If Anyone Was born to be in marketing, it’s John Zanarella. His parents ran a marketing firm from their home in Ossining, and from an early age, the 27-year-old answered the phone with, “Zanzarella Marketing.” By the time he was 8 years old, he was helping his parents run trade shows.
Zanzarella’s first (official) job in the business, as marketing coordinator for White Plains law firm Jackson Lewis P.C., came right after he earned his BS in Marketing, Information Systems, from Fairfield University. There was no time for a learning curve. “During my first week on the job, my boss had me in meetings with top partners in the firm,” he recalls. A few months later, Zanzarella attended the firm’s top annual client event at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina—a dream gig for him, a golf lover—where he mingled with lawyers and corporate counsel from big-name firms like Pfizer. The next year, the firm picked Zanzarella to run the event, and it’s stayed under his command thereafter. (He still coordinates it as an independent contractor.)
Pinehurst also provided the backdrop to Zanzarella’s connection with his current boss, Chris Dessi, the entrepreneur behind White Plains social-media marketing agency Silverback Social. After seeing Zanzarella in action at the golf event, Dessi tapped him to help launch the Westchester Digital Summit in 2013. Today, as Silverback’s CMO, Zanzarella is Dessi’s right-hand man. His responsibilities include producing the Summit, along with heading up business development, branding, operations, finance, and logistics for the startup.
“Chris is the big thinker, and I’m the nuts-and-bolts guy who makes sure those ideas get executed,” Zanzarella says. It’s not surprising, then, that the Wunderkind has a succinct formula for success: “Always network, and don’t be afraid to take some risks.”