Catherine Liao (Executive MBA 2013) discovered a love of marketing during her studies at Imperial, prompting her to leave her role with Cisco to focus on Corkbin, a mobile wine startup she founded and later sold to Hello Vino. Today Catherine leads a solutions marketing team at Riverbed, an IT infrastructure hardware and software company.
Can you tell us about your time at Imperial
"I did an executive MBA at the Business School from 2010 to 2012.
I’m from the States and I had an opportunity to move to the UK with Cisco in a market strategy role. When I decided that I would move, I thought I had a very limited network out there – primarily Cisco colleagues – and I had wanted to pursue an advanced degree for some time, so I thought it would be a perfect time to do so.
The weekend format of the exec programme at Imperial suited me really well. My job required extensive travel and it’s much easier to dedicate a weekend a month versus a few nights every fortnight. Also I liked the focus around networking and the social life. I really got to know my cohort on the programme and thought that was one of the most valuable experiences."
What did you learn during your time at Imperial?
"Initially I always thought that I would focus on entrepreneurships and start-ups, which I did and enjoyed. Although what surfaced as a topic that I had an inherent leaning towards was marketing, especially when it comes to marketing approaches and statistics. Professor Catarina Sismeiro took an analytical approach to marketing, and I had never looked at the subject in that way before; she was fantastic. I’m probably more of a marketeer now, which is a function that I never thought I’d take on professionally."
Tell us a bit more about the work you’re doing now
"I joined a company called Riverbed which is an IT infrastructure hardware and software company. I was very familiar with the company because I competed with them directly when I was at Cisco. I took products to market that were directly competitive and had an opportunity to come in initially as a business architect that connects Riverbed’s solutions and value propositions with what the customer cares about.
I would meet with customers such as Disney and Hewlett Packard to try to understand what some of their application challenges are, and to connect those challenges with what Riverbed can do. I did that for about six months and then I moved into a broader go-to-market strategy role as part of Riverbed’s central marketing team. It was exciting to me that when you are in sales you can influence a small part of the business, whereas when you’re in a corporate function you can look at what you need to do to make an idea scale, and identify the opportunities that are worth pursuing and those that are not. It fits really well with my entrepreneurial slant as well, because at the end of the day, what I care about is the how to take a technology to market and turning it into a viable business."
Are you in touch with any friends from Imperial?
"I really miss my cohort. We were a multidisciplinary and multicultural bunch that really connected. While most are based in London, we have folks in Australia, Dubai, Nigeria, Hong Kong, both coasts of the US, and even the Virgin Islands. I try to catch up with my cohort whenever I can – either when people happen to visit San Francisco or when I travel. We also have a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group, with social media and social networking tools it’s easier to maintain those connections.
Some of my best friends now are from the MBA course – you’ve had two years with them, four days in the month in the classroom, over dinner, getting drunk, and on top of that there are the study tours, and you form a fantastic bond. I feel like I have a group of trusted advisors when it comes to business ideas too, they know what I think and they will give unbiased feedback – it’s an invaluable investment."