Office Hours: I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Unity. I’m Carol Carpenter. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Carol Carpenter, Chief Marketing Officer at Unity.

Before Unity, I served as the Chief Marketing Officer at VMware and other executive roles at Google, Trend Micro, and Apple. I’ve worked in both large companies and some small companies, three of which were sold and one completely dissipated into thin air.

While I’ve been CEO of a small company and GM for a global company, I’ve always gravitated back to Marketing. Marketing is the glue for successful companies that recognize that customer journeys are more than just the technology. It is an essential core of strategy.

During my downtime, I enjoy fishing, boating, diving, wordle-ing, and walking with my husband and dog. My favorite things to do are hang out with friends and family. Time is our precious resource, and I try to make sure I’m using it wisely.

Ask me anything about marketing strategy, category creation, product marketing, community building, leadership, managing a team, mentorship, advocacy, go-to-market strategy, team building, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @carolcarpenter!Elphas – please ask @carolcarpenter your questions before Friday, April 19th. @carolcarpenter may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Carol, first off thank you for taking the time to do this. It is always inspiring to see such an accomplished female executive :) My question for you is about the new take on "Imposter Syndrome." Reshma Saujani at Smith College's 2023 Commencement speech talks about how the "syndrome" is rooted in misogyny and is used to make women feel like we have something wrong with us that we need to fix/overcome. We should instead focus less on fixing ourselves and more on the systematic issues within a company/team that made us feel unwelcome in the first place. I thought this was interesting because a lot of women even on this platform are marketing themselves as coaches to help women overcome Imposter Syndrome. What is your perspective on this new take?
Thank you for this question. Perhaps imposter syndrome is rooted in misogyny. Aren't almost all our social norms rooted in a patriarchal system? No matter. I'm not educated enough to go deeper on this. But I do want to opine on where we should be taking agency and also where we should be helping companies address the systematic issues. The answer is both.I have had both men and women working for me and around me who admit to some level of imposter syndrome. It's natural when we are pushing ourselves to learn and to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Here is what I've observed in my 30 years of working:1. Women will often voice or share their doubts. I've seen this in one-on-ones and also in group settings. Phrases like, "this may be a minor observation..." "this may be secondary..." "perhaps you've already heard this..." "I'm not sure if this is relevant..." This is a clear area where we need work. We undermine ourselves before we even get going.2. Men naturally advocate more for themselves than women. Most companies have an annual performance review. I have rarely had a woman come to me proactively and tell me about their many accomplishments and why they deserve and above-average merit increase. And I have had many men do this.I can keep going with these type of examples where I do believe we have agency and need to take action.At the company level, keep giving feedback. Ask your leaders, both male and female, to mentor and support each other and especially those who are early career. Ask your leaders to examine the way meetings are run, the way promos are done, the ways calibration is done, etc. Be respectful and demanding.
Hi Carol! Do you have any advice on how to navigate criticism and controversy towards products and company decisions? I'm newer to the product space, and so this dynamic is really unfamiliar to me. I believe in our products and services, but criticism can be brutal, and I'd love to get your perspective on building resilience amidst outcry from a passionate community of customers.
Hi Hollie64! You must be living a parallel life to me. The positive about criticism and controversy is that your customers and community must care a lot about your company's products and services. The flipside is that it is really hard to receive criticism. And if you care about the customers and community members, then it's hard to compartmentalize or move forward.My team and I talk quite a bit about focusing on what we can control. 1. How much of the feedback is accurate and fair? This is subjective, but figuring out which feedback is relevant is the first step. Stripping away the vitriol, what feedback is needed for the team and what can we learn from this. Hopefully your team is learning from the parts that are fair.2. Identify what parts you can control or influence and what you can do to address the situation. This sounds easier than it is. Your team should work on the parts you can control. 3. Remember that in history and in business specifically, discontinuous change (aka innovation) never happens without waves. In tech specifically, no step forward has occurred without friction. Think about the number of business model changes. Think about the moment we went from vinyl to CDs to streaming. Think about the first SaaS products. Remember the outcry when Netflix stopped the red envelopes. Now, not every change is that discontinuous. Hang in there.
