My Path to Career Coach and VP of Marketing and Operations at Hive – Pooja HoffmanFeatured

Hi Elphas! I’m the VP of Marketing and Operations at Hive, a productivity platform powering teams at Starbucks, Uber, WeWork and Marriott.I started my career in marketing for higher education. I worked at a college in the Boston area for about 4.5 years and was part of the team that ran the college's first ever national brand campaign. While the college had been around for several years, I was directly involved in a complete rebrand for the school which fueled my love for startups and establishing a brand for a new company. During my time in this job, I also went back to school part-time for my MBA to deepen my business skills.Since returning to NYC a few years ago (I grew up outside of the city), I've really focused my career on B2B marketing in tech. I've always loved tech and as teenager taught myself to code and design websites as a side job so it was a natural transition. My love for marketing, coupled with my MBA, has led me to my current role of VP of Marketing and Operations at Hive, a NYC startup that provides project and process management software.Outside of work, I am also a Certified Professional Career Coach. As a woman and a minority, I'm really passionate about closing the gaps in the workplace so I started coaching to help individuals put their best foot forward in their careers and learn how to ask for what they deserve. I also love to write fiction, am an avid television viewer, and a huge fan of the Patriots.Ask me anything about startups, team building, scaling a team, diversity, women in technology, working with a coach, marketing, operations, career growth, or something else!
Thank you for sharing your journey! I'm particularly interested in your journey because I have been thinking about getting certified as a coach, I'm extremely passionate about it, but at the moment, I don't have plans to make that a full-time role.How do you juggle the full-time role and coaching? Is it a "part-time" role for you? Do you take on clients? Are you doing work around coaching through writing, speaking or some other means? I'd love to hear more about how your coaching experience helps you in your current role (I imagine it is extremely beneficial, especially when managing a team).I'm really interested in which coaching program you went through. I'm in the resource process at the moment :)I could have so many questions, but I'll leave it at those for now! Thank you for sharing.
I currently coach part-time on nights and weekends. I’ve been able to juggle both by being cautious of how many clients I take on at a time - some months I have several and other months I won’t coach at all. Between my job and personal life, I’ve learned the balance of how much I can take on at any time. It did take some time to learn the balance though - definitely overcommitted my first few months of coaching! I would recommend starting with fewer clients than you think you can handle and scale up vs. the other way around. I have also done some public speaking and writing around coaching but it is certainly something I want to find time to do more of! I completed my coaching program through the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC). I definitely find coaching to be extremely beneficial in managing a team. One of the main areas of focus with clients is helping them establish career goals and determine a path to get there. This is very similar to managing team members and helping them advance within a company.
Also, a born and raised Bostonian and avid patriots fan here as well! You have a very impressive background and would love to know how you define your role specifically in operations as I often find it to be quite ambiguous with each company?
Great question! I consider operations to be the areas that keep the business running efficiently. I view operations as being able to empower the business and team to perform at their best while ensuring we are maximizing profits. At Hive that includes company level reporting to spot opportunities and inefficiencies, managing our finances, empowering our talent, and maintaining a physical space that encourages productivity.
Thanks so much for your response!
Thank you for sharing your story and joining us for AMA. I'm interested in your Career Coaching advice because I am curious about a career pivot. I currently work as an Art Curator for the Department of State (my office curates the art collections for US Embassies worldwide). My education background is in Fashion Merchandising and Art History. But after 7 years in this job as an art curator my interests have moved to health and wellness and digital marketing and tech. I'm curious about making a career pivot into digital and content marketing with the desire to work with wellness brands, spiritual coaches,. My plan is to take online courses in this area but I'm wondering if it's realistic that a company would hire a self-taught marketer just getting started in her early 30s.
I would focus on honing your content marketing skills through personal blogging, guest blogging, SEO and social media. While coursework can help as well, experience is key for marketing so it’s important to show you are familiar with digital marketing platforms and content marketing strategies. I have worked with several content marketers who may not have the typical marketing background, or formal training, but are able to hone their skills in their personal endeavors and make a successful career switch into marketing.
Thank you for the advice @poojahoffman
I would love to hear more about how you made the decision to go back to school and how the MBA has impacted your career. I went to school for journalism and have been working in media/startups ever since, but I've been thinking about going back for an MBA for awhile. Would love any insight on this! Thanks so much!
I did my undergraduate degree in Film Production, and while I did minor in marketing, I felt that I was lacking a foundational education in marketing and business that I needed to advance in my career. I made the decision to pursue my MBA to fill this gap in my skills.I personally found it extremely beneficial to pursue my MBA part-time while working. As I already had a job in marketing, I was able to take the classroom learnings and apply them to the work environment right away. However, if you are looking to change careers, a full-time MBA is also a great avenue to consider as you can intern in your desired field which helps build experience and make connections for making that career change post graduation.
Thank you for being here Pooja. I am currently rounding up my MBA program and I focused on International Marketing. I have skills in digital marketing and my area of interest is in tech companies. I would love some out of the box advise on how to build a career in marketing especially in the B2B sector.
