From hacker to marketer: What can you learn in a year of work

Original author: brooklynhacker
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Last Friday was exactly one year since I gave up my eight-year career as a developer and system administrator in order to engage in marketing. At school and college, I myself covered all expenses due to my knowledge of technology, which for the most part was connected with the Internet.

For this, nothing special was required of me: to prepare a mailing list or to conduct an interview. Such skills are one percent of the skills of a specialist engaged in marketing and working with a large audience. That is what I decided to figure out.

While working at BoxeeI decided that I want to lead my own startup. Like many other people who are building a dangerous, but definitely interesting career in this area, I held back my entrepreneurial ambitions for a long time, but after working as a programmer, I realized that I could make a big contribution by bringing my vision and culture to the workflow of the new company.

The fact that I absolutely did not have any knowledge in the field of sales and marketing made me instantly start studying this subject - managing a company with zero skills in this area would be just an irresponsible step on my part. To start, I joined the Twilio teamas an IT evangelist, which allowed me to work with one of the best marketers in the country. I continued to write code, but at the same time was engaged in the preparation of presentations. I was sure that working side by side with experts in this field would help me develop my managerial skills.

After working for a year in this position, I figured out the “kitchen” of what is happening in the field of marketing and made a few conclusions for myself:

Marketing is a damn difficult job.

Like many people who are engaged in creative activities, my hostility to marketing is deeply rooted. I believed that the phrase “soft skills” hides a fairly simplework: without apocalyptic deadlines or liability for the “curve” of the project. I didn’t remember that a marketer was sitting next to me when I needed to backup a server or “raise” a combat database. In a word, not work, but sitting out of pants.

I quickly realized that this view was reminiscent of the assumption that web development is not particularly difficult if you deal with it on something like Squarespace . Of course, my attitude was shaped by poor marketing: there are as many bad marketers as there are bad developers.

As it turned out, good marketers are rare, and they are much more difficult to find, like good programmers - the work of such people is very difficult to notice. Good marketing, as well as good code, are products that you need to invest in: spend many hours, pore over details and use your work experience wisely.

Data wins the dispute

When colleagues and I discuss some piece of code or a specific architecture issue, we often argue and argue without giving any arguments backed by data. In such situations, I prefer to test hypotheses and provide a comparison of the results, making this or that decision much more obvious.

Sometimes I am right, sometimes not. The practice of testing hypotheses to test my instincts is my daily method of working as an IT evangelist. As it turned out, all experienced marketers use these practices. “Everything is tied to numbers,” people will tell me, as if leading to the inevitable waste of time working with tables and formulas. And then they will tell me that any formula can be adjusted to suit the desired outcome of the experiment, and they will offer to “not load” the developers with examples, because ordinary documentation is enough for them to figure it out.

In practice, this approach does not work. Marketing data clearly shows the "vitality" of a particular solution, especially when work is done on the Internet, and it does not take much effort to find the information you need. People with technical education excel in performing similar tasks and achieve impressive results using their skills and abilities.

Planning - Basic Skill

In the first months of working as an IT evangelist, the most serious test for me was planning meetings. When I was developing, I didn’t even think about anything like that. Usually everyone was waiting for me to finish my business - people themselves came to me. In marketing, you need to act differently - to manage external forces and form the right impression, explaining your point of view to the right people at the right time. No one will wait until I finish developing an authorization mechanism or deal with bugs.

At Twilio, I had to run back and forth across Manhattan every day. The number of contacts in the notebook increased by 2 or 3 times. I never had a good planning of meetings, but when it became a vital task, I realized that I did not understand this at all.

Communication is the key to success

I do not consider myself a charismatic and sociable person. Despite the fact that I played in a group and made a decent amount of technical presentations, I did not feel craving for such things, and I had to work hard on myself. In IT evangelism, these skills are key, and to my pleasure, this is what you start to do better by constantly practicing. There are no secrets here. Ask people what they are working on, communicate on an equal footing and be yourself.

This is difficult, as is learning Erlang, and if you make a mistake, you will feel a similar feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself. In “pumping” these skills, only practice and perseverance will help you.

You can influence a lot

For a long time I thought that in order to somehow change the state of affairs, a text editor would be enough for me. With it, I can significantly affect people's lives by developing good software. I still think that developers are the engine of any startup, but the rest of the team is not sitting still.

At one of the SXSW festivals, I met a Los Angeles programmer named Will. He appreciated my Twilio T-shirt and said that he was working on an application that allows people to create one-time phone numbers so they can use them to create posts on Craiglist. His story made me want to know about the project’s release date and hurry my colleague - I really thought that such a project would be useful to a significant number of Craiglist users.

A few months later, Will's team released the app and announced it on HackerNews. The demand for the application was incredible, and just a couple of days after launch, it helped a guy from Portland catch a thief who stole his bike.

After the launch, I received thanks from Will for pushing him in the right direction. The right information, provided at the right time, can encourage and encourage the team to complete work on an excellent project. A few words of support at the right time helped the team create what they are rightfully proud of and give people the product they need. The sense of satisfaction that I experienced seeing the team’s success on TV in the news was immense.

I saw many possible options for the development of events, starting my work in the field of marketing, but I did not expect this work to be so worthwhile.


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