People on the Move: Improvised interview starts a new chapter for Mychelle Mollot

Mychelle Mollot for Knak
Long-time technology executive Mychelle Mollot is the new chief marketing officer at the Ottawa-based software firm Knak. (Supplied)

Knak co-founder and CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla must be doing something right: He’s got his former boss working for him now.

Longtime technology executive Mychelle Mollot is the new chief marketing officer at the Ottawa-based software firm. Her first day was Aug. 7.

“I’m very excited,” she enthused about joining Knak, a codeless campaign creation platform that, essentially, makes life easier for marketers. 

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With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Mollot has a proven track record in software marketing. She’s worked for IBM Cognos, Klipfolio and, most recently, Solace. 

It was a knee injury, of all things, that rerouted her to this particular career path, years ago.

Mollot graduated from Queen’s University with an engineering degree in geophysics. It’s an area of earth sciences that requires a lot of field work, which wasn’t a problem until she tore a ligament in her knee downhill skiing. She knew she would have to step away from her job to undergo surgery and rehab. Fortuitously, she was contacted by Cognos for a marketing position in product management at the Ottawa-based software development company.

Mollot almost missed her interview with Mike Laginski, who worked at Cognos at the time. They were supposed to meet in person, but Mollot was called out of the province last minute to work in the field. She found a pay phone at a gas station in rural Manitoba to reach Laginski. “I had to make a collect call.”

Cognos didn’t seem to mind. “They were so desperate at that point for people who were technical but also had the ability to write and communicate, that (Laginski) said, ‘Okay, come see me when you come back.’ I did, and they literally hired me on the spot.

“At the time, Cognos was exploding and couldn’t hire fast enough.”

Mollot looks back now at that gas station interview as a major turning point. “My whole career changed in that one moment.”

She had planned to return to engineering after recovering from knee surgery, but changed her mind. “I loved Cognos, I loved the excitement, and I just stayed.”

It goes to show, she added, “Your skills are more transferable than you think. You never know what you might get captivated by until you actually try it. I never thought I would be working in software or marketing.”

Mollot remained with Cognos from 1989 until 2014. The company was bought by IBM in 2008 for US$5 billion. Through IBM Cognos, she met Ujjainwalla. He was a junior member of the 200-member marketing team she was managing at the time. 

“All I heard all the time was, ‘What a rock star, what a rock star,’” she recalled of Ujjainwalla’s stellar reputation as a rising young talent.

Ujjainwalla left IBM in 2010 to eventually launch his own consultancy, Revenue Pulse. 

“He started developing the tools that became Knak when he was running his consultancy to help him and his team,” said Mollot of how Knak began in 2015. 

Knak is pronounced with a silent ‘k’, much like knack, which means a clever and skilful way of doing something. Co-founders also include Brendan Farnand and Patrick Proulx.

Mollot became part of the advisory board for Knak in 2020, along with former Cognos CEO Rob Ashe and former Cognos marketing executive Leah MacMillan.

“That’s when I really started to get to know Pierce, in the context of this company and his thinking as a CEO and how he was building it,” said Mollot. “I was just so impressed. Pierce is very creative. He’s really a great guy and a visionary.”

This past May, Mollot left her job as chief marketing officer at Solace due to “differences of opinion” between her and Denis King, who was promoted to CEO in 2020. 

“It was time to go. It was not my decision but I’m happy with the decision,” said Mollot, who had built a marketing department and SDR (sales development representatives) team from scratch during her nearly six years at the software firm. “Look, I’m extremely happy and proud of what I did at the company.” 

Mollot said she was partial to joining Knak for many reasons, including its Ottawa roots. She was born and raised in the National Capital Region. “I really wanted something local that I could help grow,” said the board member with The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

As well, she liked that the co-founders have a deep understanding of marketing due to their own marketing background. 

Knak solves a problem that many marketers struggle with by helping them to build and manage online marketing campaigns in a way that saves them time and money, said Mollot.

Also a draw was Ujjainwalla, a 2022 Forty Under 40 award recipient. “Of course, having that personal connection to somebody, knowing that they’re a person you want to work with and they value what you can do and that you value what they do is always important,” said Mollot.


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