Lead(H)er: Cindy Klein Roche, Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason
Cindy Klein Roche spent years in the book publishing industry until her husband advised her that print was dying and suggested she make a career change. Roche, who graduated from Princeton with a degree in English language and literature, decided that the suggestion had merit and turned to the Web.
Initially, she worked in digital community development and information design but soon realized that, while she enjoyed those jobs, she’d much prefer to be in marketing. Roche made her way into a marketing strategy group at Fidelity, and the rest was history.
“I decided that marketing was my calling because it was the practical application of being customer first and customer-centric,” Roche said. “It's a sure way to tap into the customer and make customer insights actionable when you do marketing.”
From Fidelity, Roche worked on brand creation and brand marketing at TripAdvisor, a move designed to help her jump into the startup world.
At the time, TripAdvisor consisted of around 500 employees, and it would expand to more than 2,500 employees by the time Roche moved to her next job.
“I like being in places where there isn't a drawn path, and where you're doing ‘firsts,’” Roche said. At TripAdvisor, there had evidently been marketing efforts before her arrival, but the size and scope of those efforts continued to grow, giving Roche the perfect challenge.
She found her next challenge working on demand and lead generation at athenahealth. At the company, Roche oversaw all of the company’s marketing efforts, from demand analysis and brand building to website design.
Like her first marketing role, the job at athenahealth gave Roche another revelation: this time about the exact type of marketing she wanted to pursue for the rest of her career.
“I realized that B2B marketing was so much more rewarding because you were chasing something that was tied to the bottom line,” she said. “So at athenahealth, I decided that I never wanted to do B2C again. ‘Never is a big word, but I feel as if B2B is where the center of gravity is for marketers in general.”
Armed with this knowledge, Roche has quickly climbed the ranks to Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason, where she oversees the cybersecurity startup’s ever-growing range of marketing campaigns. The marketing team has tripled in size since Roche began as Vice President of Marketing in November 2016, with revenues up an astounding 500%.
The other secret ingredient in Roche’s success, aside from her industry know-how and ability to distill the spirit of a company into its brand, is her knack for assembling the right team for the job.
“I like a really hard puzzle, which is what I have in cybersecurity, but I only like it when I get to lure other people who are smart and unafraid to do it with me,” she said. “I love starting from scratch and then tracking people from past lives to come join me in whatever problem I’m trying to tackle.”
Like many, Roche has caught the startup bug, and it’s safe to say that she’s perfectly happy with that turn of events. Her sweet spot, she says, is a company with between 100 and 1,000 employees – small enough that she can have an impact on the company’s developing vision, with plenty of twists and turns still to come on the road.
Cybereason, with just under 450 employees, will be just Roche’s sizes for several years. When it’s time to go, though, Roche has a good sense of where she’ll land.
“Boston has such a vital, energetic startup community with so much possibility,” she said. “I never want to go back to corporate marketing.”
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to run. I run every day. I love to read, which I often combine with running in the winter when I’m on the treadmill with my Kindle. And I love to make desserts. I don’t make main courses – I stink at making savory food – but I love to make desserts.
How do you typically handle your stress?
Definitely running, and exercise in general,is a stress reliever. If I haven't gone for a run and I'm cranky, my family will literally force me out the door to go running. I also think laughter is my stress reliever. I am fortunate to work with people that I really love, in part because I hired a lot of them. I would say in the little free time I have, getting together with women friends and sharing the stress among mainly working women has been helpful. I have the most in common with them because I've been juggling kids and career for years, so those are my people.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
It matters not how much as long as I have one venti dark coffee in the morning, always. And then maybe a second or a third, but one venti dark coffee for sure. I describe it as the reason to get to work because I don’t have it until I get there. It’s the prize for coming in.
What’s your favorite spot in the Boston area?
The Charles River is my favorite spot. I love walking and running along it, I love sitting at it, and I love seeing it. I work in the Hancock Tower, so I stare at it all the time. It runs through the town that I live in and through the town I work in. It's sort of everywhere. I went to grad school for a short time in Boston, and I lived on the Charles, and now I live in Newton which the Charles goes through, and I work overlooking the Charles, so it is, for me, a defining location.
What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
Tied for one are three things. People that I have managed to attract to whatever work project I’m doing. I have a lot of people who have joined me in some new crazy pursuit that I’ve convinced them is the crazy pursuit they should make theirs. I view that as a real accomplishment because creating great teams may be the best thing you can do for a company.
I also am extremely fond of a brand campaign, mostly involving video advertising, that we did for athenahealth. We did a set of ads aimed at burnt-out physicians to help them know that athenahealth empathizes with them. We got an incredible amount of response in the numbers but also other data telling us that we had made a real connection.
The third is from the past. I discovered this author named Jhumpa Lahiri who has gone on to enormous fame. She went to BU, so she sets a lot of things in and around New England and Boston. She had published in very small literary magazines, and she was actually doing a yearlong grant at the Provincetown Writers’ Workshop. I got three of her stories published in The New Yorker, which was really her breakout. Then we sold her story collection and her novel, and that was really her beginning as a writer. It was thrilling. It's pretty amazing just to be in her aura.
Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
Definitely not. In brand building and marketing, yes, but in B2B and particularly in enterprise B2B marketing – that is a big surprise but also a delight. I think what I’ve realized, mainly once I went to athenahealth, is that the bigger and more challenging the puzzle, the more I like it, provided I can hire plenty of smart teammates to work with. I think I honestly could never have predicted that this is where I was going to be. I’m so grateful that I have found my way into the hardest possible B2B enterprise marketing that there is. There’s something really thrilling about making a go of this.
What’s your advice for recent college grads?
I feel like it is such a luxury to spend your college years exploring and being creative and being the opposite of practical. It may be the only time to do it. That's my wish for college kids, for sure. Don't settle or be practical. Choose to be creative and to explore, because you have the rest of your life to be practical.