Tami Canizzaro, Head of Marketing, eBay Enterprise
By, Chris Dessi
Tami Canizzaro is a unique executive. Dynamic and inspiring on one hand. Down to earth, and practical on the other. I’ve been fortunate to get to know Tami over the past 2 years. She spoke at my event the Westchester Digital Summit and has since become a friend. She has climbed the ranks of corporate American while maintaining a family, and strong sense of who she is. I find her inspiring. As the father to two little girls, I look to women like Tami as beacons of what can be for my daughters. When we first met she was an executive at IBM. Today she is part of a powerhouse intellectual strong hold at Ebay. They’re shaking things up, and Tami is leading the charge. If you’re a woman in corporate america, you must follow Tami on social media. She was recently honored by Forbes as one of the 10 Keynote Speakers Who Will Keep You Ahead of Digital Marketing Trends. She keeps an active blog that offers practical insight into a modern marketers mind. All while adding a charming sense of reality with each post. I’m thrilled to introduce Tami as one my success interviews. She’s a powerful woman leading the charge, and her interview does not disappoint.
Chris Dessi: You have a thriving blog, and an impressive social media following. As I write this you have over 40,000 highly engaged followers on Twitter. What advice can you give to executives that are looking to grow their social media following?
Tami Canizzaro: About 7 years ago, I changed jobs at work and part of my new responsibility was to run social media. This was a personal crisis for me as I wasn’t active on any platforms and I was an egg on twitter! I had been procrastinating to engage in social media and realized that I needed to get in the game. I slowly started to build an active following on twitter, updated my LinkedIN profile, started posting on Facebook. It was painstaking at first. I took my daily dose of social to learn the space. But slowly I started getting to know people virtually and making connections. It became less about counting my followers and more about meeting like minded people and sharing ideas. I found it was a great tool to follow people in the industry who I admired. And it was a great tool to help me build my professional career and personal brand. After about six months, I got really into it. I now really enjoy writing my blog and I love running into people who know me as @TamiCann from twitter. I find bloggers have a community bond and it’s given me status as a forward thinking marketer who gets the power of social.
Chris Dessi Did you ever receive any negative feedback from your superiors about your blogging and social media activity in general? What advice can you offer other high-ranking executives about blogging and navigating the checks and balances of their organization?
Tami Canizzaro: Yes, I think it’s a real concern. It’s unfortunate, but some execs still see it as a waste of time. My advice is to make sure you have a management chain who is supportive… or find a manager or executive sponsor who does support you. If your boss sees social as a boondoggle, don’t throw caution to the wind. Tone it down, or better yet, find a new boss. My CEO at eBay Enterprise came up to me after I joined and said he loved what I was doing in social and to keep it up. That’s support. Building your personal brand can make you shine but this type of visibility can also invite jealousy or negative feedback from peers or up line executives who don’t get it. If you’re working for someone who doesn’t get social or see the value, I would be concerned they aren’t a forward thinker in marketing. After all, who wants to work for an egg?
Chris Dessi: How do you define success?
Tami Canizzaro: I define success as being a respected woman in tech marketing and by having a reputation as an effective leader who executes and drives results. That’s what I want people to say about me in the hallways when they think I’m not around:) Success for me is being respected in the industry. I think I’m making good progress but I work at it every day.
Chris Dessi: I speak with many successful executives that question the value of college. You have two degrees from premier institutions (Catholic University) & (NYU). What do you say to those detractors of education? Can you point to a time when you felt you HAD to have an MBA? How much has your MBA contributed to your success?
Tami Canizzaro: I do find many corporations actively recruit from a select group of schools which certainly helps you to get a great start at a Tier 1 company. For me, the MBA from NYU definitely got me in the door. Stern had a strong job placement program with a great corporate network in New York. That said, I do think there is certainly room today to go a different route. If you are moving up an entrepreneurial track – Ie. “I started my first company when I was 22” — this holds a lot of weight with firms – arguably more than the MBA.
Chris Dessi: What is the one skill that you needed help with when you were younger that you.
Tami Canizzaro: I would say the ability to take risk. I’ve always been a bit risk averse. I am loyal to a fault. I should have moved around more and chased bigger jobs. A CEO of a start-up once told me if I moved to a start-up, I should prepared to be fired, at least once! I was horrified and declined moving into the start-up world which I regret. Take a risky job before it’s too late. It gets harder later in life when you have a mortgage hanging over your head. Better to end up back home for a year after your start-up went bust than never to have tried or taken a risk.
Chris Dessi: I have two young daughters. What advice can you give them that if I share this with them in 10 years you think will translate to their success?
Tami Canizzaro: I suppose it would be to think big and don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. You want to be a CEO, president, an opera singer? Great, let’s make a plan. I think many of us had just assumed those jobs belonged to someone else or worried we might not have the talent. More often, I m guessing those jobs go to the person who had the guts to go after their dreams vs. the one with the most natural born talent. My advice would be that any job can be yours with hard work and a plan – don’t settle.
Chris Dessi: In your Linkedin profile, your peers describe you as “bright, quick, intuitive, and collaborative.” Do those traits come naturally to you? If not – how do you work to improve yourself?
