referred to an old John H Johnson quote “Dream small dreams. If you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don’t do anything. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals.² I used persistence and a focus on attainable goals to network my way into Marvel. Once inside, I was able to position myself as a problem solver and in that role it became easier to see how achievable solutions could add up to success overtime.
Chris Dessi: What impact, if any has web 2.0 /social media had on your success?
John Dokes: I’ve had the opportunity to work in industries that directly impact and enrich people’s lives entertainment and now the weather. Digital has been and continues to be a critical part of building unique, close brand relationships with audiences. It has also allowed me to see a quicker return on ideas and tests that used to take years. It’s an ideal situation for marketers and innovators.
When we launched AccUcast, a recent addition to AccuWeather’s award-winning app, we were struck by how much this felt like the culmination of the 1:1 marketing people have been discussing for years. It is the only interactive weather feature to offer live, crowdsourced weather maps that invites users all over the world to participate in their forecasts by providing user-submitted, current weather conditions. Our innovations team did a great job. I’ve always tried to highlight the innovations of really smart and passionate people and match them with an extremely engaged audience.
Chris Dessi: You’re a talented musician, and you’re at the pinnacle of executive leaderboard. How do you do it? To put it another way. What’s your rhythm? What time do you get to bed, wake up?
John Dokes: Well, first and foremost I have a very supportive and amazing wife. She knows how to keep me focused on what’s important throughout our hectic lives. My night schedule varies depending on if I have a gig that week or not. 11pm is preferred. My alarm is set for 7am to make sure I get the girls to school on time, though I’ m usually awake by 6:30. I’ve been extremely fortunate to work for organizations that recognized how my other activities could enhance my value to the company. The leader of our company Dr. Joel Myers even stopped by a recent performance.
When I first started to explore my extracurricular passion of performing and recording as a jazz vocalist, I thought it would be best to keep it under wraps. A few things happened though. One was that this thing called Youtube rendered the notion of secret public performances obsolete. The other was using all of who I am to close deals and strengthen business relationships. As my confidence grew as an artist, I started to invite more friends and colleagues to the gigs and when I invited potential clients my deal close rate started rise.
Chris Dessi: How important is health to you? Do you workout regularly?
John Dokes: Define regular. One of the aspects of my life that I’m focusing on more is health. Historically I’ve always engaged in some form of physical activity whether it¹s softball, baseball, soccer, dancing or a workout. As my schedule has become more hectic and travel has increased I’ve found that swimming has provided the most benefits and the most opportunity when I’m traveling. I’ll also occasionally find a Lindy Hop community in various locations and sneak out for a quick bout of cardio.
Chris Dessi: What’s your life motto?
John Dokes: Live to my potential. Create Happiness. Leave a positive legacy.
Chris Dessi: What was the single most important decision you made that contributed
to your success?
John Dokes: Believing in myself. I was fortunate to have a lot of people around me who believed in me. Even some of the tougher kids in the neighborhood saw something I didn’t see early on. It wasn’t until I made that leap myself that I truly started to succeed.
Chris Dessi: How do you define success?
John Dokes: Living to my potential. I think we all have a potential that can be extended or diminished depending on the paths we choose. Each day I try to make things better on this path.
Chris Dessi: As a CMO and successful musician I get the sense that if it all went away tomorrow you could make a great living as a musician. How important do you think it is for executives to have a plan B?
John Dokes: Thanks Chris, but you clearly haven’t been keeping up with the music industry. I enjoy being able to perform with some of the top musicians in the world and I see first hand how much they struggle to make a living for themselves and their families while pursuing something that they are extremely passionate about. (Support Live Music) When I meet with my
mentees I really try to emphasize the importance of putting yourself in a position to have options and to make sure you seize the opportunities when they come along.
Chris Dessi: What has been more rewarding, your musical endeavors, or your corporate success?
John Dokes: I’ll let you know. I hope the pinnacle of each are in the future.
Chris Dessi: You have a BA from California State University-Northridge, and you are so dynamic and multi-layered as a person I¹m curious: how important has education been to your success? What do you say to those that say a college education isn’t worth it?
John Dokes: Every form of education you get is worth it and you should never stop learning whether formal or otherwise. I learned a great deal at Northridge. Their emphasis on the practical aspects of marketing allowed me to hit the ground running in my career. Growing up in East Oakland gave me the foundation to go anyplace with confidence. My time working for Ike Perlmutter at Marvel taught me to get smarter about every relevant topic, not to make decisions based on ego and to focus intensely on the bottom line. My time with Dr. Joel Myers and his brothers at AccuWeather gives me insights everyday on the power of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Chris Dessi: If you could travel in time and speak with the 22 year old John Dokes what is the one piece of advice you’d give him?
John Dokes: You will get better. Start Now.
Chris Dessi: How do you deal with adversity and setbacks? Is there a formula, or do you feel you’ve been able to navigate at your own pace?
John Dokes: Identify the possible paths. Choose wisely. Work hard. Repeat as necessary.
Chris Dessi: Can you point to one habit that you feel has helped to drive your success?
John Dokes: Everything can be better. Push. Push again and know when to move on.
Chris Dessi: I’ve seen you excel in the boardroom, and on stage. You are so comfortable in you own skin. How do you conquer moments of doubt?
John Dokes: When I’m at my best I’m listening to the people and breathing in the situation to put myself in position to make the decision or give the best advice I can give to inform the decision.
Chris Dessi: What do you think has separated you from other high performers throughout your career?
John Dokes: Well, when I think about what you might consider a high performer I’m struck more by what I admire about them and what I’ve learned from them. Patience, drive and a strong desire for their team and the company to succeed.
Chris Dessi: I know you as a very humble person but now is your time to brag. Tell me about some of your biggest wins.
John Dokes: My wife. My daughters. Helping to revamp the AccuWeather Brand, Relaunching Marvels Digital division, Releasing my CD, my work with Culture Shift Labs and mentoring those in need to help them get to the next level
Chris Dessi: Did you ever had a nickname? What is it?
John Dokes: There have been a few over the years but none have really stuck. I seem to have one of those names that make people get use to saying both my first and last name together with ease.
Chris Dessi: My daughters know that I hate witches – what’s one thing that scares the hell out of you?
John Dokes: Not sure fear is the right word but I absolutely hate standing in lines. It added a bit more anxiety to the day I asked my wife to marry me. Authors Note: Check out John’s amazing engagement story here.
Chris Dessi: Best day of your life.
John Dokes: Today was a good day.
Chris Dessi: Worst day of your life.
John Dokes: In my teens a friend’s little brother decided to chase me around the house with a gun. The gun went off. I survived with minor injury. My jacket sleeve did not. Now this moment stands out as a horrible experience but was the day worst than 9/11 or the days I lost friends and family members to guns, aids or cancer? I still think about all of these things and try to honor their memory and acknowledge how they make me who I am today.
Chris Dessi: What is the best gift you have been given?
John Dokes: My Wedding Ring
Chris Dessi: You have access to a time machine, but you can never come back to present day. You can go into the future, or into the past. Where do you go in time?
John Dokes: I would have loved to visit the Savoy Ballroom in the 1930’s but I don¹t have the patience for what my life would have been like outside of the ballroom. So I’m going to say tomorrow. I expect my family and friends will be there.
Chris Dessi: Favorite alcoholic beverage?
John Dokes: Macallan 12 – Neat
Chris Dessi: Name someone who knows more about you than anyone else in the world.
John Dokes: My Wife
Chris Dessi: Most powerful business book you’ve ever read that you recommend to everyone.
John Dokes: Never Eat Alone
Chris Dessi: If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
John Dokes: I am. Listening
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