Office Hours: I’m a Product Marketing Manager at Disney+. I’m Ariana Vergara-Johnson. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone!

I’m Ariana Vergara-Johnson. I’m a Product Marketing Manager at Disney+.

As a proud first-generation Peruvian-American and member of the LatinX and LGBTQ+ communities, content and digital media align with my passion for storytelling. I truly believe creative storytelling can make an impact on the status quo and move the needle day by day.

Before Disney+, I attended The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business with concentrations in Economics and Strategic Management. Before that, I was at YouTube Kids as a Content Strategist.

I believe thus far in my career, I have carved a niche for myself in LATAM app launches.

My MBA internship at Disney Streaming Services and my prior employment at YouTube Kids began with the task of launching two very recognizable platforms in Latin America.

I am ESL and, for most of my life, I had seen that as a hindrance. So, the fact that Spanish was the gateway to me ultimately managing GTM launches for YouTube and Disney in EMEA, APAC and LATAM launches was unfathomable.

I have pivoted many times in my life: I am a med school dropout and a former software engineer – who knows where I will go next? I have no doubt that my career will lead me to work in the Product Inclusion Space.

Everyone’s journey looks a little different but you never know what personal experience or tool in your back pocket will make you stand out. My path has been windy and, frankly, I have always taken the path less traveled but it has been an adventure and I would not change it.

In my spare time, I am actively involved in the Business Employee Resource Groups at The Walt Disney Company. I am a Co-Chair for Pride and Latinx In Tech – my side job. It is time-consuming but, also, one of the most rewarding parts of my day: putting on a panel as a moderator on the importance of pronouns or enjoying the Queens of the Castro on zoom along with 400 of my friends. I also love to hike and will never turn down a road trip along with my wife and our two fluff dogs. I am an avid reader, runner, and binge-watcher of all murder documentaries/series/podcasts. I take Halloween and civil rights very seriously and will go out of my way to obtain the perfect venti-soy latté.