Tami Canizzaro: I think you develop these traits over time with purposeful intent. I am always learning and working on my style. I see it as a constant evolution. I had a mentor once tell me to write down how I want to be known on my white board and to ask myself every day whether I lived up to it. My three aspirational qualities are: Collaborative Executive , Innovative Change Agent, Visionary Leader. I work at it every day.
Chris Dessi: When did you first think of yourself as a success?
Tami Canizzaro: I would say I was very pleased when I received my first executive job. I felt I was being recognized as a leader within the organization. I was one of the youngest Vice Presidents at IBM and one of the few women Vice Presidents. I am proud of the fact that I’m a rising female executive in the tech industry.
Chris Dessi: What do you say to executives who love their jobs, and don’t see the need to embrace social media? To put it another way – why should they care about Tweeting and blogging? How can it help them in their career? How has it helped you in yours?
Tami Canizzaro: Some executives still find social media and blogging to be frivolous. I disagree in almost all cases. People today don’t listen to brands, they listen to people. Driving an active social presence for your brand is critical to a successful business. In my mind, social is now one of the most pivotal aspects of brand development and engagement with new prospects and customers. Social isn’t one element of marketing – it is embedded across every element! As an executive, you should be an active spokesperson and authority for your brand.
Chris Dessi: What do you think is the one characteristic that all of the successful people you know share?
Tami Canizzaro: I think I would have to say ‘drive’ The drive to win in business and to be successful as an individual.
Chris Dessi: Do you have an example (s) of an opportunity that came to you just from your social media presence? That would have never come to you otherwise?
Tami Canizzaro: One tactical example — I often need to field speakers for events. Reaching out through social has been a very effective way of reaching out to influencers and asking them to participate or speak. I am ‘connected’ in the industry due to my work in social in a way I would not be without it. Having the right connections within a city or vertical can be a huge help in building traction. I find it to be the secret sauce of a successful event.
Chris dessi: How important are habits and routine to your success? What is your Rhythm? What time do you go to bed? Do you exercise? Do you meditate?
Tami Canizzaro: I find I do better with a routine. I balance a busy job with being a Mom which can be a challenge. I got to bed pretty early – maybe 10 – and wake up early to hit the gym. I don’t meditate but I do yoga which tends to ground me. I’d do it every day if I had the time.
Chris Dessi: How important is it to your success to network with other powerful women in business? Is this an area where you flourished? Or did you do just fine networking among your male peers.
Tami Canizzaro: I would say I’ve had both women and men in my career who’ve supported me. I’ve also had peer executives try to block my career. I’m starting a women’s networking group for executives which I’m excited about. Frankly, I don’t find women support one another enough in their career growth. I’d like to play an active part in changing that.
Chris Dessi: I have an older brother. I believe that our competition growing up made me a very driven person. How has your home life affected your career success? Were your parents strict? Do you have brothers and sisters? If so, how have they affected you and your drive to succeed?
Tami Canizzaro: My father is big into sports. He was very competitive. I may have gotten some of his ‘winning Is everything’ gene! I don’t believe my siblings effected my success. We each had very different personalities and took very different paths. I have been driven somewhat by the inequality of women in the workforce. Damn right I can do anything a man can do Chris – Maybe better:)
Chris Dessi: I know you as a humble person, but I need you to brag a little here. What has been your greatest career success to date? Tell us about it.
Tami Canizzaro: For me, starting a blog and becoming a visible presence in the marketing community is what I”m most proud of. I’ve made a few Forbes lists – Top 100 marketing minds and Top Digital Keynotes –which is a nice honor. It didn’t come naturally for me to put myself out there but I think it’s helped my career and I’m glad I had the courage to do it. I’ve had lots of great supporters along the way. Thanks Chris for being among my supporters!
Chris Dessi: What female executive inspires you?
Tami Canizzaro: Sheryl Sandberg
Chris Dessi: Starbucks or Dunkin?
Tami Canizzaro: Starbucks (no contest)
Chris Dessi: New Jersey or New York?
Tami Canizzaro: New York
Chris Dessi: Are you a morning person?
Tami Canizzaro: Yes
Chris Dessi: Christmas or Halloween?
Tami Canizzaro: Christmas
Chris Dessi: Favorite Actor?
Tami Canizzaro: Meryl Streep
Chris Dessi: Favorite food?
Tami Canizzaro: Pizza
Chris Dessi: Favorite Alcoholic drink?
Tami Canizzaro: Red Wine
Chris Dessi: Summer or Winter?
Tami Canizzaro: Summer
Chris Dessi: Cats or dogs?
Tami Canizzaro: Dogs
Chris Dessi: Favorite business book?
Tami Canizzaro: How to Win Friends and Influence People
If you have the hunger, drive and commitment to do more and be more, then you’ll love this book. Author and personal branding expert Chris Dessi set out to find the people that most inspired and captivated him, and uncover the secret strategies that anybody could use to become remarkable.
The result is Just Like You – a collection of interviews with those inspiring and captivating individuals where they share what they learned on their climb to the top.
Packed with inspiration, ideas and actionable advice on every page, Just Like You is a peek into the inner workings of some of the most successful people you’ve never met.
One constant source of inspiration was the author’s father, Adrian Dessi, who sadly lost his battle with ALS in February 2015. In his memory, 10% of all proceeds from this book will go towards funding research on combating ALS.