One of the most important skills a marketer brings to the table is his or her ideas. Don’t be afraid to share them! Find companies and jobs you are interested in and do your research - could they do a better job with content? Is their website confusing? Did you sign up for their product and find the onboarding communication flow lacking? Include these ideas in your cover letter, job applications, interviews, etc. Too often people rely on just their resume to open doors while forgetting they have the opportunity to showcase their skills directly by highlighting areas a company can improve and explaining you would go about improving them if given the chance.
Thank you!
Hi Pooja, I'm a product marketer from San Francisco, and I'm having a hard time finding a new role. I moved to NYC from SF about a year ago. What advice do you have for finding B2B roles in marketing in tech because it seems there are fewer jobs because there are fewer tech companies and startups. Second, should I stop calling myself a product marketing manager and just say I more generally do "marketing"?
The tech scene in NYC has been growing rapidly and there are some great websites - AngelList, BuiltinNYC, etc. that curate jobs in the tech industry in New York and should help in your job search. I would also recommend creating two versions of your resume - one that really focuses on your product marketing skills and one that focuses on your general marketing skills. There is a lot of value in having deep product marketing experience but you likely have skills that also translate to marketing as a whole. Just remember - you are in control of your professional brand and message. If the situation calls for you to show one skill more than another, that is fine, don’t feel like you have to make a choice to define yourself as just one type of marketer.
Thanks, Pooja for your thoughts. I had not heard of BuiltinNYC, but I am very familiar with AngelList. So, what I'm hearing is that you recommend I should apply to general "marketing" jobs? Or you're saying it just depends. It's not that I want to define myself, it's that I don't want to boil the ocean and apply for every marketing role. I'm trying to understand what I need to do to get a senior marketing role.
I'm really interested to hear more about the coaching side of your work. If you could recommend a few foundational texts for you in your approach to coaching, what would they be?
This is a great question! To be honest, I have found discussions with other coaches, hiring managers, and job seekers to be the most useful in shaping my approach to coaching. I am an active member of several professional communities and constantly read interviews and AMAs on sites like Elpha, GrowthHackers, The Muse, and more. While there are frameworks that can be helpful to get started, I have found it most useful to shape my materials and approach based on feedback from real people. My first several clients were friends and family who provided great feedback to shape my style before I started fully working with clients.
Hey,Fellow Pooja and marketer here. :) I also happen to lead growth at start-ups and scale-ups. I'm always curious to hear what fellow marketers think about as they scale. On that note, here are my questions:1. What are your biggest challenges when scaling? 2. What are some things you consider as you try to overcome them?Thanks,Your Namesake ;)
Great name :) I think one of the biggest challenges that startups face when scaling is standing out in a crowded space. With smaller budgets than the bigger players, we have to be creative on how we reach prospective customers. At Hive we have found that content has been vital for this growth. We have seen a lot of success in utilizing our resources to create great content, maximize its distribution through strategic partnerships, and optimize our visibility through a strong SEO strategy.
Hi Pooja! Raj here. I started a web-based business about a year ago catering to the South Asian American wedding industry and it's been a hard road. The goal of the site was to differentiate ourselves by focusing completely on the brides, whereas we found other businesses to be focused more on the vendors. In the past year we spent a lot of time talking to vendors and felt that in order to generate revenue we needed to cater to them in some capacity to get them to pay for memberships for our site. We rolled out our paid plans this past month and had zero upgrades which completely shook our confidence and has us questioning if this is even the right path for monetization. Some of their reasons included concerns about how user-friendly the site was for *them* (logging in, updating info, etc; not the point of the site but a perk of the theme we used to build it), and interest in a referral/recommendation channel directly to brides beyond just being visible on our site (we don't want to blindly recommend vendors and lose authenticity with brides). We're realizing that perhaps we unveiled this plan too soon, but now we're also wondering if having vendors pay to be in the site is a viable revenue model to begin with (they're paying to be on other sites, bridal shows, etc; and it forces us to be beholden to them in many ways). Now we're focusing more on creating original content (blogs, vlogs), and our social media engagement rather than vendors, and communicating with brides directly to help them find vendors that best fit their needs and desires (concierge-like service). And we're also thinking we should just abandon this idea of having vendors pay to be on the site and focus on adding vendors for free, ensuring they have good information on their page and are easily accessible to brides. So basically at this point we don't even have a great idea of where the money will come from and are honed in on building traffic to the site and building influence in our niche. Overall, we're feeling pretty discouraged and lost and are unsure if this is the right step to take. Are we pivoting too soon? Would you even consider this a pivot? None of us having startup experience and we got into this because we were passionate about helping brides in a way that we feel no one else is (unbiased recommendations and support). Any advice you can offer is greatly greatly appreciated!
Thanks so much for joining us for an AMA, Pooja!Please reply in the comments with your questions for Pooja and she'll answer them next Tuesday, April 23th. She may not have time to answer all questions, so please react with emojis to the ones you're most interested in.