Thursday, May 16, 2019

Life changes

I got a new job.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will remember that I DNF'ed (did not finish) the Shamrock Marathon due to "life stress" occurring in the week leading up to the race. That life stress was actually GOOD stress, but it definitely demanded quite a bit of mental energy. I was exploring two opportunities at the same time (one early stage, one late stage), and there were a lot of unknowns. On top of all that, I was still performing at my current job. So when race day came, my body wasn't up for the task. This is why I wasn't too upset about it. I had other things on my mind.

I wanted to write a blog post to memorialize my experience at my current (now former) job. Just like writing a race report gives me closure on a race, I feel the need to express my thoughts and feelings about the job I just left.

What I did
I was the "Vice President of Demand Generation" at a large enterprise software company. My job was to run marketing programs that would generate brand awareness and leads for the sales team. I was responsible for digital advertising, email marketing, events, social media, content strategy and more. I was there for nearly three years and I managed a team that varied in size over the years from 10-25 people.

I was an executive, but I was not responsible for the entire marketing function. Communications and product marketing, for example, were run by other executives. My boss, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), was responsible for the entire marketing organization, reporting into the CEO. This CMO position was the role I eventually wanted to have, although at a smaller company. My career plan was stay at my current (now former) company for 3-4 years, and then become the CMO of a smaller technology company. And that's what ultimately happened.

On Halloween, I delighted the CEO with this costume
Some key accomplishments were launching a multi-million dollar digital advertising campaign across the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Financial Times, and the New York Times, in addition to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I also built the internal process flow for how the inbound leads would be scored, routed, and contacted. I created the company's first marketing dashboard and reporting framework. I managed an advanced implementation of a marketing automation platform with sophisticated lead nurture streams. If you're not in marketing, you might not know what all this stuff is. It was important, but to me, my most important accomplishment was helping my team advance their careers.

Leadership
Being someone's boss is not a role I take lightly. That person's career is in my hands as well as their day-to-day contentment. They do need to take personal responsibility for this, but as everyone knows, if you don't like or respect your boss, then your work life becomes stressful and unpleasant. As a leader, I strive to provide enough guidance for my team to succeed, while empowering them to truly own their work. I'm also there to remove roadblocks, help them be as efficient as possible, and make critical business decisions (i.e. accept the risk). If someone is not performing, then my role is to set clear expectations, understand why they aren't being met, and work with the employee to turn things around.

I leaned on these women so much!
I've been managing people for about 15 years now, and no matter what my role or title has been, leadership has always been a top priority. If my team is successful, I am successful. And there was nothing more fulfilling at my previous job than helping my employees be successful.

Making a difference in someone's life is far more important to me than any job title. In part, it's how I define career success. If my team is failing, then I am failing. As a marketer, I am there to drive business growth. As a human, I am there to make a difference in the lives of other people.

This week, as I was saying goodbye to everyone, a number of people told me that I really made a difference. People told me that they appreciated my attitude, or that I helped them, and there is nothing I'd rather hear. I was well liked and well respected, and I take pride in that because I liked and respected all of them!

Relationships
The relationships I built made it very difficult to leave my company. In fact, I've never felt so emotional about leaving a job. And I've left quite a few! Not only was did I have an amazing team, but my colleagues were equally as awesome to work with.

They threw the best holiday parties
I've worked in environments where my relationships have not been as positive and I think the key difference is authenticity. I am a genuine person and it's difficult for me to put on my "game face" and not be my weird, quirky self. My colleagues were all similar. Within the marketing department, people weren't trying to undermine each other or point fingers. We all worked really well together and it was a FUN place to work. The commute was treacherous at times but it was worth it because I enjoyed being in the office. Whenever it was birthday, I would find my office decorated from top to bottom with zebras and stripes. Being surrounded by supportive, friendly, like-minded people is what made my company so special, and so hard to leave.

My colleagues came to my 40th birthday party. They were supportive when I was sick with mono last summer and had to take a month off. No matter what, I knew I could always count on them. And that's hard to give up. Of course we will all stay friends; the relationships don't end because I am leaving. But it's sad because I won't be seeing them every day.

Why I left
As I said above, my career plan was to stay 3-4 years and then become the CMO of a smaller technology company. Even though I hadn't been at my company for quite 3 years, the business environment was changing. I felt like I had learned all I could learn there and gained all of the experience I needed to get to the next level.

Recruiters regularly reach out to me, but a few months ago, I decided it was time to start exploring these opportunities. I knew exactly what I was looking for in my next role:
  • Role: Head of marketing, ideally with the CMO title
  • Size: Small to medium-sized (200-500 employees) with at least $15M in revenue
  • People: Authentic, friendly, intelligent, down-to-earth
  • Maturity: Marketing already in place, but a lot of potential for growth and optimization
  • Location: No further away than my current job
I interviewed for two roles, one of which checked all of these boxes, and the other checked most of them. Part of my "life stress" a few months ago was figuring out which (if either) of these opportunities would be the right move for me. I ended up accepting the offer which checked all boxes, and I start next Wednesday, May 22nd. 

It would have been easy to stay at my job, which had become really comfortable. I had a good work-life balance and it wasn't too stressful. But above all else, I want to be challenged and I want my work to make an impact. I was making an impact on the people, but it wasn't always clear if I was making an impact on the business because it was so big. I strive to do both and I believe I will be able to do both in my new job. I also want to use my full range of marketing skills, not only demand generation. I worried that if I stayed too long in a demand-generation only role, my communications and branding skills would get rusty.

To be able to walk away from my beloved colleagues shows just how phenomenal of a career opportunity this move is for me. Chief Marketing Officer is a big step. Not only will I run marketing, but I will also have a seat at the executive leadership table. I know that I will be able to use my skills and experience to their fullest extent and form strong relationships with the people there.

This weekend I will run the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine, and then return to my new job!


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