Native Dubliner Keith Nealon, who led Vyze as chairman through its April acquisition by Mastercard, stepped into the CEO position of Austin-based technology company Bazaarvoice earlier this month, replacing interim CEO Joe Davis, an operating executive at Marlin Equity Partners.
Nealon draws on more than 20 years of experience with high-growth technology companies to help scale Bazaarvoice’s leadership position into new markets and areas of innovation. He also described to Search Marketing Daily the excitement he feels in driving Bazaarvoice’s syndication network of more than 6,200 global brands and retail sites, and support more than one billion active monthly shoppers.
While Nealon spent the first 20 years of life in Ireland and moved to the U.S. in the early 2000s, one of the more interesting elements of his story goes back to the days of contemplating a career as a child.
SMD: When did you first become interested in business?
Nealon: When I first came out of college. In my first job I worked for a hardware and consulting company that wanted to become a software company, so they asked me to help transform the business. It seemed more interesting than doing a single job function like programming, which I loved. … Early on I had a COO kind of role, and I was fascinated not just with technology, but the impact of technology on an organization.
SMD: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Nealon: Either a standup comedian or film director. I like to be funny and I like to watch to movies.
SMD: What is the parallel between your love for standup comedy and directing films with being a CEO of a company?
Nealon: There are two things that come to mind. Yes, a director is in charge of sculpting a final product. In terms of the comedian, yes, I don’t talk a lot about the destination of where we take the business, but rather the journey.
Business often can be viewed as a serious discipline, and it should be, but I want people to enjoy where they work. It remains me of a Mark Twain quote: "The human race has only one effective weapon, and it's humor."
Humor helps us enjoy the journey and relate better to each other.
SMD: What types of books do you like to read?
Nealon: Most are related to business and innovation, rather than fiction. Now I’m reading the book by Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach. He was a former CEO of Intuit and a coach of some of the incredible executives like Sheryl Sandberg and Eric Schmidt. I’m also reading Bold, a book about the acceleration of technology in a positive way.
SMD: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received and whom did you receive it from?
Nealon: It’s difficult to distill all the advice over the years, but one that sticks out gets back to the humor thing. I was too serious when I started my career.
People talk about work-and-life balances like they are opposing forces. I think about integrating the two. I had a boss who said don’t take things too seriously, which goes back to my comedic aspirations. It really helped me to think about things differently.