CRN Exclusive: Dell Technologies CMO Burton On His Pending Departure And What's Next

Taking A Break, Prepping For The Future

Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer of Dell Technologies, will be relinquishing his role and passing the baton to Allison Dew, a 10-year Dell marketing veteran who most recently led marketing for Dell's Client Solutions Group.

Burton has been the public face for Dell, and before that EMC, Symantec, and Veritas. At Dell, he was probably the most recognized person in the company save CEO Michael Dell himself. At Veritas, he was famous for his filmed spoofs of "The Matrix" and "Indiana Jones." In the latter, he played "Utility Jones" fighting against his then-rival and future employer EMC.

Burton joined Dell Technologies when that company acquired EMC. During the two years since, he spearheaded Dell's global marketing structure and strategy and managed the company's enterprise marketing. Just as important, Burton played a key role in corporate development, including leading its merger and acquisition and venture capital investment activities.

CRN had an opportunity to discuss Burton's pending departure and his plans for the future. To see if those plans involve more than watching the World Cup, turn the page.

What are your immediate plans?

I'm going to stay in the tech business. I think it's a hobby as much as it is a job. But I'm taking a break. I haven't had a break since I left college. I'm really looking forward to that.

What do you anticipate will be your final day at Dell Technologies?

It's officially April the 13th. I was joking with Steve Price, head of [human resources] because Friday the 13, as he sent me a message on the exit date. All good. There's a few weeks to transition things over to Allison. It's best to let her get on with the show with Dell Technologies World coming up. I'm sure she's going to get a chance to meet everyone there, and have it be her coming-out party, which is great.

So you're not going to Las Vegas during Dell Technologies World, then?

No. As much as I'd love to spend a week of my life in a conference room in Las Vegas, I'm not going to be there. Clearly, I'm going to miss it. It's been a big part of my life for the last eight years. But the show is well on the way. I think we're going to have record attendance this year, and some great announcements are lined up. So I'm bummed to miss it.

And actually, Sting is playing in the [customer appreciation party], and I'm a huge Sting fan. But I'll watch it online this year.

Do you have any specific plans for what you want to do next?

Plan number one is really just to take a break. As I said, I think college was the last time I actually had a summer off. And the World Cup is coming up. England are in the World Cup. My ambition at this point is to watch every one of at least England's games in the World Cup. Maybe every game in the World Cup.

I've got some good friends in the VC community. There are certain new areas in technology I want to catch up on and look into.

But no definite times. Just take the break, learn some new technology, watch the World Cup, and hang on.

You spent about eight years at EMC and a couple years at Dell after Dell acquired EMC. How has your marketing role changed over that time?

Dell Technologies is a really different role in terms of scale [compared] to the EMC role I took on back in 2010. I mean, the company is massive, and so you have all the problems of scale at just another level. Because Dell Technologies is not one brand, it's seven, you've got that complexity as well.

I always think the key thing in that scenario is, you've almost got to be focused on a smaller number of things. You can't do a hundred things at that scale. Because if you try to articulate that to the team, it would just be noise. And so you've got to try and hang your hat on a handful of things you think are going to make a difference.

How was that impacted by the Dell-EMC merger?

As we went through the merger, Michael [Dell, Dell Technologies CEO] was very empowering and let me do what I wanted to do in the way I wanted. And the creation of the Dell Technologies brand, I look back at it as some of the best work in my career. It was pretty complicated and full of noise with the merger going on, but I do look at that as a huge point of pride.

The EMC job was certainly not trivial. But I think the degree of complexity with Dell Technologies was probably much greater, and therefore I just had to be on my game a whole lot more.

You just said that, because of the complexities of Dell Technologies, you had to stay focused on a few things. But at Dell Technologies, you were not only handed marketing, but were also involved in mergers and acquisitions and investment. That seems like you were taking on more roles rather than simplifying the marketing role.

I've bounced around a little bit in my career. I started off at EMC really in marketing, and then for the best part of three years I ran the product organization. At Dell Technologies, my day job was actually running and transforming the marketing organization, and the night job was corporate development. One thing I've always enjoyed, whether it was at EMC or Dell, at a company of this size you can turn your hand to a number of different things. As much as I love to do marketing, I guess I never really considered myself as a marketing guy, because my background has been very much on the R&D side of the house. I like the fact that I can do multiple things. But the bigger the company gets, and it's almost counterintuitive, you've almost got to focus on fewer things.

How closely have you worked with Allison Dew before the news you would be leaving Dell Technologies?

I've worked with Allison for a couple of years, since we announced the merger. She was working on the client side of the business, so it was a part of the business I didn't know well. But she's been on my marketing leadership team for the past couple of years, and has just been awesome. She's a marketing talent, and another great executive on Michael's leadership team. I can't speak highly enough of Allison.

She came from Microsoft to Dell. So she's got both a hardware and a software background. I think she's going to be great.

Looking ahead, do you see yourself more as a technology company executive, or in more of a venture capital role?

Ultimately, I want to go and run something. I can't see myself not being in an operational role. I'd love to go run something. But I certainly have an interest in the short term in seeing what's out there and getting up to speed in technology. Friends in the VC community are very helpful in that respect. I've got an interest in the VC world, but I've got much more of a desire to go run something.