The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is Marketing Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist André Kearns, who’s marketing director of aerospace and satellite at Amazon Web Services. Here, he talks success in his current role, career inflection points, career advice and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Through 25 years of professional experience, I have found these skills to be key elements to being a successful strategic marketing leader.
First, know your business, why it exists, its mission and vision, and what drives its growth. Similarly, it’s helpful to stay market focused. Know your market opportunity, audience, and key customers. Understand their needs and how you meet them in a unique way. Align your marketing message and plans to this strategic context.
Set and focus on three to five top-tier measurable goals you will achieve for your business. I also believe it’s important to focus on team building. This means spending more time investing in your team, and less time doing things. Hire the best, focus on their professional development, encourage collaboration, and make sure the team is getting proper visibility and recognition for their work.
Finally, develop your capacity to execute as a leader. If your ideas and your vision are inspiring, others will be motivated to follow and help execute your plan.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I enjoy the opportunity to make an impact through building a business and a team from the bottom up. AWS has a long history of supporting space customers like NASA, with whom we have worked for more than a decade. In 2020 we saw the opportunity to bring in subject matter experts with cloud and space industry expertise with the new AWS Aerospace and Satellite business segment. Since then, it’s been exciting to lead a marketing team helping drive market education and awareness of the unique benefits and opportunities to reimagining space missions on the cloud.
I’m proud of these creative projects: helping produce the first-ever intergalactic TV series premiere with Night Sky, an Amazon Prime original; working with industry partners to share how AWS and Amazon are reimagining next-generation space station operations for Orbital Reef; and the storytelling we did at Amazon re:MARS about our collaboration with Axiom Space to explore extending AWS edge computing into space using an AWS Snowcone SSD device.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I can point to two inflection points. While attending Harvard Business School I decided I wanted to pursue a career in marketing.
My first career inflection point was when I realized I wanted to stay in marketing, but wanted to move into tech. I soon landed a job with America Online, and I’ve been working in tech ever since.
When I finished business school, I had initially set a goal to be a CEO of a company. I’ve always created space to allow myself to discern what I enjoy, what brings me fulfillment, and where I am making the most impact. About 10 years into my journey, these insights drove me to my second inflection point. I realized that instead I wanted to become a chief marketing officer. From then on, I have pursued experiences that I think will help to unlock that opportunity.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice for any type of leader is to first “learn and be curious.” Leaders are readers, so take the time to invest in your own continued learning. Second, seek out a mentor who can give advice, answer questions, and help strategize future career moves and boost your professional development. Amazon offers a formal program, but mentorships can also be informal.
Third, seek a sponsor, someone who chooses you, and promotes you to others to help advance your career. In order for a sponsor to find you, you must proactively raise your visibility and exposure. Take on a new stretch assignment that expands your network and collaborate with folks outside of your everyday work. Find ways to grow your presence where you are.