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We have the pleasure to host a very special WebWave interview. Today we're going to meet an exceptional person who has already experienced a lot in marketing and still wants to do more. An extraordinarily determined athlete who begins work at six o'clock in the morning each day to meet the challenges ahead and get the most done before people even get to the office.
We will talk a bit about the approach to employees and leading a team consisting of different characters. How do you manage small and large budgets? How to plan advertising activities and how to enter all those crazy numbers into Excel, so you don't go mad?
Drumroll, please!… Our guest is Michael Dmitrowicz CMO at WebWave!
Tell us a little about yourself, and where does your love for marketing come from?
Thank you for inviting me to an interview. I won't hide the fact that my interest in marketing is quite a coincidence. I was involved in various things in my life. Once, speaking with my colleague at work, we came to the conclusion that a marketing career would be exciting and cool. We kind of imagined ourselves lying on a hammock or a bean bag and cooking up ideas for ads, but we now know it's slightly different from that in reality. This is really difficult work. It's always thrilling and all about creativity; however, it's always challenging—more than it looks.
I have many hobbies and tried many things - including theatre and photography. Still, at one point, the artistic soul had to be exchanged for a pragmatic one. I decided not to spread myself too thin. I decided to focus on one industry - marketing.
Why did you decide to work in WebWave, and what did you bring to the company?
In short, I saw a hiring ad, and after reading it, I was struck by how much my experience and skills matched the requirements presented. So I sent in my resume, and here I am.
I think it brought freshness and a different perspective on marketing within the company.
My experience in the industry was previously based on working in agencies and serving clients in various sectors, so I have a broad view of the market. I can quickly identify objectives, target groups, establish communications or plan. I was also a Head of Social Media for one of the companies I used to work for, which allowed me to gain leadership experience.
To become a CMO, one should have a university degree. From what I found out, you hold a Master's degree in Economics and a Bachelor's degree in history. You even had the opportunity to teach Microeconomics in Lublin's UMCS at quite a young age. Do you have any fond memories of the period of being a lecturer? What have you learned from that experience?
That's true. I hold a degree in economics, so the knowledge I gained comes in handy when analysing advertising activities and how the market works. A history degree was somewhat a hobby. Of course, I have very positive memories of the whole period of my studies.
My adventure with lecturing at the university was also quite interesting. It allowed me to overcome stage fright before public speeches and taught me how to control it. Studying at Uni certainly helps, but I think school education itself is not the most important thing.
What matters the most is the knowledge you gain outside the lecture hall.
It is also correct that I was teaching at Marie Curie-Skłodowska University when I was 25. My first lectures were about the Basics of Derivatives, and they were for second-year master's students. After a quick calculation, I found out that nearly 70% of them were older than me. It all was quite an interesting experience. As a 25-year-old lecturer, it was a challenge to retain authority, take hold of the whole situation, and of course, make them listen and learn.
You were also a Bartender at that time. You also had an experience of performing in the Grand Theatre of the National Opera. Can you tell us something more about how you found the time for all this?
Yes, at some point, I devoted a lot of energy to collecting experiences. It's worth mentioning that I did theatre, bartending, and photography in Warsaw while lecturing at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin (approx 100 miles between these cities) all at the same time.
I even spent my daily commute preparing for the classes. I think I have always been able to organise my time well.
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The organisation of the opera shows is an incredibly demanding task; you had the opportunity to see the whole process for yourself. Was it any inspiration for you in later years as to how the marketing department should function?
Seeing how an opera production looks from behind the scenes was a fantastic experience. It gave me a lot of respect for art. The organisation of rehearsals, the involvement of people, making sure everything is in check gave me a lot to think about time and resource management. I think this may have a positive impact on my work approach.
So, I think you can improvise quite well?
One of the things that marketing has taught me is that sometimes things have to be done within an hour or less. And if I don't know how to do it yet, I'll figure out how to do it, and I'll make sure it gets done by a deadline.
I guess you'd rather work hard instead of just collecting rewards?
I prefer to set my shoulder to the wheel and hustle. I come to the office first, and sometimes I am the last one walking out of it. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from my work. There was a time when I was waking up to do my job. These days, I wake up motivated to work on meaningful tasks and face exciting new challenges every day.
'' Sometimes things have to be done within an hour or less. I'll figure out how to do it, and I'll make sure it gets done before a deadline. ''
You are currently working for WebWave. What are the responsibilities of a CMO in such a company?
