Carlos Calderon left a leadership position in The Home Depot’s marketing department to join MetaRouter in April of 2021, which makes it the first time that one of our customers has decided to come work with us. In this interview, we’ll talk to Carlos about what prompted him to leave a Fortune 50 business for a much smaller company, how MadTech is evolving to meet new privacy and compliance standards, and his views on enterprise data collection, management, and security.
Tell us a bit about your professional journey.
Directly before MetaRouter, I was serving as Senior Manager at The Home Depot’s Monetization Integration & Partnerships division in Atlanta. They’re a skunkworks-like group within Home Depot that’s in charge of retail media and looking for a new way to make data-driven decisions based on the information the company gathered from its advertising.
Before that, I was Senior Manager of Home Depot’s Agile/AdOps team. Data-driven decision-making obviously requires proof in order to compel the business to make a change. So my job was to construct the data infrastructure necessary to support AB testing and look for insights that were based on facts, not fiction.
Prior to Home Depot, I worked as a marketing lead at several technology firms in the Atlanta area, including the hybrid cloud infrastructure company Internap.
What were some of the challenges your team faced at The Home Depot?
In the past decade or so, the paradigm in enterprise marketing departments has shifted away from just outsourcing to agencies and hoping they get it right. Now, there’s a strong desire to keep things internal to maximize accountability, transparency, governability, and ultimately get greater results.
But one of the major challenges at The Home Depot, like everywhere else, was that there’s just too much going on. It isn’t possible to make high-quality data-driven decisions because there’s very little interoperability between systems and significant gaps between the tribal knowledge of data sets across teams, and the pipelines between those systems are incredibly complex and don’t always function properly.
That’s especially true in the marketing department, where data silos are endemic. Even in an organization that’s trying to approach data the right way, the strategy often becomes sticking your finger in the air and hoping for the best. That was the major challenge we were trying to tackle.
How did you first hear about MetaRouter?
MetaRouter began working with Home Depot several years ago. It took me some time to become aware of how much good work, how much value, they were bringing, because I was busy in my corner of the company and I wasn’t really paying as much attention to MetaRouter’s work—it was so cutting edge
But, as their involvement in the company evolved, I became more interested.
The interconnectivity between systems – while not new – is being scrutinized because of the way that privacy is changing. The way I see the industry evolving, it’s a race to have the most integrations and the most functionality. Data is becoming more democratic.
I firmly believe that If advertising were to begin with a clean slate today — if we were to design everything all over from scratch — it would be like MetaRouter is doing it right now. It would be servers talking to servers, it would be based on the same giant pipelines of data between systems that tie everything together in a fast and seamless way. We were, I think, the first company to send data to Facebook, completely server-to-server. Prior to two years ago, Facebook didn't even have the ability to ingest that data.
I quickly realized that server-to-server pipelines are the way that the world is going. My experience with Home Depot was proof that there was an opportunity here, proof that MetaRouter knew what they were doing, and, for me, proof that I should become invested.
Thankfully, things lined up and I came on board in early 2021.
What prompted you to switch from a Fortune 50 to a relatively young company?
If you look around the market, there are seismic “Big-Techtonic” shifts the paradigm of data ownership especially around the customer happening and marketing departments are at the epicenter. You have these landmark pieces of legislation like CCPA, GDPR, CCPR, which are helping to drive this shift, but beyond that, there’s just a cultural trend toward greater transparency, ownership, and lineage with regards to data.
That’s not just my analysis either. There’s been an incredible amount of research and forecasting from our industry, from institutions like Gartner and Forrester. The work of guys like Marty Kihn comes to mind first, but Deloitte has put out some great research on topics around customer data infrastructure.
MetaRouter really reminded me of some other companies in the space that I’ve really respected. The name of the game here is neutrality, interoperability, the equivalent of a universal connector, making everything connected and seamless.
What was the transition from The Home Depot to MetaRouter like?
Well, there are obvious advantages and disadvantages to working at a bigger organization.
I had the good fortune to work within one of the most agile and innovative departments within The Home Depot, but even then, Home Depot is a big ship, like a cruise ship. If Home Depot is a cruise ship, I was in the speed boat out in front of the overall organization, trying to plot a course.
It was exciting and I worked alongside some great people, but at the end of the day the ship could only turn so fast, or it would keel over.
MetaRouter is totally different. I love how lean and mean we are. We’re bringing better data to better systems, in a way better way, and can pivot on a dime when we uncover a new opportunity. There is no huge organization behind us that needs months or years to turn around. It feels like we’re out in the forefront, future-proofing every enterprise in a landscape that is constantly shifting.
But my time at The Home Depot taught me a lot about our customers too, so that was a huge value.
For example, MetaRouter is in discussion with some national retail chains right now. I know what they’re experiencing and can empathize, which I think is helpful. I know enterprises are struggling to keep pace with all the changes that occur in the marketing space. There’s new legislation, new devices, browser changes, and all of it produces a very acute anxiety — a type of thousand-yard stare.
I know how to help those companies because I’ve been there.
In your experience, what type of person gets most excited about MetaRouter?
Typically, there’s a champion within the company who gets it. I think that person tends to come from one of two camps.
The first person is the senior advertising manager. They have budgets and they have decision-making abilities. These people are responsible for KPIs and they’re concerned that the data is being utilized in the best possible way and driving the right results.
That first group sees the MetaRouter’s resiliency, security, and control functionality and they get excited about all the problems they can solve.
At the same time, the journey to MetaRouter is unique for each company. We have incredibly talented, smart engineers who can speak in technical terms about our value proposition, but we also know how to talk business benefits, and oftentimes we’re doing both.
How can they maximize the impact of MetaRouter?
The reality is that EVERY company on earth with a website. But, we're on the bleeding edge of a new technological methodology and as such, only large, data-committed enterprises have the budget, skillset, and desire to establish competitive differentiation. So, within that tier of business, I think there are two groups.
There are a lot of companies that know there’s a problem with how they’re collecting and processing data, but they’re not exactly sure where the problem is. They suspect something isn’t right. The system at our fingertips—tools for advertising, marketing, etc.—are amazing, but they're landlocked. There's no connectivity. For these folks, MetaRouter must get out and educate them because they don’t know that there’s a better way yet, that server-to-server tracking can change all that.
Then there are other companies who understand the problem and feel ready to embark on a solution.
For this group, the next question is inevitable: do you build it, buy it, or borrow it? Everyone eventually faces the cost-benefit analysis, and while a company may be tempted to build out those systems on their own, digging into the numbers doesn’t make a lot of sense.
For the same amount of money that it costs to hire two, maybe three site reliability engineers (SREs), you could have the MetaRouter team on your side. We deliver all the specialized knowledge you need to gain control of your website, data taxonomies, security and compliance controls, and your integrations. The price of our solution is essentially a rounding error to a lot of these large brands who spend millions of dollars a month on advertising. That becomes evident quickly.
A general piece of advice for companies who are interested in making the most of a MetaRouter solution is to start with the right team. CDI touches on every aspect of a business, from its legal and IT departments, to marketing, procurement, sales, and beyond.
That idea is built right into the name! Most people think of the “meta” in MetaRouter, and they think of metadata, but the original meaning of “meta,” is simply “many.” It’s a new concept of gathering and processing data from throughout an enterprise. That’s the future, and MetaRouter is ready for it.
Curious to find out more about the impact MetaRouter made for Carlos? Download the case study.