Jesus Ponce may not have been able to predict the path his career has taken, but he has approached every step along the way with the same guiding principle in mind.
“When I was trying to decide what kind of field to pursue professionally, my father advised me to become a citizen of the world,” Ponce says. “I have taken as a mantra for myself that I want to understand the person sitting across from me. I always try to see things through their eyes or from their point of view.”
This mantra is critical to Ponce’s role as the vice president of client services at Acxiom, an Arkansas-headquartered customer intelligence company that provides data-driven solutions for marketers around the globe. Over his two-plus decades at the organization, Ponce has developed a leadership style centered on inclusivity, collaboration, and trust. Between these values and his father’s advice, he has positioned himself—and Acxiom—to help brands navigate consumer data today and in years to come.
For Ponce, who studied industrial and systems engineering at the undergraduate level, the journey to the executive suite began in his native Mexico. Then, he moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in the field and began working on public and private sector projects spanning the US and Latin America.
His master’s thesis advisor connected Ponce with a small company that Acxiom went on to acquire. “That’s how I became part of Acxiom,” he explains. “I started as an industrial engineer looking at the implementation of database marketing environments. My background helped me look for solutions to problems that focused not only on the tools themselves but also the broader scope of data infrastructure and use case enablement for clients.”
His problem-solving expertise and big-picture mindset paved the way for Ponce to transition from engineer to executive, with Acxiom tapping him to create his own team.
“We started out focusing on solutions for the US market but quickly expanded to responsibilities globally. When that transition happened, I became the voice of the team,” he says. “I was interacting with clients and prospects and other executives, listening to them, and trying to find solutions to complex problems.”
Since stepping onto that global stage, Ponce has become even more conscious of his father’s advice. “All of those interactions with team members around the world helped me understand how people think and behave. Once you achieve that understanding, great things can develop. That’s what it means to me to be a citizen of the world,” he says.
Ponce strives to incorporate cultural understanding into all aspects of his leadership. He actively supports the diversity and inclusion initiatives underway at Acxiom as a sponsor and cofounder of SOMOS, the company’s Hispanic business resource group.
“We are trying to raise up our Hispanic community so that every voice is heard, and all of our members see and take advantage of the opportunities the company has to offer for continuing to expand their careers,” he says of the group.
From a business standpoint, Ponce believes the best solutions come from a place of listening to and collaborating with individuals of diverse perspectives.
“Acxiom has provided an environment that I consider borderless, in that the brands we work with are multinational. That has allowed me to create multinational teams, be part of those multinational teams, and look at solutions to problems both locally and globally,” he elaborates. “Leadership boils down to inclusivity. We have to consider and incorporate multiple points of view in every single thing we do.”
Without those varied points of view, Ponce’s work on projects like the large-scale delivery of multi-country marketing platforms, the real-time enablement of marketing offers for consumers, and the deployment of multi-country analytical environments would not be possible. “We’re very proud of our ability to enable any particular brand to establish marketing platforms across countries,” he adds. “We take the same principles of marketing and make sure that those principles are painted, if you will, with the regulations that prevail for that particular geography in terms of the ethical and permissible use of data.”
Given the high stakes of data collection and management, Ponce emphasizes the importance of establishing and maintaining client trust. “At Acxiom, we want the brands we do business with to see us as a trusted advisor that will guide them through the process of enabling an environment in a manner that is compliant with existing laws and regulations. We basically become the custodian of their data, their marketing messages, and the way they’re interacting with people,” he says.
As the industry evolves, Ponce hopes brands will continue to come to Acxiom with questions about their position and new market developments. “I see a world where customers will drive companies’ behaviors,” he predicts. “All marketing communications for brands will be precisely tailored to individuals, who will be in control of what messages they’re receiving and when they’re receiving them.”
When it comes to Acxiom specifically, the future is bright. “Acxiom will continue to play a pivotal role in the industry as the ethical custodian and trusted advisor of brands for consumer data, and we’ll continue to enable brands to leverage that data to market products and services to people on their own terms,” Ponce says. “A lot of companies will try to enable those things, but Acxiom is uniquely positioned to succeed.”