In the latest episode of our Ask a CMO series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Marni Puente, the recently appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of SAIC. SAIC is a leading provider of data-centric information technology and digital engineering services for the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

How did you get your start in marketing?

I’ve been in marketing for about 25 years. I was really focused on the arts, which was my creative side, and communications coming out of school. So, it was really bringing those two together. I started out as a press intern at the Kennedy Center in DC, which was an incredible experience. I spent most of my 20s in non-profits and then went on to serve in public affairs at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian is where I began working on my master’s degree in communications management. I then worked at the Air and Space Museum and with many defense contractors, which is when I became interested in the private sector. I spent the last six years at KPMG, which was mostly in the commercial space. One thing led to another, and now I’ve been in marketing, professional services, IT engineering, and innovation for 20+ years. It’s what I love to do. I took a roundabout path, but I’ve been doing marketing communications since I graduated from school.

What factors do you attribute to your success?

I would say a few things. First, always learning. I’ve been in marketing for 25 years, and I still have more to learn. In marketing, you must continually get smart, especially with technology, which is changing more than ever. Another important factor is mentorship. I have an incredible roster of mentors whom I have stayed in touch with and still call on. And I feel it’s important to also give back and mentor others. Finally, I took on strategic opportunities that stretched me. I like to say with challenge comes growth.

Continually get smart.

-Marni Puente


You’ve returned to the B2G sector after several years in the commercial space. How do you expect your B2B experience to inform your new role?

We’ve seen a trend on the commercial side where marketing is interlocked with business development and driving revenue growth. Often, the Chief Marketing Officer is also the Chief Growth Officer. At KPMG, communications fell under Corporate Development, and marketing fell under Growth and Strategy. That is how I create a clear delineation between communications and marketing. I see this in government now more than it used to be. It’s not just about elevating the brand, but also driving business growth. Relationship building, trade shows, etc., will still be important, but now the focus is more on using content and digital strategy to drive business growth.

What is so exciting about being back in B2G is taking some of those B2B learnings, overcoming obstacles and delivering a great marketing program that can move the needle. One thing that hasn’t changed is the mission. That is one thing that thrills me about being back at SAIC and back in B2G.

With challenge comes growth.

-Marni Puente


What is your approach to marketing professional services, particularly Consulting and IT?

My entire career has been in the professional services sector, and it has changed a lot since starting my career. When you market professional services, you’re marketing your people. Your people are your greatest asset, and it can be challenging to differentiate. You have to think about what makes them great. The other thing I think is important is content. Now, at SAIC, I’m focusing on building a thought-leadership engine,  producing compelling content, and getting it into the right hands at the right time. You also have to think about the marketing funnel from the top to bottom. Insights are so important, and you need those insights to promote advisory and professional services through compelling perspectives. What are you offering that is valuable? What will open doors to conversations and position your business as a thought leader? I think the answer to these questions is the key to success when you’re marketing professional services.

We can’t talk to a CMO without talking about AI. How do you see AI transforming the marketing function?

I led marketing for KPMG’s AI and Digital Innovation Group. We looked at how we could transform the organization by leveraging AI. Not just how to market AI capabilities and services to clients, but how to help the internal transformation effort. I believe AI is transforming every function. I also believe that AI won’t replace jobs, but if you don’t learn to use it, you may get left behind. I’ve been with SAIC for almost a month now, and in that time, I have formed an AI Committee to look at ways we can use AI in marketing communications. I’m seeing employees really excited about it in my short time here. One of the things I was doing at KPMG and hope to do at SAIC is using AI in our creative efforts. For example,  we used AI for imagery. As marketers, we know how hard it is to find compelling and unique images. Stock imagery can only take you so far. With AI, we can create innovative, original artwork customized to our needs. We’ve never been able to do that before. From a writing perspective, AI can get you 80% of the way there. If you can increase productivity, you can increase the opportunity to focus more of your time on being more strategic and creative.

What’s your one go-to question when interviewing a candidate?

For me, it’s important to not only understand the candidate’s functional capabilities but also their passion and desire to do the job. I’m a huge believer in you have to love your job. I want to understand what gets them excited. My go-to question is, “Give me an example of what you are most proud of and something that excited you?.” You start to understand what the person is passionate about with a concrete example. You can see them light up and that helps to see what that person would be good at. It’s a pragmatic way to determine if they have the functional expertise and if they will be passionate about what you’re asking them to do.

What corporate buzzword would you like to eliminate?

Synergy. My husband and I are both marketers – we met in one of my early marketing jobs. We would hear this word all the time, especially in our field, and we would look at each other and cringe.

If you weren’t a marketing leader, what would be your dream job?

A running joke in the marketing world is, “Everybody thinks they are a marketer.” So, my funny answer to this is a heart surgeon. Nobody would say, “Move over, and let me perform that heart surgery for you.” I think marketers can appreciate that. But I don’t really wish I was a heart surgeon.

Before I went back for my master’s, I considered social work. I have a child with autism, and I’m proud to have helped start a neurodiversity program at KPMG. I hope to do something like that at SAIC. I’m on the board of Autism Speaks and am involved in similar initiatives. I love helping people overcome challenges and watching them thrive. That has always appealed to me. If I had a second life, I would pursue a career in this area.



About Marni

Marni recently joined SAIC as its new SVP and CMO where she is poised to drive SAIC’s marketing strategy in the defense, space, civilian, and intelligence government markets. Marni has worked for such prestigious organizations as KPMG, Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, and BearingPoint. She has in-depth expertise and a passion for tech and innovation marketing, and she has a track record for developing strategic marketing programs that deliver results.

Marni is passionate about fostering an inclusive work environment and advocating for women in the workplace as well as individuals with disabilities. A National Delegate for Vision 2020, she also served on the committee of the Neurodiversity@Work program at KPMG, and she held leadership positions on the Women’s and Abilities in Motion (AIM) BRGs. She’s on the boards of Autism Speaks and the Cape Henlopen Education Foundation (CHEF) in Delaware. When not working, Marni enjoys spending time in Rehoboth Beach, DE, with her husband, two young boys, and dog Molly. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communication Management from Towson University and a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.