One to Watch: Product marketer uses R&D experience, martial arts strategy to create win-wins

In our ongoing series, “One to Watch,” we profile TIers who are making a difference through innovation or citizenship.

One to Watch: Ram MachnessRam Machness approaches the art and science of product marketing with the experience of a product developer, a knack for asking the right questions, and a unique strategy for creating win-win solutions drawn from the martial art of aikido.

“Product marketing is the link between entities such as customers, R&D, planning, sales, manufacturing, digital marketing, pricing and other groups,” he said. “It’s all about relationships and connecting people with our strategy.”

The inevitable tensions that emerge as a product strategy is developed are key to its success, he said.

“There is a purpose to conflict,” Ram said. “The job of marketing is to find the right balance. Each entity has a different point of view, and they are all right. The conflicts will always be there, and bringing these elements together in win-win solutions is art and science.”

Win-win thinking

As a student, Ram learned and taught aikido, which uses an opponent’s strength and energy to bring peaceful resolutions to situations involving conflict.

“Aikido is about win-win thinking,” he said. “It taught me to think about your interests and my interests and how we find common ground. It’s about channeling energy in a way that meets their agenda while aligning with our strategy. When you understand what the other person is thinking – understand the energy that he or she brings to the table − you can get things accomplished.

“This is especially true when you lead a marketing team,” he said. “It’s critical that everyone embrace the conflict and not ignore it. It’s easy to either lose your identity or be super-stubborn, but in both ways you will not move the needle.”

Truly understanding

The many experiences that have influenced Ram’s approach to product marketing – to finding that critical balance during the development of a product strategy − began with a high-school physics teacher who taught him the power of asking thorough questions.

“My teacher said that the first step in science – to go into depth, into knowledge, into real understanding − is to ask the right questions,” Ram said. “But he didn’t stop there. He taught us to evaluate and grade the answers. Are they good or bad? How do you know?”

The teacher also taught him how to truly hear – and understand – the perspectives of other people.

“He told us that unless you can articulate what the other parties are saying, you don’t understand them. You have to understand them in order assess whether they’re correct or incorrect or whether you disagree with them. Otherwise, you’re just mumbling.

“I find this useful when working with a customer, with the R&D department or even internally with the marketing team,” he said. “Asking the difficult questions at the beginning increases the chances you will end up with a good solution. While not asking can lead to bad ‘surprises’ down the road.”

Ram’s broad experiences since his early days in Tel Aviv – including serving in the Israeli military, managing research-and-development teams, moving to product management and managing marketing teams – built a solid foundation for his current role as director of marketing for wireless connectivity products for our company.

The technologies that Ram’s team defines – which connect “smart” systems through monitoring sensors, long-range wireless connectivity and the cloud − enable the management of home and building automation, utility metering, factory automation and medical monitoring with the click of an app.

Startup mentality

Like many other Israelis, Ram joined the Army after high school and was assigned to a unit responsible for real-time communications.

“Giving a 21-year-old the responsibility for such critical projects seems risky, but this is common in the Israeli Army,” he said. “That may be why there are so many startup companies in Israel. It requires management skills, out-of-the-box thinking and a system view of everything.”

After leaving the military at 26, he joined a startup company that developed hardware for remote-access servers. In those early days of Internet access, computers used dial-up modems to call servers over telephone lines.

“The company had a very good product, but there was no marketing machine behind it,” Ram said. “It was frustrating that we did a good job on the engineering side, but it was not successful because of a lack of marketing and product management.”

With an increased awareness about the importance of marketing, he shifted the direction of his career from product development to product management and marketing. After earning an MBA from Tel Aviv University, he joined our company as a product manager and later became marketing manager. A few years later, he transferred from Israel to Dallas.

“You can’t run a marketing team in a corporation as if it was a startup, so you have to find the balance between the speedy approach of a startup while following the process that enables you to leverage the amazing support functions that you have in TI.” 

Today, Ram continues drawing on lessons learned long ago from his high-school physics teacher, as a member of the Israeli Army, in product development – and as a student in the martial art of aikido – to lead a team that finds win-win solutions for our products strategies and, ultimately, our customers.