Thank you so much! This is incredibly helpful and encouraging. And I know will take a lot of practice. But I feel like I have a starting point now. Really appreciate your time and insight.
Hi Carol,Excited to hear from you. I have a few marketing related questions. I work in media and entertainment and there has been a recent resurgence in gaming IP bridging the gap to film and TV. In your opinion does Unity have a role in supporting the leap to film and TV and how so? And how does Unity field partnerships in this space? How can we get materials to you?
Hi Carol! With your expertise, I'm curious: what are some key strategies for professionals looking to transition into the tech industry, particularly in PR and marketing?Personally, after seven years in the media and international NGO sectors, I'm excited to embark on a new professional adventure
Hi - I think of our careers on three axis: 1) functional expertise 2) domain experience 3) customer insights. I have always found it easier to change one at a time, maybe two at a time. Given your PR experience (functional expertise), your skills should be transferable - perhaps media and international in non-NGO sectors? I wish you all the best in your future transition.
Love this, Carol! As a Community builder a bit newer in my experience I am wondering what trends or key insights you have for 2024? I am a Community Manager in the B2B space, charged with proposing a strategy for 2024. Our company just kicked off a Customer Advoacy program without even considering Community, we have a full dedicated Knowledge Base, and a separate webinar program. I heard once from the Director at Asana "if you only have a forum you are excluding people from your Community" so I am trying to figure out what's left for Community? Looking forward to your insights!
Your post resonates deeply with me, as I’m recently embarking on a similar journey. I transitioned from being a GM overseeing sales and marketing for a small company to taking on the role of COO at a technology training firm in Ghana.The shift has been daunting, and I find myself grappling with feelings of uncertainty and fear, despite my prior experience. Your expertise in marketing is admirable, and I believe your insights could provide invaluable guidance as I navigate this new terrain.I would greatly appreciate any advice or words of wisdom you could share to help me thrive in my new role.
Congrats on your new role of COO and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.We all have imposter syndrome, more or less at different times. That nagging voice on our shoulder that feeds our doubts and diminishes our confidence. Identify and it and send it to the closet. I hope you have some mentors -- other COOs -- who you could find and share your challenges with. It's important to find other experts in your area with whom to bounce ideas around. Is there a local network or even a virtual COO group you might join?
Thanks for the encouragement. Currently, I'm navigating this new role solo without a defined mentor or support group. However, I'm actively seeking guidance and insights from various platforms like this one. Your support is invaluable, and I'm committed to facing any doubts head-on as I embrace this challenge.
Hi @carolcarpenter thanks for doing the AMA!I'm a marketer with about 10 years of experience and I'm curious- Was there a pivotal moment in your career that helped you gain clarity on what you wanted to do, and what was it?- What is a skill that may not be so obvious to have, but has been a huge differentiator for you as a CMO?- What are some B2B companies you think are killing it right now from a product marketing, marketing strategy, or GTM strategy perspective? (would love 1 of each if you have them to point out!)- What do you think is one thing marketers should always be doing, no matter your level?Thanks so much!
Thank you for asking these questions.1. Pivotal moment? Hmm I don't know that there was a pivotal moment, but there were a few that shaped my career.a. In business school, it seemed the majority of the class was going to be consultants or investment bankers. I knew I didn't want to do either of those two roles. Tech was still nascent - but I liked the fact it was less traditional, more meritocracy - more of a place that a woman could carve out new roles.b. Another pivotal moment was after I sold the company where I was the CEO. I was contemplating what next, and I realized "hey I really love marketing. I love figuring out product-market fit. I like figuring out the competitive positioning. I like figuring out the strategic gtm. I enjoy running all the channels of communication to the community and to customers."2. Skill that has been a huge differentiator? I do believe that having been a GM (with full P&L) and a CEO sharpened my business acumen and made me a better marketer. It moved me from vanity metrics to sanity metrics, focusing on marketing activities that make a business difference.
