Current marketing students (myself included) recently had the pleasure of receiving valuable advice from the funny and wise Shailesh Sood, Vice President of CRM & Consumer Insights at Hilton Worldwide and University of Iowa alum. During his session, Sood spoke very candidly about himself, the changing world of marketing, and practical tips for success.
Sood’s background has served him well for his current position. After receiving a PhD in Marketing with a concentration on statistics from the University of Iowa, he went on to work for great places like Nabisco, startups in Silicon Valley, financial services companies, and two of the world’s largest consulting firms–McKinsey & Co. and Accenture.
McKinsey, in fact, is where Sood says he was taught one of his earliest keys to success: always look at the big picture. This, he advised, is a skill that’s absolutely vital in upper management, and is consistently a differentiating factor among employees. He argued that the much-desired power of influence comes more easily if one has this ability to make the high-level insights necessary for strategic decisions.
This guidance set the framework for the other key pieces of professional advice Sood offered: develop a core competency, and don’t strive for perfection. While the first always seems obvious, it’s important that one actually develops this and works to maintain it. The second doesn’t seem so obvious, and has more to do with striving for excellence in other ways: Sood advised that time spent striving for perfection in the details should instead be spent striving for solutions. It makes sense; in a world where data is everywhere, having the ability to analyze and problem-solve with data is vital in any field.
Sood also offered great personal advice that was both practical and immensely valuable. He discussed his beliefs in karma and wisely advised, “Be a good person and good things will happen to you.” He discussed the importance of reputations and maintaining a certain amount of distance, noting that a key to his success has always been that a lot of people “know of me, but don’t know me.”
Lastly, he offered a tip that I’ve never heard anyone give before, but found quite insightful. Sood advised that, if you can, settle into one company no later than your 30s. The connections that you make early on within a company will help you in the long run, and the company knowledge that you acquire after spending a long period of time within a company will better inform any higher-level decisions you make later on.
And there you have it. Easy, right?