Q&A: Wes Durow, CMO, Extreme Networks

08 February 2021

Wes Durow, CMO, Extreme Networks

Wes Durow, CMO, Extreme Networks

What was your big career break?

My biggest career development took place when I decided to move from working at an advertising agency over to the client-side. I was fortunate to make this transition during the early ascension of multinational telecommunications and data networking equipment manufacturer, Nortel Networks.

While certainly a challenging period, the rise and fall of Nortel provided me with so many different opportunities - both personally and professionally. Having been in a number of marketing roles since this time, I have learned more about developing and delivering on integrated business and marketing plans and am now a true believer that the purpose of business and marketing is not only to sell but to inspire.

The experiences from my time at Nortel, and up until now, have helped me embrace the opportunity presented by technology transitions. That’s what makes it so exciting to be at Extreme Networks as mobility, cloud and data analytics all intersect.   


Who was your hero when you were growing up?

As a child, my hero was an American football player named Fran Tarkenton. He played for the Minnesota Vikings and while the team managed to lose four Super Bowl appearances through the ’70s, he remained an icon to me.

Fran’s career as a National Football League quarterback was defined by his determination. While undersized for a quarterback he was always able to evade the defence and lead his team forward. He was the epitome of perseverance for not only breaking the mould of what was deemed the conventional quarterback, but for always pushing the team to do their very best no matter the result.

Leading with the same conviction and tenacity which I so admired of Fran is something that I strive towards in my own career. Both in and out of the office, I always think about how I can best inspire and motivate those around me. After all, it’s all about teamwork!  


What’s the strangest thing someone has asked you to do?

During my time in advertising, I was asked to help oversee the voice-over recording sessions for our clients, featuring big talents such as Patrick Stewart, James Coburn and Matthew Modine. I’m sure to many this sounds great! But the whole experience was rather strange for me as at the time, I was not familiar with any of their work.


What would you do with £1m? 

I have been fortunate enough to have had a benefactor to help fund my learning. With this support, I was able to study at the University of Northern Iowa for my bachelor’s degree where I majored in Marketing with a minor in Economics; and later at north-western University for a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing. Having attained these qualifications and prior to joining Avaya (through Nortel), I had the foundation required for my first role in an agency serving as an Officer/Account Supervisor at Temerlin McLain/Bozell Advertising.

Access to education opened so many doors in my own career and I strongly believe this has a positive impact on others. So, with £1m, I’d like to follow suit and put this money towards helping fund others’ education.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

To be empathetic. It can be difficult to know and understand the personal challenges that everyone you connect with each day are facing. This is truer than ever with the pandemic impacting every aspect of our daily lives.

Trust that there is good in everyone and seek to find that good to help it shine. And, at such a challenging time, we should ourselves make a conscious effort to reach out to others to check in.


If you had to work in a different industry, what would it be? 

As crazy as it sounds, I would love to work in the airline industry. My career in agency began working on the American Airlines account so it is an industry that is very close to my heart. I recognise that right now is a particularly challenging time for the sector, but I hope it will bounce back once travel resumes.


If money was no object, where would you live?

I can’t pick just one, there are so many cities I have visited and have loved! If it was for a year, I would have to say San Diego. The laid-back vibe and incredible weather make San Diego hard to beat. That said, if it was for a decade, it would be London. I love just walking the streets of London and though I am no hard-core art fan I visit the National Gallery at least a couple of times each year as a reminder of the incredible world we inhabit.


The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? 

It has to be the Rolling Stones. Both are iconic, but I think the Stones fuelled the music and the performance style of the bands I grew up loving such as Van Halen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and others. Even today at almost any time I walk on stage to deliver a talk I ask the AV team to play ‘Start Me Up’ - this really gets me fired up for the presentation!