San Francisco Bridge

You don’t need a marketing degree to become a great growth marketer.

You need to be empathetic and analytical.

I originally started school to study psychology because I was interested in people. Since switching to a marketing degree, my interest in psychology continued to play an eminent role in every decision henceforth. As I learned more about growth marketing, I began to fall in love with the little intricacies – everything from social triggers to studying why people make irrational decisions.

Little did I know this would tremendously help me when I dived head first into startup life.

Getting Started in Marketing

I guess you could say I’ve always been different.

I had big dreams but knew that a degree alone was not enough to make me successful. Unlike many students, I was already thinking about how to become a successful entrepreneur years before graduation.

Early on in college, I landed an internship-turned-job at Brand Anywhere, a mobile and social marketing advertising consultancy. I worked with many well-known brands including McDonalds, Comcast, and Qualcomm. It seemed a little unreal as I had yet to graduate, but it gave me the confidence I needed early on to be audacious enough to succeed.

Meeting a Mentor

During this period of my life, I learned how valuable it is to have mentors. The founder and CEO of Brand Anywhere, Dan Flanegan, took me under his wing. He helped me learn faster, but still gave me the creative freedom marketers desperately need. Dan and I are still friends and colleagues today who regularly support one another in our ventures. My career really started when I followed him from Brand Anywhere to his next endeavor, a mobile app called Butter that connected people from all over the world.

Moving into Growth Marketing

At Butter, it just clicked. I knew how to get traction. With less than a $50,000 marketing budget, we acquired one million users when I was leading growth.

When you don’t have a lot of money to invest in your ideas, you have to be creative. Traditional ad buys are out of the question. I’m thankful I had this creative, hacky experience early in my career. This is what ultimately lead me down the path of growth marketing.

It wasn’t all glamorous working crazy hours at Butter while being a full-time student. My grades suffered, I became a B or C student instead of an A student, and instead of the typical 4-years to graduation it took me six years, but here I was getting the best business education I could ask for. There was no reason for me to think twice about where my time and energy should go.

With Butter’s initial success, we landed an incubator spot in Mucker Labs accelerator program in Santa Monica. The program exposed us to a valuable network of entrepreneurs, founders, VCs, and creatives and allowed me to build incredible friendships early in my career that continue to help me.

Early Startup Days at Butter

Early Startup Days at Butter

Soon, our team at Butter moved from an office space into a nearby apartment.

This environment was a great substitute for the dorm room experience I forfeited for my career.

We were officially living the startup life.

Post Graduation

From there my career moved forward rapidly. Graduating college with five years of experience under my belt and real metrics I could put on my resumé made me an attractive candidate for the types of companies I was interested in.  

I managed marketing at the next two startups I worked at, and I started a freelance/consulting company. In parallel, I learned about many different niches, experimented with ad spend, and implemented well-researched targeting strategies. To keep up, I listened to countless audio books, attended high-level marketing conferences, and dialed in on work routines.

Life was great, but I was ready for the next challenge – to make the leap to work in the tech mecca, San Francisco.

Moving to the Tech Mecca

I moved to the Bay Area without a job, relying on my freelance and consulting work until I found the perfect fit.  

I looked for the companies that fit my criteria on AngelList and Crunchbase. The company needed to be close to Series A to ensure I would still have the responsibility to scale while having creative freedom. And I was particularly drawn to companies focusing on mobile, women, mHealth, or quantified self.

I tackled the project of getting hired just as I would any other marketing project. I outlined my ideal company, role, and compensation – yes, I believe in the power of visualization. I even made a spreadsheet of target companies that fit my criteria.

I combed through my Linkedin and Facebook to leverage the network I had been building for warm introductions wherever possible, even though I was now in a new city. I used HubSpot’s Sidekick for Gmail app to track when companies opened my email. I designed a bad-ass resumé to demonstrate my Photoshop skills. I even considered creating Facebook ads targeting the employees of companies I had applied for, linking to my resume with the CTA that they hire me, but I decided that was right on the border between brilliant and creepy.

I tracked every step of the process in a spreadsheet.

Here are the stats:

  • I contacted 16 companies
  • 13 companies contacted me
  • 6 companies said no with no interview because they had already hired or didn’t think I fit the profile
  • I never heard back from 4 companies
  • I heard back too late from 1 company
  • I interviewed on the phone with 4 companies
  • I interviewed in person with 6 companies, for multiple rounds
  • I received 3 offers
  • I accepted 1 offer

I started this process in San Diego on March 16, 2016. I moved to the Bay Area on April 1, 2016. I had a signed offer by April 27, 2016.

The company I work at now, Ava Women, happened to be the first company I applied to as their head of digital and growth. They met all my startup criteria – their product, a fertility tracking bracelet with an app, is a women’s product in the mHealth space and fits into the QS movement. Plus, they have big goals with the talent on the team to reach them.

I didn’t hear back from them for several weeks until they recruited me from AngelList. It turns out they never saw my resume. It was a great sign that we’d both reached out to each other.

Women in Growth Marketing

Out of fifty applicants, my hiring manager mentioned that fewer women than she anticipated applied for this growth role at a women’s company. It was at this point when it hit me: there are many women in marketing, but far too few women in growth marketing.

It’s a male dominated industry with a high demand for women. I believe it is because women are more humble when talking about their accomplishments and know-how. They refer less to numbers and talk more about relationship building and branding. For men, it’s about driving quantifiable results – what hiring managers are looking for, thus the hiring gap. Read More. And here.

There’s no doubt that growth marketing has become a data-driven industry. The challenge for new marketers is to continue having a growth mindset while using data to back all their decisions. As a result, you have to question carefully and test everything, iterate design and copy, and invalidate assumptions.

Take Away

It’s tough. Most great things are.

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” – Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan.

So, don’t get discouraged. You can do this.

Just remember: Test & track everything. Your resumé is not the time to be humble. Be confident. Do it before you are ready. Never lose your drive to learn.  

As I continue my journey, I hope to inspire an entirely new generation of women to take on more analytical roles in their companies.

To keep up with me, you can follow me on Twitter: @ShareeLo.