7 Questions with CHIEF CTO Clay Marshall

On the heels of last week’s big announcement we sat down with CHIEF’s new CTO, Clay Marshall, to give readers a glimpse into his brave background and big ideas for the future. We’re excited to have his leadership and vision—as well as our new West Coast operations—to catapult CHIEF in our quest to work smarter, dream bigger and deliver better solutions for our clients. But it wouldn’t be a CHIEF Q&A without some fun, out-there kinds of questions thrown in the mix too. So read on to learn more about Clay, his almost 30 year relationship with CHIEF and what he says are the must-see spots in Portland (besides the new CHIEF office, that is.)  

Scott Johnson (CHIEF Co-Founder) recently described you as CHIEF employee #2, tell us how you got connected with the agency and how the industry has evolved since those early days?

A little over 26 years ago, I was splitting my time working as an assistant art director at the Washington City Paper and as a graphic designer at a small design firm focused on nonprofit organizations. Scott hired me for a freelance project, and following the completion of that project, took me on as a full-time employee to work with him and Margaret at their home office in Northwest DC. At that time, the company was known as Rock Creek Publishing Group and I was their second employee.

As the industry evolved, so did the business. Scott and Margaret are great at seeing trends in the marketplace and adapting to make the most effective business decisions. It’s hard to predict what’s next, the industry today is drastically different than what it was 25 years ago and in 10 years it’ll be drastically different than it is currently. One thing’s for certain—CHIEF will continue to evolve its capabilities and expertise to respond to industry needs and I’m excited to be a part in driving this momentum forward.

How did you first discover your passion for technology?

Technology has been part of my work in some form since the very beginning. When I was a junior in high school, I had a friend who had just been accepted to Drexel University. Drexel was one of the universities in Apple’s newly created Apple University Consortium and the first member of the consortium to require every student to use the Macintosh.

So in the Summer of 1983 I was able to first use an Apple Macintosh computer and have a brief glimpse into the future of technology and graphic design. In 1987, I was in school studying Art and delivering papers for the Washington City Paper. One morning, a production supervisor at the paper was shorthanded and asked if anyone had ever used a Mac. I jumped at the chance to gain some real-life graphic design experience and began working on creating advertisements and eventually page layouts for the City Paper.

That process of opportunity and discovery with technology solutions has driven me for over 30 years and continues today.

Do your tech skills/preferences trickle into other aspects of your life, besides work?

Technology will always evolve, but its benefits will not. Technology is about fulfilling needs, and I’m always looking for the best tools for the job. It’s no different than what I look for in my daily life. From how I choose to interact with entertainment at home, to the comfort and convenience of the car I drive, to the team scheduler I use to remind a bunch of forgetful high schoolers about their upcoming soccer games. Mostly they just have to work.

What excites you most about becoming CTO and leading CHIEF’s West Coast office?

For the past 15 years I have been working as a technical consultant for CHIEF, while also running a team of developers out here in Portland, OR. I am most excited about taking on a role in which I can focus 100% of my attention on working with all of the talented and dedicated team members at CHIEF to further define our technical vision, broaden our capabilities and expand our business on the West Coast.

Before working at CHIEF, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

I have had quite a few jobs—fortunately, no other job has been as unusual or interesting as working with Scott Johnson for 26 years.

What is something few people know about you?

My first name is David.

Okay, this last question is self-serving… What do you enjoy most about living in Portland, and what are the “must-sees” for CHIEF’s DC city dwellers?

Portland is perhaps the most livable city I have ever been to. Amazing restaurants, pubs, parks, schools and even work are all in walking distance of my home in Northeast Portland. However, when visitors come to town it’s just as convenient to drive 75 minutes West of the city through the Columbia Gorge—its waterfalls and 11,000 foot Volcano—as it is to go skiing, snowshoeing or hiking. An hour and a half in the other direction will put you at the Oregon Coast and Highway 101. It’s full of outdoor adventures.


Kudos Clay, and a big CHIEF welcome to our new West Coast team! We’re proud to have you on board, driving our passion for brilliant work to new heights. Better, faster, smarter—we can’t wait to bring the bravery to Portland, and beyond.

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