Ask me anything about content creation, product marketing, MBA Programs, pivoting career paths, the streaming wars, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @arianavergaraj!Elphas – please ask @arianavergaraj your questions before Friday, October 21st. @arianavergaraj may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Ariana, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I recently entered the big tech arena by reaching out to a recruiter on LinkedIn, however, I still wonder how others enter conversations with big corps. 1. You mentioned working at YouTube Kids and interning at Disney. How were you able to secure a position at YouTube? It sounds like you landed that role before your MBA.2. I got accepted into an MBA program and I'm still wondering if to defer it for a year given my new job. Did the MBA help you secure a conversation with Disney? Was it online or through an in-person recruiting MBA campus event?3. In addition to your careers, do you engage in personal branding and content marketing? How do you overcome the fear of letting your coworkers see what you post?
1. I was working for Khan Academy as a Comp Sci Curriculum lead prior to getting recruited by YouTube. They were looking for someone familiar with the YouTube children's educational space and I was very familiar with it from posting my own videos on MineCraft Java MODS for kids. Frankly, content creation was useful for my job and landed me my next job. I also just am ESL and spanish was my first language which was a must for the recruiter YouTube Kids who was going to launch in LATAM shortly after my start date. 2. I coldly applied to every single PM or PMM MBA internship in the streaming space: honestly I have no idea how many but definitely over 50. Truly, nothing was too small or too big. I did not know anyone at The Walt Disney Company or Disney Streaming prior to getting that internship. The fact that I acquired my job through a MBA internship speaks volumes for what my MBA did for me. I mean it led to my FT offer. 3. Marisol, I am just going to leave this here: I am not afraid of speaking my truth and my voice even at such a corporate company like The Walt Disney Company who has political donations that do not align with my belief system or support politicians I simply do not agree with. I have no problem with my coworkers seeing my post but I am also very good friend with HR at this point because of Disney Say Gay #disneysaygay.
Hi Ariana! Thank you for the thoughtful response. I took a few days to process what the answers would mean for myself and the way I approach my career moving forward. I also looked through your LinkedIn posts and saw that you were part of the founding group who led the campaign and corporate letter for #disneysaygay. It never crossed my mind that I could use the power of social media/LinkedIn to advocate for change at my workplace. I like that you took the courage to do that and I admire disney for engaging in conversations about it. Woohoo for the fact that they paused political donations altogether! -In terms of the MBA, you made a very strong case of how it facilitates internships haha thank you! I'll be doing extra research on which groups and resources I can leverage when my classes start in January.- I'm so happy that you are able to live your latina culture at your workplace. That's a part of my identity I still haven't been able to reconcile with my career but hope to grow into that state of flow between the strengths my cultural background and preparedness and competency at work.I gave you a LinkedIn follow and I'm excited to witness your journey.
Hi Ariana, Thank you for sharing your story and for making yourself available! I'd love to hear your thoughts on carving out that space for yourself for launches and work in the LATAM market. I am currently a UX researcher with a social impact background and, though I work only on US-based projects currently, I ultimately would like to expand to do cross-cultural experience design work in LATAM, the Caribbean, and the US. As it is now, I'm not sure how to pivot into that space, especially with my identity not being a central part of my qualifications, though I am a Spanish and Portuguese speaker and have previously worked and lived in Latin America through short-term service fellowships. Do you have thoughts or tips on how you can position yourself for that work? Do you think that there is anything extra or different you have to do if you are not Latinx?
Hi Kearachill,This was a very thought-provoking question. I honestly took a day to reflect and here are my thoughts: although you may not have working experience, emphasize the short-term service fellowships in ur resumé and if possible make that your story. Every recruiter you come into contact with that has roles or projects concerning LATAM, the Caribbean or the US Latinx experience make them aware you are interested in current roles as well as future ones. Truly, all you need is one international project/launch/work on your resumé and it should become easier. Target roles that you see have a cross collaboration with LATAM and see who those hiring managers are even if it is Linked-IN Stalking. Also feel free to target the individuals who have the UX Researcher roles you are interested in and ask them how they made that leap or if they know of anyone hiring. I do think think accentuating your interest at every opportunity on the career journey can make this happen. Also do not forget to mention that you speak ES/PT.
Thank you so much! That's great advice to get me going in the right direction. I appreciate it!
Thank you for this intro, Ariana! I really enjoy hearing about people's fascinating career pivots. I'd love to hear about your top 3 favorite aspects of product marketing and the 3 most challenging aspects in your opinion. I'd also love to hear: from your perspective, what do you envision the future of marketing will look like in the streaming space? What should marketers be monitoring and/or considering?
Favorites:1. No project is the same (every single one of my days poses new challenges/fire drills/work time). 2. No PMM role is the same (me and my colleagues have very distinct roles on our team). 3. No Company is the same. In other words, if I were to go work for Meta, my PMM role would be drastically different from D+. Challenges: Same as all of the above.Product Marketing is a new space and looks very different at every tech company you can think of. Furthermore, my team-mates are working on very distinct projects from the ones I am working on. In other words, at times, I cannot rely on my manager for guidance because this is an entirely new space w/ new functionalities and features that change daily. We are doing "firsts" at Disney+ all of the time from the first live-stream competition show w/real-time voting (DWTS: Dancing with the Stars) to the first Disney+ global-live stream concert (coming soon to a living room near you). Disney streaming has never done these before so I am paving new paths for all of Product Marketing which can be daunting and overwhelming on some days and incredibly exciting on others. At least for streaming, Ad-tiers, price points and bundling of content services is the future. That space will be dominated by under-cutting prices which has already started between Netflix and Disney+ and there will be ample discussion on the number of ads on said platforms. How those ads take shape and what they look like will be marketing's wheelhouse~impressions are more relevant than ever: Disney's growth marketing team will be determining how much different plans will cost annually but also how much to charge for these ad impressions. Product marketing will evolve as the Metaverse and content-media players improve and making it easier for the subscribers to have a truly one-click experience. The future of marketing on linear tv/google ads will change especially with the onslaught of Gen Z not even using a search engine or yelp to determine where to go, where to eat and answer basic questions: marketers have to determine where their best use of funds will go and be strategic about it. I think the way we use products and platforms will evolve and marketing has no choice but to keep an eye on those trends on how my future subscribers will use my product (now how I do).
Thank you so much for your response! I love that you and others are getting a chance to lead Disney streaming to new heights. Also love the reference to the Metaverse and the reality that as technology evolves and user behavior changes in response (and vice versa), marketers need to be increasingly strategic. We'll need to embrace ambiguity more than we ever have before. Gone may be the days of adhering strictly to the 3-year marketing plan. I do believe an overarching strategy and plan is great to have but I also believe that with today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, experimentation is more important than ever and strategy lies just as much in the every day decisions we make. Thus, stakeholder alignment and collaboration/feedback from people of diverse backgrounds are critical factors to success. Thanks again!
Hi, Ariana - What's a good thing you're doing in this role that you didn't anticipate?
Hi Morgan, Truly I never thought I would see myself as an activist. Now frankly, I am very much an activist in the LGBTQIA+ and LatinX space at work. From the "Don't Say Gay Bill" passing in FL affecting Disney employees in Orlando, FL to the progressive nature of language like a term "LatinX", I am very involved at The Walt Disney Company and have spoken up many many times in many rooms I never thought I would be in. I have chatted with the CEO Bob Chapek about Disney Say Gay and the Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton on the importance of "LatinX" as a term publicly and privately for so many humans! I say I have a daytime job and a night job, the night job would be the Employee Resource Groups at Disney Streaming.
As someone else who is in Florida and disgusted at the bill, thank you for speaking about it. I'm a big fan of WDAS, and was disheartened to see them donate to it. Can't wait for Strange World next month.
ME NEITHER +1 on all of the above. With full transparency, I was the cast member who started the petition within Disney Streaming for #DisneySayGay eventually we had over 10k signatures. It was a big moment in the company and although change does not happen as quickly as I would like, Disney now has to disclose all fiscal donations to political campaigns to employees and has paused all political donations indefinitely.
Hi @arianavergaraj, thank you for being authentic and your refreshing intro. Sometimes our life's journey is not a straight line. What are some of the best tools you have used to manage product launches? And what advice would you give to someone getting ready to go to market?
Progress is perfection: whether that is personal progress, project progress, a pivot before launch that you do not see coming is useful. Every decision even that doubt is a step in the right direction to progress towards that LAUNCH. My best tool is communication on so many of my international launches I have found that at times slack or teams or emails simply do not cut it, a meeting in which everyone has an agenda and we can align has been by far the best tool in my repertoire even if that means I am up at 4 AM in the morning. Communication truly is so cliché but so essential to any XFnal project!
Thank you @arianavergaraj!
Hi Ariana - I'm a former SWE, now PM who's interested in PMM responsibilities and the unique impact they can have on the business . How did you know that it was the space you wanted to be in?
Hello Sumedha,Frankly, I didn't know. It was a gamble ;). Product Marketing can mean so many things at so many companies: for me, personally, it is a space that is braving a new world in terms of truly voicing the subscriber, the user or the customer. Keeping them in mind at all times. The fact that I did an internship at Disney Streaming prior to accepting the FT offer definitely helped. That being said, my role has changed since I started. I led the GTM launch for Disney_ LATAM during my internship. Continued to do launches in APAC once I was hired and now am working on Disney+ Live. Product Marketing will look different wherever you go and each project as always will pose a new challenge. But truly, I had no idea if I would or would not like it!