How I got my job in tech marketingFeatured

Six months ago, I started my current position as Growth Lead at Hugo, a San Francisco-based tech startup that is building a platform that centralizes meeting notes and makes them accessible to day-to-day tools. The hunt to find this job required a few steps, but they apply not only to people in growth and marketing, but to anyone looking for a position in tech.Don’t bank on only your formal educationPerhaps the worst mistake I made as I was beginning my career was thinking that I had enough knowledge about businesses and marketing to get started. A degree in business economics does very little to prepare someone to actually do well in industry. After recognizing just how little I knew, I decided to continue my education on my own. I determined that I wanted to work specifically on tech startup growth and moved out to San Francisco participated in a coding bootcamp and learned enough to communicate better with engineers, shadowed many early stage founders working on building their companies, chatted with some mid-stage founders to learn what success would look like, and figured out the latest trends in marketing. Of course, the real education began on the job. My first real, full time job helped me figure out a few key things. 1. Potential clients and customers (and even seasoned industry leaders) cringe at the term, “marketing.” Mostly, it’s because they tend to associate the word with spam and irritating communication in which they want no part. 2. Marketing is not about throwing idea-soup at a wall and hoping it sticks and starts randomly generating money. 3. You should always approach your marketing endeavor with the scientific method. Ask you question and gather your information, develop and test your hypothesis, analyze your resulting data, and determine success. 4. Don’t be afraid to be creative. For the most part (this depends on your audience), your customers don’t want to hear you drone on and on about each feature of your product. To build your brand, you should talk about the things people feel strongly about. Those feelings are what you need to recreate in their minds in connection with your product.Going to college can be very important, but you must be prepared for all the teaching you have to do for yourself. Your degree, as beautiful and pristine as it may be, is not enough.Find your differentiatorOh, you know how to use Google Analytics? You have experience with Twitter Ads? You’re Hubspot certified? That’s great! It really is, because it gives you really solid footing in technical processes. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea as you. The things you thought were setting you apart are just the bare minimum that is now expected. What can you bring to the table that’s new and unique? For me, that differentiator was to avoid marketing myself as a Jack-of-all-trades. I did need to be the Jack-of-all-trades, but I also needed to be a Master of at least one. Instead of pretending to be amazing at everything in the realm of marketing, I decided to focus on content creation, brand development, and experiment-driven marketing as I was looking for my current job. This, in addition to the fact that I specifically wanted a remote position, made it possible to narrow down all the ideal companies to a few.Don’t give up after ten applicationsEven after narrowing down to companies with potential, I faced over a hundred options that fit the bill. I’ve had so many friends and colleagues that applied to no more than three positions at a time, became extremely attached to the brands, and then became completely discouraged when they were rejected. Then by the time they reached 10 applications total, they were completely burned out emotionally.I made this mistake toward the beginning of my career, too. Then I got a little older and a little smarter. The more applications you send out, the more the laws of probability will be on your side. I found that when I applied with my own personal agenda - things I wanted to do next in my career - I found myself less attached to brands and more attached to my mission. I applied to countless companies and ended up with 12 interviews and 3 offer letters. Pick the position that will make you better, not just your resumeMy own personal agenda was to focus more on gender equity in tech, so I was looking for a company that had a product that could be branded in a way that could put this issue front and center while also generating benefits for the company itself. I also specifically wanted to work somewhere that would let me really stretch my creative muscles and do some great writing without pushing out of the numbers game entirely. Hugo, the company I work at now, had all of these things. The other two companies I had offers from were much larger and would definitely turn more heads on my resume, but they wouldn’t have helped me work toward my personal goals. Keep reflecting even after you’ve accepted the positionThe work doesn’t end once you start your position. It is important to keep looking back at that personal agenda and making sure that you are still in a position to work toward it. Today, I’m in a remote position at the company that gives me complete creative freedom and am currently working on a Gender Equity in Tech campaign that lets me work on exactly the kind of messaging that I intended to.Luckily, I made a pretty good decision, but that won’t always be the case. Women, in particular, need to become better at saying “no” when they don’t get what they are promised. My hope is that fewer of us will find it necessary to stay where we are rather than find something where we are a better fit.Swati is a writer, digital strategist, and brand enthusiast. She is currently the Growth Lead at Hugo and is also passionate about gender equity in tech, abolishing the phrase, “marketing bullshit,” and making startup growth strategies accessible to all entrepreneurs. She consults pro-bono for small businesses and nonprofits and writes about things that matter (and things that don’t) in her free time.
whitneycaneel's profile thumbnail
Hi Swati!Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with the Elpha community! This really resonated with me, "Women, in particular, need to become better at saying “no” when they don’t get what they are promised". I for one, can absolutely relate to this. Saying no has taken practice for me; the more I exercise my "no's" the easier and more rewarding it has become. It's sharing experiences like yours, on platforms like Elpha that really help women gain perspective on similar situations they may find themselves in. Thanks again for sharing!
swatik's profile thumbnail
Thanks for reading, Whitney! I absolutely agree that sharing personal experiences is valuable and I'm glad more of us are able to do so with tools like Elpha :).
Yami's profile thumbnail
Hi Swati, thanks for sharing your experience. Particularly found helpful the bit on applying to many companies and having the law of probability on your side as well as not getting attached to brands/companies. I'm currently seeking for a new job and I think I may have gotten attached to the idea of working with a specific brand but recently I decided to try out many different options and see how that goes. Reading this in a way kind of affirmed that decision.
swatik's profile thumbnail
So glad you thought so, Yami! Being more positive through the job search is so important for our mental health.
kuan's profile thumbnail
Thank you Swati for sharing your job hunting journey and lessons with us! We're excited to feature more public posts written by Elpha members.If you're down to share your story on how you got your job, lessons learned, and surprises along the way, send us your draft [email protected]
Sharia's profile thumbnail
This right here!! Thank you so much for being straight up honest. I've been feeling very discouraged after a few interviews. Maybe I am not fit for the job? Maybe I am not good enough? Maybe they can't see my potential? However, im allowing myself to trust the process. Reading this has been very helpful. Thank YOU!
swatik's profile thumbnail
Laws of probability! You'll find something amazing soon. Thanks for reading :).
jessicagrayson's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for sharing this. There is very tangible and helpful information provided here!
larissachern's profile thumbnail
Hi Swati!Thank you so much for sharing your experiences so thoughtfully and eloquently. I'm currently in tech and have experience with product management and success/account management. I'm interested in learning more about marketing—wondering what resources you'd recommend checking out.Thank you!
swatik's profile thumbnail
Hi Larissa, so sorry about the late reply! I think it’s so great that you want to take the time to learn cross functionally :). Too many people become departmentally siloed. In terms of resources, there are some EdX and Coursera classes on marketing analytics and statistics that I’ve found very useful. I also learned a lot by reading Neil Patel’s content almost obsessively for several months :D. The most useful thing, however, is always to find a mentor or expert friend to walk you through a project or two. The tech industry changes so rapidly, as you know, that an article or book written even a year ago could have already become largely irrelevant. The people working on the front line and creating those cutting edge methods and strategies are the best sources of information.
larissachern's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much, Swati! This is so helpful :)