A Persado senior director of campaign management must solve complex problems to create solutions internally and for clients, sometimes on the fly. The role demands a unique perspective, adaptability, superior observational skills and the utmost attention to detail. Poly-disciplinary artist Bob Szantyr has brought that skill set to Persado twice, “boomeranging” back in 2019.
“I have a wandering eye for problems to solve – I love a puzzle,” Szantyr said. “I like to observe things, think about them, learn from them, and ask questions. I’ve always liked art as a method of investigating things.”
The New Haven, Connecticut, native and son of an artist and science teacher could not help but be drawn into the creative world and to the value that Persado places on creativity. He credits his lifelong exposure to, passion for, and participation in the art world for making him “scrappy.” Art has taught him how to make things work, no matter the situation.
“It comes down to problem solving, and it’s a type of problem solving that you may not necessarily have all the tools that you need or all the information that you need before you have to start making decisions,” Szantyr said. “Just being able to adapt and find your way to the answers that you’re looking for. I think it’s been instrumental in whatever amount of success I’ve had so far.”
The Great Recession hit a few years after Bob graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University, compelling him to take a job as an account manager at what was then an Experian business called Experian CheetahMail, an early email marketing platform. He had worked his way up to a client relationship manager role, when his friend, Mike Santiago told him about a job at Persado. Having learned about the deployment aspects of email marketing, he was intrigued by the opportunity to expand his knowledge about content.
“He told me about the way they design experiments around language and how the company was applying objective data to transform creative work, and I was curious,” he said. “I was a little taken aback that this was actually something happening, that all of these soft creative things could have this objective background. It just sounded like a problem to solve, and I was into it.”
Szantyr joined Persado for the first time in 2015 as a campaign engineer and became senior campaign management director in summer 2016. In 2017, he left to pursue a Master of Fine Arts from City University of New York-Brooklyn College.
He then returned to Persado, lured back by “an amazing company of people from all walks of life who just really work well together,” he said.
“I knew the work would be interesting, but really what it came down to is the multiple, global offices full of interesting people who, over the past five years of my life, I’ve become very close with,” Szantyr said. “I absolutely love working with them, even on the days when the work is the hardest. Today is no exception to that.”
After stepping away for a two-year return to academia, Szantyr’s perspective about his Persado job surprisingly did not change. But his relationship to the work did. Serving as the president of his graduate student union gave him invaluable executive experience.
“I ended up being the liaison between faculty and students and one of the organizers of our thesis exhibition, all of our open studios and visiting artists, and art professional lectures, as well as sitting on the hiring committees for new faculty” he said. “Basically, I just went to grad school to be a manager of grad school!”
As senior director of campaign management, he puts those skills to work overseeing and supporting three teams: campaign managers, front-end developers and a “coven of QA specialists.” The campaign managers drive the product; developers design and build assets and content, run experiments, and code; and the QA specialists ensure what Persado provides to clients has the utmost accuracy and is of the highest quality.
“What we do is about helping clients meet their communications objectives through a data-driven and collaborative approach,” Szantyr said. “At its core, it’s all about getting to the most effective and engaging marketing content, personalized to the recipients through experimentation and data-driven analysis .”
He has also left a mark within Persado’s “Innovation Challenge” incubator program. He and friend-colleague Santiago spearheaded a project to “get us to this point of truly automating every step of the way in what we do and making the software more intelligent, and focusing on brand voice.”
They corralled an internal team of developers and Frank Chen and Lucy Lu from data science to investigate ways to take Persado’s product to the next level of AI and humanness.
“We fleshed out this idea where we would teach our tools how to speak a brand’s voice, basically teach it enough English to be able to differentiate semantically between brands,” Szantyr said.
“It had already been a company objective to have Persado’s technology generate content that is more human, so we had the support of the product team and our innovation team behind us,” he said. “We’re having regular meetings and getting this product that we’ve pulled together into our roadmap for full development. That’s the best thing about this company when it comes to innovation: Regardless of the framework of the challenge, when a good idea is presented, it’s heard.”
Szantyr has since shifted focus into more operations and front-end development.
“I love working on the operations team and really want whatever my future is to be in support of the growth of that team,” he said. “But I did get a taste of product development and innovation that I found very challenging and engaging. So, I am sure whatever I’ll be doing, I’ll be partnering with the product team as well and I’m looking forward to it.”