I'm in charge of the organisation of the entire marketing department. I need to understand what WebWave is supposed to be in the customers' eyes. To understand their needs and expectations, make sure the department is in order, the activities bring the expected results, and that the materials are of the highest quality. I also take care of team-building. I try to make sure that the team is well-matched and that the skills cover all the needs.
You also recruit people into your department. I have noticed many young faces in the company who do not always have a lot of experience in Marketing. Yet, they continue to be promoted within WebWave. How do you get such an intuition for people? Do you have your system of questions, thanks to which you know that a new candidate will be suitable for the job?
That's quite an interesting question with a multifaceted answer.
Thanks to my experience that I got through working with people, e.g. behind a bar or as a photographer, I learned how to get to know people and understand who they are very quickly. I always look at a person and try to delve into what their story is, what troubles them, what makes them happy and who they want to become. I think it makes it easier for me to get to know them and decide if I want to work with them and if the rest of the team finds a common language with them.
When recruiting, it helps a lot to have experience in interviews, which comes from two sources. Firstly, I have held many positions in my life. Therefore I have been a candidate and a recruiter many times. After each interview, I have always analysed the process and been drawing conclusions from my answers. I have reflected on how the interview was conducted, how the recruiter behaved and how he reacted to my statements. I've mastered this to such an extent that at one point, it seemed to me that it was the recruiters who were more nervous during such an interview than me. That's why I find it easy to relate to the candidate's situation and create a positive and friendly atmosphere during the interview. And the fact that I have conducted hundreds of interviews with candidates also gives me an immense advantage.
Another thing is that, when hiring people, I immediately try to figure out what their critical skills are. I try to match their tasks to what they are best at, and over time I help them develop their other talents. Employees do what they're good at (which gives them great satisfaction and spurs them on), so the working atmosphere is always good. People are happy to share knowledge. I like to think that my job after hiring a person is to make them the best employee in their field and keep developing their skills.
'' You should be open-minded, open to new solutions and develop your skills. Knowledge of marketing tools, education, or other things comes after that ''
What are the ideal qualities of an employee in marketing?
You should be open-minded, open to new solutions, able to adapt quickly and develop your skills. Knowledge of marketing tools, education, or other things comes after that. When hiring, I often don't look for people who have a strong marketing background. Why? I learned this when I worked behind the bar, where we often hired people with no bartending or catering experience. The reason was simple. It was easier for us to train them properly from the beginning rather than force them to unlearn bad habits from the previous workplace.
You have a very interesting way of organising the work of your team. From what I've noticed, your system resembles Scrum Methodology. Tell us how you managed to create it and what were the effects for WebWave?
When I took up my post at WebWave, for the first few months, I worked with the system as it was. Usually, it is a big mistake to change the system if you don't know it. Still, after a while, I was able to identify some of the problems that needed to be solved. Then I started thinking about whether to improve the current system or introduce a new one. Formerly, I worked in a company with lean management (a Japanese method of business management - invented in Toyota factories). It was supposed to improve performance and increase productivity. That's why I came up with the idea of creating something original in WebWave based on my experience in the marketing industry. But not only. I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and came up with what it could look like. I consulted the system with the whole team. I listened to the insights, developed an implementation plan, and prepared the necessary tools. Since the beginning of 2020, we have been working with this system. So far, it has worked very well. The results of the department have shot up. Almost 300% more work tasks were completed. Of course, the entire company's results have also improved significantly - by x-hundreds of per cent (but I'll leave the exact increase to myself).
Tell me, what programs and tools are you currently using?
As an RPG fan would say - ''Show me your wares!''
Every marketing person has their tools. There are many applications on the market. Some of them charge ridiculous amounts of money, and in the end, you have to learn them for hours instead of focusing on work that has to be done.
At work, we mainly use the project and task management tool - Trello. Other than that, the rest are pretty much every marketer's tools - docs, mail, internal chat CRM. Nothing revealing. The simpler, the better.
As projects must be managed in one way or another, some applications are expected to help them achieve their objectives. Yet, I have noticed that you have a somewhat atypical approach toward your employees. First of all, you're not treating them as your Excel figures, and you're giving them a lot of freedom to act. Do I have that right?
Yes, everyone in the marketing department has a lot of freedom to act. As I mentioned earlier, we try to develop their skills, which is the best way to do it.
There used to be a film called Dangerous Minds (1995) with Michelle Pfifer. If you don't know it, to remind you - her character was a teacher in a troubled youth class. At the beginning of their classes together, she gave her pupils the best grade. She presumed it’s a better approach to work on maintaining the best grade rather than constantly improving from a bad one. It helped them improve their results in the future. Everyone gets my complete trust at the beginning of our relationship. Then we continually work together to keep it up on the same level.
