First Movers: Mario Strano

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MARIO STRANO is currently eCommerce Team Lead for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and has worked in CPG eCommerce for the last six years. Prior to Ghirardelli, he held numerous cross-functional roles with both Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products and Enjoy Life Foods. 

A Connecticut native, Mario currently resides in Atlanta Georgia’s historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. When he isn’t working he can be found playing golf, attempting to cook, and hanging with his rescue Pitbull (Ollie). 

Why did you choose to pursue eCommerce in your career? There are many things about eCommerce that intrigued me, but the starting point was the chance for personal and career development through getting outside of my comfort zone. At the time I started eCommerce was new to our industry and something I knew nothing about. Throughout my career I have learned that the biggest growth opportunities usually come from putting yourself in new and uncomfortable situations. 

What is your biggest strength, and how have you used it for your success in eCommerce? Cross-Functional collaboration. I have been fortunate in my career to work across several functional areas and gain exposure to many different perspectives. eCommerce touches every function in a new way and success requires support from the entire organization. The ability to relate has been invaluable. 

What is the weirdest skill or talent to come in handy in your eCommerce experience? FOMO – There is so much eCommerce educational information at our finger tips every single day and in order for me to be a resource for the team it is essential that I stay current. I try and carve out time every day to stay connected through reading, attending webinars and listening to podcasts. 

How have you most successfully influenced change within your organization (or with your clients)? Relating eCommerce principles back to Brick and Mortar whenever possible. While many of the strategies and tactics are new and different, most of the principles and objectives are relatable to what we have been focused on in Brick and Mortar for years. At the end of the day we are working to be visible with our best representation to the consumer wherever they are. I find that when I can help people relate back to what they are familiar with it helps tremendously. 

What was your most “valuable” career failure, and why? Early in my career as a business analyst I took on account responsibility for one of our smaller retailers to gain sales experience. My first ever sales call with the buyer was scheduled for an hour but lasted 15 minutes. I didn’t have enough understanding of the retailer’s goals and programs and most of my meeting content was centered around what I was trying to sell. I learned the valuable lesson of always starting with what’s in it for the consumer and customer and working form there. 

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life? Developing a morning routine that allows me to energize and get into a clear state of mind before starting the workday. 

What are you learning right now? I took improv classes a while back and am starting to pick it back up. It is a fun and different way to build on communication skills. 

What are the 1-3 songs that would make up your career soundtrack today?

  • Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
  • Human by The Killers
  • Imagine by John Lennon

What are the 1-3 books you’ve gifted the most or that have greatly influenced your life, and why?

  • Overthrow II by Adam Morgan and Malcolm Devoy – Great challenger brand examples and a reminder that to continuously evolve we need to think beyond the rules as they exist today.
  • The Earth Diet by Liana Werner-Gray – An awesome guide to clean eating that is very simple and easy to digest (no pun intended). For those rare occasions when I’m not eating amazing Ghirardelli Chocolate.
  • Tiger Traits by Nate Booth Very cool insight into some of the success secrets that guided Tiger Woods early in in his career.  

If you could have a gigantic billboard for the world to see with anything on it, what would it say, and why? “My past and my future depend on today” Trevor Hall – A very easy quote to help me to remember to enjoy the moment.

“Think adopt before you shop” – A plug for all the shelter pups in need of a good home😊

What are the worst recommendations or advice you have heard related to eCommerce? “eCommerce is only an Amazon thing”

“Don’t focus too much on eCommerce, it’s not incremental and only a small part of the business”

What advice would you give to a future leader of change about to enter business, or specifically the eCommerce field? Stay curious, embrace the ambiguity, and think beyond ROAS!

What specific, industry-related change do you believe will happen that few others seem to see? I won’t make any predictions that aren’t already out there but it will be fascinating to see how eCommerce continues to change the landscape of the Grocery store. We have already seen sizeable change with the concept of store fulfilment, but I think we are just scratching the surface. Exciting times!

What is the last thing you bought online, and why? Firewood! For those cold Atlanta winters. 


First Movers is a change leader interview series featuring select industry pioneers who are boldly driving the evolution of digital commerce, the consumer and everything in between.

Categories: First Movers