Lessons from the C-suite: Christopher Combemale, DMA

Christopher Combemale, the CEO of the Data and Marketing Association talks about his career move from TV production and HR’s role in driving revenue.

I started out… in TV production in Los Angeles after studying creative writing and film at Hamilton College.

I knew this was the right career path for me when… I moved back from Los Angeles to New York and pivoted from TV production to advertising on Madison Avenue.

HR and the c-suite:

Moving on up: Where next on the HR career ladder?

HR sees the largest growth among c-suite hires

How HR can use data to persuade the c-suite to flex

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way… People are the most important asset an organisation has, especially in a professional service industry.

When hiring, I always focus on level of intelligence, attitude, and personality. Almost everything else can be taught but there are certain things you cannot change no matter how much time you invest in coaching.

My proudest achievement… Winning 14 consecutive client pitches in the start-up phase of Wunderman Singapore and making a profit in the first year of operation. 

Keeping me awake at night right now… Getting the balance right between innovation and privacy in the modern digital economy.

Data must be used responsibly in a way that builds trust with customers, while also providing organisations with opportunities to innovate and better understand their customers’ preferences.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next five years will be… The adoption and integration of AI technologies – with the creation of ethical frameworks organisations operate within and entirely new organisational models where certain jobs are phased out due to technology.

The rapid adoption of new technologies such as AI must have an ethical framework at their core to ensure risks are carefully weighed against opportunity.

"No decision is perfect and there are many paths which can lead to successful outcomes."

I need my HR director to… be a people-oriented leader who creates a dynamic, vibrant organisational culture that is adaptable to change and supportive to employees’ needs.

More HR directors would become CEOs if… they could focus more on how to build cultures that drive revenue growth and product/service-driven innovation.

Some experience in a revenue generating role, even a one-year secondment, would be invaluable experience.

What I’m reading right now… Silverview by John le Carre.

My top leadership tip is… to make decisions swiftly and be prepared to adjust quickly if you’ve gotten it wrong or circumstances have changed.

No decision is perfect and there are many paths which can lead to successful outcomes.