Joe Cumello says his job is all about story-telling.
“My role is to take Ciena’s business objectives and long-term strategy and create a narrative that resonates with stakeholders,” says Joe, SVP of Global Marketing and Communications. “We show customers, through every marketing vehicle at our disposal, how Ciena is relevant to meeting their business outcomes.”
It’s not as easy as it sounds—the development and then delivery of a simple narrative that describes the value of something incredibly complex takes time. But once you do it right and it resonates, it force multiplies the value of a business and gives your sales teams the aircover they need.
But the industry is constantly in a state of disruption, and Joe is caffeine incarnate. He stays in touch with customers, influencers, employees, analysts, partners, and consultants across the globe. That way, he’s always up-to-speed on new customer use cases, business drivers, and challenges. Joe and his team can then position Ciena’s solutions into their marketing and communications strategies.
Joe, who oversees all global marketing, brand, and communications initiatives, joined Ciena in 2004 as part of the Internet Photonics acquisition. He then left for other endeavors before returning to Ciena in 2015 when it acquired Cyan, where he was CMO.
“Leaving and coming back really showed me what an amazing corporate culture we have here,” he says. “Ciena is all about candor, transparency, honesty. There’s a real set of core values infused into the company culture that you just don’t see elsewhere.”
The tech geniuses at Ciena focus largely on the tangibles, including lots of formulas and math to create incredible technology, he says, while he and his team concentrate on the value of that technology to solve important emotional questions from customers. “Can you solve this problem?” “Will it be a success?” “Can you prove that to me?”
“I believe the best marketers are people with not just a high I.Q. but a high E.Q., or emotional intelligence or quotient,” he says. “It has to do with reading your environment, reacting, and connecting.”
Hiring the right people is crucial to success. “It is one of the most important things I do; I take it very seriously,” he says.
The quality he values most in a business leader is transparency. “I’m really passionate about ending back-channel conversations and keeping things as open as possible, whenever possible,” he says. “The more people know about where the company is going and how it plans to get there, the better. Information is not as powerful in the hands of a few. Information should be rapidly distributed so that everyone makes better and faster decisions.”
A musician since high school, Joe sings in Ciena’s award-winning corporate band, OTN Speedwagon. He was born and raised in New York until his family moved to Maryland when he was 16. He later received a degree in English from the University of Maryland.
On weekends, Joe says, his teenage daughters keep him busy. He and his wife enjoy travel, exercise, and they’ve even dabbled in wine-making.
What he loves most about Ciena is everyone’s eagerness to work hard and have fun doing it.
“The tech space is re-inventing itself all the time, which opens up new worlds and creates all kinds of disruption,” he says. “At Ciena, we are really attuned to that. Adapting to change is what we do, and it’s something we’re very good at.”
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