Leadership Lab

Leadership Q&A with Mike Troiano, CMO, Actifio

Leadership Q&A is a monthly series that shares insight from leaders within Boston's startup community. This month, we spoke to Mike Troiano, Chief Marketing Officer of Actifio.  

INTELLIGENT.LY: What was your first job?

MIKE: My first job ever was working a veterans cemetery in RI. It was a little creepy in the beginning, if I’m honest. But the money was great, and it was a great way to get in shape for football. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for veterans and their families. By the end of the Summer, I loved it.

My first job out of college was selling kitchen knives door-to-door. I learned a lot about what it takes to get people to buy doing that, across the kitchen table. Lessons I still draw on all the time.

INTELLIGENT.LY: Share some of your hidden talents?

MIKE: I can make you something delicious from what’s in your kitchen right now. Yet to be stumped. I’m a pretty good skier, can tell you what your last dream means, am an excellent fire starter, and have no cavities.

INTELLIGENT.LY: Do you do new year’s resolutions? If so, what are they?

MIKE: Focused on living healthy this year. Bob Hower turned me on to an eating program called Whole 30. Basically cutting out sugar, grains, dairy, and alcohol for 30 days with no cheating. First couple weeks are tough, then you get tiger blood. Just tipping into week 3, feels great.

I also got my hands on a rower and really liking that. 5,000 meters in under 27 minutes now, pretty consistent.

INTELLIGENT.LY: What are you most excited about in the Boston tech space?

MIKE: Well, I love this town. No better place to live, raise a family, and build a business, for people trying to do all three.

What I’m excited about in the coming year is the growing list of successful first-time entrepreneurs and young gun investors who are maturing and moving on to their next adventures. I think the next few years are going to be really exciting in Boston, and that they’ll be powered by the wave of entrepreneurs that came onto the scene 5 or 6 years ago. Buckle up.

INTELLIGENT.LY: Talk to us about the importance of mentors and coaches in your professional life. How did these relationships begin?

MIKE: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work for people who took an interest in my development, and helped me along the way. In the New York ad world it was people like Jon Tracosas and Andy Brief, Ralph Tuzzo and even George Lois who all taught me the value of a big idea, how to sell it to clients, how to protect it from the onslaught of competing opinions that turns even great ideas to shit. Powerful ju-ju.

I’ve always tried to help people, to be available to them, to focus genuinely on helping to solve their problems. Not to get all cosmic, but I think you get back what you give to the world. I really do.

INTELLIGENT.LY: What is the best leadership advice you ever received?

MIKE: “The Best Leadership Advice I Ever Got

INTELLIGENT.LY: What’s the most essential function of your job as a leader?

MIKE: To set priorities, communicate them effectively, and support my team in accomplishing the most important things we need to accomplish. So much of it is just that. If you have the right people, the rest kind of takes care of itself.

INTELLIGENT.LY: If you could talk to your past self, when you first became a people leader, what advice would you give yourself?

MIKE: Respect talent. My natural inclination is to reward the people who work the hardest, who demonstrate the best character under pressure. I think early on I valued personal loyalty too highly, over the raw talent that is sometimes wrapped in challenging personalities.

It’s all about balance. A good leader picks the right people, gets them focused on the same results, and works to extract the best from them, for the good of the team. I would like to have learned that a little sooner.

INTELLIGENT.LY: What advice would you give to first time managers?

MIKE: I give it so much, I wrote it down: “How to be an Executive

INTELLIGENT.LY: What was the hardest lesson you had to learn as a manager/leader?

MIKE: Companies come and go in our business, and to lead one you need to come to terms with hard choices that will affect the lives of people you care about. The solution isn’t not to care, though, it’s to reconcile what is necessary for the business with what is right for the people, and to apply yourself equally in service to both.

Hard lesson. Took a few times for me.