Do you have any of your marketing successes in your career you would like to share with us? e.g. You were on a small budget, and you still did very well?
One of the marketing successes I remember very well is with the clients of the agency I worked for. He wrote an email to the general (office) address that he wanted to do a Facebook campaign, that's all. He was a U.S.-based client. I remember what my director said. "Michael, listen... - there is someone there who wants to do a Facebook campaign, so go and sort that out." I contacted him, and he said he wanted to do a campaign for a few European countries, but he had only $400 to invest. After spending his test $400 budget, he was so happy with my results that we started a ten-month partnership which ended after and finished with a budget of over 1.5 million euros. Well... Yeah. And it all began with a small request email and a $400 test budget. I ran the whole campaign, and I have to admit I was promoted to head the social media department as a result of that.
I'll go off topic a bit: rumour has it you're a geek. What do you do when you turn off chat with your employees? Do you have any interesting hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I have all kinds of things to do. First of all, I focus on personal development. Almost every day, I spend 2-3 hours on it - mainly reading marketing books, and listening to podcasts. I have a rather interesting hobby. My girlfriend and I are big AFOLs. Which is, we create stuff from Lego. We do more than just buy ready-to-use Lego sets and build them. We have our creative projects and recreate scenes from cult films. One time I recorded a popular "Shining" scene where Danny rides a tricycle and meets the twins. I am also a great fan of DC comics as well as Star Wars and Star Trek.
Going back to the marketing topic; Do you think that a company without marketing currently does not exist?
It is, unfortunately, true. To put it nicely, you can be the most attractive person in the world, but no one will see that in a dark room. Marketing is the light by which everyone can see how attractive a person is.
And what about the competition? Is there any significant threat to WebWave? There are many new website building software companies worldwide trying their luck in Poland. Do you think you can cope with that?
We are very much aware of the competition. However, WebWave has been active in the Polish market for over eight years, which has strengthened our position. To tell you the truth, I don't think we have anything to worry about. We know that foreign competitors are trying to tap into our market. We can see that, but usually, it looks like they are trying to test the waters and then leave because they can't break through on the challenging Polish market.
'' In addition to the Website Builder functions, we are implementing other services to improve the workflow and aid Agency work. ''
Last question - what are WebWave's plans for the coming years?
It's a lot of them. We have plenty of ideas for new features and enhancements to those currently in place. In addition to the Website Builder functions, we are implementing other services to improve the workflow and aid Agency work. We also want to expand into markets outside of Poland and Romania. At the moment, we are trying to get our foothold on the English-speaking market. We have a stable situation in the Australian market, as we have a strong partner helping us there. But this will not only be the USA, Canada or GB because there are many English-speaking countries. The most interesting thing is that these countries lack and need such tools as WebWave.
I'm happy to hear that WebWave is all nice and well!
I would like to thank you for the interview, Michael and I wish you even more successes in the future!
Thank you, it was a pleasure!
To summarise our interview: we spoke about our interlocutor's path to becoming and working as a CMO - Chief Marketing Officer. The main points we can draw from today's meeting are as follows:
It requires determination, extensive knowledge, regular self-realisation, the ability to know and recognise people's needs, issues, dreams, beliefs. It is not as if we are merely making up advertising ideas. This is all the work that must be done before an idea is convinced and after - usually a fast and complex execution.
Being a marketing graduate can help. However, there are more important skills one can gain outside the lecture hall. Michael has degrees in economy and history, which certainly helped him become a CMO. However, he also had bartending, acting, photography, art, teaching and other experience. It taught him many other valuable skills that can't be usually learnt at school.
Michael shared his passion for photography, art, acting, teaching, self-development, Lego building, and animation. Creative hobbies can help you in many ways. They can help you understand people and yourself, emotions, find a way to connect with others and express yourself. It certainly has a positive influence on the way a CMO approaches his work.
Being CMO is not an easy task. Besides being a key worker who needs to deliver marketing results through various activities, you also need to delegate tasks to team members.
One person can't do everything. Your team has to cover all the skills needed for the effective operation of the marketing department. Then it would be best if you found a fair way to organise all the people and allocate tasks according to their skills and abilities. We found out that Michael uses a system inspired by Lean Management and uses simple tools (like Trello) to deliver the results.
Just like Michael nicely put it - Even if you're the most attractive person in the world, but you're in a pitch-black room - nobody can see it. You have to shine the light on your products and services to ensure your clients can see what solutions you can offer. Marketing is that light, and you need it to have any presence on the market nowadays.
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Author: Przemyslaw Mike Pajdak