From the outside in

 

Spotlight on Glenton Davis, Microsoft Security Global Senior Product Marketing Manager

 
 
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An unconventional path

Glenton Davis, global senior product marketing manager for Microsoft Security, took anything but a traditional path in the journey to what he does today. He believes that his unique personal experience is integral to a creative, people-first approach with the sales organization he serves. For Davis, the customer always comes first, and he believes in working “outside in” from the customer to sellers.

“I’ve learned a lot about understanding people and communication on my journey, and I’m still learning,” he said. 

 After graduating from Yale in 2007, Davis took a job with JP Morgan, just as the recession came crashing down.  

“It was very Dickensian,” Davis said. “It was the best of times and the worst of times … I had a front-row seat by working for the chief investment officer during one of the most harrowing events of our time. You can't trade that in terms of the value for having your first experience.”  

Davis worked with JP Morgan for more than two years. Meanwhile, he pursued a passion for music. He honed his skills as an independent singer, songwriter, and producer—and took advantage of new technologies to independently record and distribute his music.   

After Davis self-released an album that broke into the Canadian pop charts, he made an abrupt departure from the financial world and decided to dive into a full-time music career. 

Davis moved to Argentina for a while, focused on promoting his album, and founded a nonprofit that connected emerging artists with young people, with an emphasis on combining education with creative expression.  

But, as he turned 25, Davis realized that, just like he had witnessed a fundamental paradigm shift in the world of high finance, he was again witnessing a shifting tide—this time in music. The advent of streaming, brought about by technology, forced Davis to re-evaluate not only how he could make a living as a musician, but also how he defined success. It was time for a change, and Davis made another U-turn, this time into academia.  

“I needed a place where it was safe to reflect on all that I'd seen in such a quick period of time. Graduate school was that place for me,” he said. 

At the time, Davis said he felt that he had failed, although, in hindsight, it was an important pivot point for him.  

“Graduate school was a difficult but necessary shift in frame for me existentially. It’s there that my understanding of risk coalesced. If not for the many twists and turns my life took in my 20s, I would not understand empathy and I would not understand grit.” 

Davis went on to earn a law degree with honors at Northwestern University, while simultaneously attaining an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management. While he experienced the life of a corporate lawyer for a time, ultimately, it wasn’t for him. He decided to actively say no to the law — and to say yes to tech. He decided to take a completely different path and accept an internship at Microsoft in 2015, which led him to his current role.  

Creative solutions

What Davis has found in his short but storied tenure in the world of corporate tech marketing is that salespeople are drowning in content—what seems like millions of slides, thousands of decks, often presented in early Monday morning meetings. This is how companies traditionally attempt to educate the people who are responsible for securing the sales that are any company’s lifeblood. 

And then, Davis says, the marketers responsible for creating this content complain when sellers end up less than educated or energized. It’s a vicious cycle.   

“All too often, marketers skip over sellers and then blame the sellers if they don't understand,” Davis said. 

Davis does things differently. When faced with the challenge of helping sellers grasp the value proposition of security products, he ditches the decks—and turns to more creative methods to energize them. 

One example of this creativity was Davis’ execution of an idea to pioneer an interactive comic book—complete with Stan Lee-styled illustrations and heroic characters—to tell the story of how Microsoft solutions empower the unsung IT heroes protecting enterprises from hackers.  

 

 
 
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Davis takes creative risks like these in a radical departure from the norm for Microsoft and the industry. He does it because he engages with the field and knows firsthand what will resonate. And he thinks more marketers supporting sellers should do the same if they want their work to have an impact.  

“If you’re going to take a risk, you can’t go halfway. You have to swing for the fences. You have to do the deep thinking so that when it’s time to swing, you swing fast and you swing hard,” said Davis. 

 

The Medici Effect

Marketers may shy away from trying new approaches to field enablement simply because it’s the way things are done in their organization, or because they are afraid of failure. 

“I think sometimes there can be a culture of fear inside of the workplace—to try new things, to fail. I really love [Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella]’s push on the company to go from being ‘know-it-alls’ to ‘learn-it-alls.’” 

To overcome this deep-seated fear, Davis believes that bringing together people with diverse experiences and backgrounds leads to the best kind of innovation. It’s a concept captured in Frans Johansson’s book, The Medici Effect, which has been a source of inspiration for Davis. The Medici Effect highlights how people who have no experience in an industry can contribute to disruptive innovation. The book focuses on the Medici banking family, who helped create the Italian Renaissance, although that was not their intention.

As a professional lawyer and musician armed with an MBA, Davis is a modern-day renaissance figure who represents that diversity in background and skills better than most. 

He believes that marketers should make the effort to access diverse points of view. For his part, he maintains a circle of informal advisors within Microsoft who help him bounce around ideas, and he deliberately seeks new voices regularly. 

 
 

“If I go to the same people, I'm building my own echo chamber without realizing it,” he said.  

And collaboration is key to making it all work.   

“We have to work collaboratively through various stakeholders to keep our customer obsession and our seller obsession intact while meeting political and business demands,” he said. 

 
 

Novelty for inspiration

For technology marketers, novel and diverse life experiences outside one’s career can also provide innovation and inspiration. Davis still produces music and recently signed a global licensing deal with DeWolfe Music, a major label based in the UK. For Davis, exercising this passion is a catalyst to creativity. 

“It's the novelty that my life provides that helps me generate ideas,” he said. 

He also touts the benefits of travel. 

“I find myself most months out of the year in a different country for at least a week at a time. That’s novelty on overload. The empathy and humility and curiosity required to be a global citizen really fuels my creativity,” he said. 

Davis has also learned that it’s critical to be true to himself in any role. There are things that each of us “can’t help but do,” he said, and success follows when you can harness that rather than trying to change it for someone else. 

“No matter what society says, you have to lean into yourself,” he said.