Monday, September 29, 2014

4 Simple Ways to Give Back to Your Network

person reaching out to anotherI graduated from college in 2009 in the middle of the financial crisis. At that difficult time for the US economy and my career, there were managers and coworkers that took the time to mentor, provide encouragement and give me a chance. I could not find a full time job by graduation, but was lucky enough to get an internship that summer with Adobe. I learned a lot that summer, but had to keep looking for a full time job because of a hiring freeze. Following the guidance of many mentors, I was able to leverage that internship experience to get a full-time job at Salesforce. Often, I think back on the many people in my professional network that have helped me along the way and are still a part of my evolving career. This got me thinking about what are some of the small things that anyone can do to give back and show appreciation to those in our professional networks. Here are a few ideas that can all take less than 5 minutes.

Respond to an email you forgot about. Maybe someone reached out asking for an introduction, a reference check or perhaps it was a student wanting to learn more about your company. Take 5 minutes right now, write them back and make their day.

Lend your network. Amplify the message of someone in your network by liking or sharing their post on LinkedIn. It could help someone in your network find their next hire or gain a new customer. If the post is great, share the love.

Send a note of appreciation. It does not have to be long, just heartfelt. Handwritten is best, but an email is nice too.

Share a post you know your network will love. Not just some post with a great headline, but something that is truly thoughtful or inspiring. Take a few minutes and really think about what content would resonate most with the people in your network.

I challenge you to take a few minutes today to find a way to give back to your network. If you can think of other great ideas, please share them in the comments.

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Get a Job in Product Marketing

My first job out of college was a entry level web analytics role in the online marketing group of My coworkers were amazing and the company was growing like crazy, but after a year or so I realized the role was not a great fit for me. I spent a few months shopping different roles all over the company. Through conversations with product marketers, and my own observations, it seemed that product marketing was where I wanted to be. I was drawn to it because you get to be strategic, creative, analytical and work on a variety of projects. After a few failed attempts, I was able to transfer into my dream role in product marketing.

Since I made the switch, I often get asked, "how do you get a job in product marketing?". To those of you that are thinking this might be a good fit for you in the future, I've mapped out a few of the common paths to a career in product marketing that I've observed in Silicon Valley.

Transferring within the company- It's not uncommon to get into product marketing from a different role within the company, just as I did. Most commonly this happens from within the marketing department, but I know several people that have come from roles as diverse as sales and PR.

Here is how David James, Director of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies did it.

"My career started in the agency world of public relations and advertising. A technology client hired me to come "in-house" as a marketing generalist. Overnight, I traded working alongside creatives, account services and traffic to collaborating with engineers, product managers and database admins. And I loved it. Slowly, I discovered there was a huge need in marketing to tell a compelling story -- but still know the product inside and out. It was the perfect marriage of marketing creativity and technology know-how. 

Bottomline: If you're in product marketing (or want to get there), know your product/service inside and out. Meet with product managers. Become their friends. Have a seat at the PM table and be the voice of the customer." 

Going to business school- Product marketing is a popular post MBA job. Companies like HP, Intel, Adobe, LinkedIn and Google will take product marketing MBA interns for the summer. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door to a career in product marketing. Many of those same companies will often hire product marketing Managers right out of business school, even if they did not intern there.

Here is how Neal Armstrong, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Symantec did it.

"I came into B-School from the finance industry with almost no marketing experience. To learn more about product marketing I found a class that allowed students to complete projects for local companies to earn class credits. There was a project focused on marketing with Adobe. My credits were already maxed, but I joined the project anyways. Throughout the project I found out more about how vital product marketing was to an organization. I expressed my interest in continuing my work as a summer intern. The Adobe employees I worked with on the project knew I was excited about working with Adobe and they personally recommended me. I had received other internship offers from large tech companies outside of product marketing for the summer. After our final project was presented, the team manager and I sat down and talked. At the end of our discussion, and with other offers in hand, I secured my dream internship and was able to continue my project as MBA Product Marketing intern." 

After some time in consulting- Lots of former consultants end up as Product Marketers, more often than not they had been consulting in a similar industry where they end of working. It's easier to get a product marketing job if you've established some domain expertise your future employer values.

Here is how Elizabeth Maples a Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn did it.

"I went back to get my MBA a few years ago, but I was one of those “nontraditional” applicants: I’d been working on the editorial side of book publishing, where I spent my time searching for new authors to put under contract, and then working with them to turn an early idea into a physical book (ah, the days of physical books!). Coming out of business school, I knew I eventually wanted to get into (non-physical!) media or technology, but still felt like I needed to build on the strategic and analytical skills I’d learned in school. Consulting was a phenomenal training ground—and gave me the chance to work at a number of big companies in the industry. With that experience, I was much better positioned for PMM positions (and I’m loving it now!).

Pro-tips: If you’re taking the consulting route, try to get on product strategy or marketing-related projects in your desired industry. Also look for places that have a history of hiring consultants into PMM roles; they’re most likely to see the parallels in the skill-set."

These are some of the well worn paths, but there is always the road less traveled by. I would love to hear in the comments some of the other ways people have found their way into Product Marketing.