Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
Dr. Mark H Mortensen
helps you in your leadership.
Dr. Mark H Mortensen
Name: Dr. Mark H Mortensen
Title: President & Chief Analyst
Organisation: Audrine Research LLC
Dr. Mark Mortensen has over 40 years’ experience in communications software. He is the President and Founder of Audrine Research LLC, an industry analyst firm in telecommunications software. He is also Principal Analyst at ACG Research where he works with software vendors and their users to automate their operations. Mark has a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from Yale University, twenty years at Bell Labs (where he won 2 AT&T Architecture awards for his pioneering work), ten years as CMO of various software companies, and a decade as an industry analyst.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Being consistent. As a leader, your affect and your mood affects those around you to a remarkable degree. Even if a leader has a bad day, they have to maintain their equilibrium, or it takes the whole team off in an undesirable direction.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
In my first 20 years at Bell Labs (AT&T), I rose through the engineering ranks, being promoted by operating at the next step up in the organization, until they noticed it and promoted me. Then I left after 20 years as a Director to join a startup software company as CMO. After a decade there and a successful acquisition, I joined several other startups and turn-arounds - some successful, some not. Then I realized that no one wanted a CMO older than 55 and I had to re-tool to become an industry analyst, first with a going firm, and later with my own company.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Since I do research and consulting, my days are either very structured or very chaotic. I arise early and review and plan my day. I also keep track of everything I do in the day, and how long it takes me. This has enabled me to get very good at estimating how much time it will take me to accomplish various parts of my work. I also walk the dogs 4 times a day - gets me away from my desk and allows me to get a fresh perspective on my work.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Leadership (setting direction and enagaging people's interest and enthusiasm) and management (making the trains run on time) are two different things - and people are usually only good at ONE of those. Build on your strengths, having people on your team who can fill in for your weaknesses.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"Managing Oneself" by Peter F. Drucker has been my handbook ever since I took an amazing seminar with that giant of scientific management.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Find a mentor who can help you think through the major challenges you will face. Every new leader "hits a wall" within the first few years - the walls are different. But it will happen one day, and you will not know what to do. Get a mentor, and build a support network.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
When I had been promoted to my first supervisory position for only a few months, I was asked to move to a different organization in a much better job. But it was going to take a couple of months to organize, so I was "demoted" back to my old non-supervisory job temporarily - although no one could know. It was amazing how many former "friends" would not meet with me, have lunch with me, or engage with me. But some did. When I was promoted two months later into the important position, everyone, once again, was my friend. It was horrible, but it was also wonderful as I had a chance to find out who my true friends were.