Alteryx CEO Mark Anderson: ‘Figure Skating Made Me A Better Hockey Player’

In this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast, Anderson applies some surprising lessons from the competitive world of Canadian youth hockey to the craft of leading a rapidly growing data science and analytics company.

As a kid growing up in Toronto, Mark Anderson played a lot of hockey—enough to get his nose broken seven times. So you could say that the sport literally shaped Anderson’s life. As far as shaping his future as a business executive, the very least hockey taught him was to keep his head up. But, as he told Corporate Competitor Podcast, maybe his greatest lesson came from cross training—learning about balance and agility from a figure skater.

“Reaching out and asking for help actually makes you stronger, not weaker, and that’s not something that comes easily to a boy growing up in Canada’s hockey culture,” said Anderson. “But that was a turning point for me in my development as a strong skater and I haven’t forgotten it as a business leader. Going outside of your comfort zone to learn makes you a better leader.”

Anderson continued to learn how to flex “unfamiliar muscles” early in his career as a middle manager at Cisco Systems, where he got in the habit of bringing along some of the company’s leading lights — including legendary leader John Chambers — with him on long drives to sales calls. “Before each call, I loaded up with questions that I’d thought about and prioritized the night before. Then I’d take advantage of the windshield time to be able to learn from an executive. They were generally very open to talking to me about how I could progress my career.”

Now a CEO himself at the advanced data analytics software company Alteryx, Anderson has made professional development—or “upskilling,” as he calls it—a centerpiece of his leadership agenda. In this podcast, Anderson discusses the role upskilling has in allowing Anderson and his leadership to grow Alteryx exponentially by focusing on developing unfamiliar muscles among his team. Listeners will learn:

  • How Anderson implements his doctrine of “zero ambiguity” during projects
  • The employee training program that’s so good universities around the globe are adopting it
  • How Anderson manages stress and signs of burnout in his team
  • Why one size does not fit all when it comes to success.

“You always have to be sharpening the saw,” said Anderson, although in his case it might be more accurate to say sharpening the algorithm. I hope you’ll take the time to sharpen the tool set you rely on in this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    We are in a period of rapid change. Customer needs, technologies, competitors and internal capabilities require companies to review and update their strategies for the new realities. In this workshop, strategy experts Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison will show you a systematic approach to strategic planning to help you refine or redefine your business strategy and approach including:

    • Learn what you need to know to develop an effective strategic plan. Put the right players on the strategic planning team.
    • Develop strategies that leverage your company’s unique position in the marketplace. Lift your management team beyond “business as usual” thought processes and activities.
    • Translate your strategies into action. Achieve your vision for success and generate superior financial results.
    • Identify exactly what you need to do now to position your company for future success.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.