3. B2B companies who are crushing it right now?I really like how GitLab approaches product marketing. They are tightly tied in with product and customers. They run a tight SaaS, data-driven model.On marketing strategy - I'm quite pleased with the work we've done at Unity to unify our teams with an integrated GTM strategy with fewer key focus areas. Requires deeper alignment with Sales and Product, but so far it's gaining traction and producing results.I do like some of the Snowflake marketing and positioning from the past year.4. One thing marketers should always be doing?Advocating for the customer! Be the customer voice in every way. Your customers aren't sitting in your internal meetings, but you are. You have that responsibility.
Thanks for taking your time to do this @carolcarpenter! I've been working in marketing for 10 years at early and mid stage companies. Any advice for how to prepare for a VP/CMO role in the future? Are there any classes you took / podcasts you listened to or did you have mentors? Can you share any insights from growing from IC to manager to executive leader?
HI Amy. At some point you will go from "me" to "we" in your career, where the value of the team's impact is greater than your individual impact. Perhaps you're already there. It's an exciting transition. I was fortunate to have a few mentors who helped me think about how to grow into a VP/CMO role. Most were mentors from outside the company where I worked and a few years ahead of me in terms of career progression. They were invaluable in providing context and bigger picture thinking. The exception is that there was one VP in another group adjacent to mine who was a good internal mentor (more about navigating the politics of the company). I often find myself asking myself "what would he think" in many business situations. Go "interview" other VPs you respect. When you frame your ask as learning, most people will give you the time and their advice. There weren't any specific podcasts at the time, although there are so many good ones now on leadership. A few books still stick with me that are about leadership and teams. Lenconi's Five Dysfunctions of Teams. True North.
Hi Carol! I'd love your take on building online you think their moment has passed post-pandemic or are they still thriving? It seems as though there is a strong push towards more IRL engagements... what do you think this means for the future of online communities?
Hello! IRL engagements have definitely come back, and there is always value in face-to-face interactions. That said, connecting and engaging with communities is still a multi-model activity. Our dev community is still quite active online in Discussions, Discord, Github and social, so we are still very focused on providing technical content to them in these online channels. If you are a global company, those online communities are still useful to them for sharing info and getting help.
Hi Carol - what is your advice on marketing and growth to bootstrapped solo woman owned businesses that have no marketing budget? I started 2 yeas ago and have been having a steady stream (few lows) of customers each month, but no real growth.
Having been in small businesses with limited budgets, I recommend two things that I would focus on if I were you. You didn't mention if your business is b2b or b2c, but regardless I would focus on 1) an influencer strategy. Who are the key influencers for your product at both the local and the online level? Can you seed them, get positive feedback, amplify that feedback (better yet, have them amplify), and start the virtuous viral word of mouth? I suggest you also 2) look at PR strategies that may include media stories, blogs, social -- but this requires content. Do you have good content (e.g. customer stories, product stories, how-to tips, etc)? Pls share more detail and I can provide more specific suggestions.
Really excited to have you here on Elpha with us! I'm curious from your experience if you have any thoughts on marketing strategies that seem to be underrated or surprisingly effective? A broad question I know, so any examples you can think of would be much appreciated!
Content marketing. Content is queen in this connected, social world. Great succinct content (e.g. how-to tips, customer stories, how I built this, educational material) is so greatly valued by customers and users. The other area my team is experimenting with is GenAI. So many use cases, so many tools. We are definitely learning a lot and figuring out where GenAI can be helpful. We're using a GenAI tool for developing our landing pages for SEO and tuning campaign copy. We're also looking at how we can take a big piece of content (like a keynote) and then have AI chunk it up into relevant pieces of content for various channels. Lots to learn!