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Monday, March 2, 2009

Deep Bench Interview

I was asked by Rachel Happe, writer of The Social Organization blog, to particpate in her Deep Bench series of posts about people in the social media space who are available for new job opportunities. 


I've followed Rachel on Twitter when she was an analyst and then when she made her move to Mzinga. Her insight into the social media space, especially as it relates to enterprise, has always given me perspective. I'm humbled that she'd add me to the list of people she wanted to interview. 

Without further ado, here are my rather long-winded answers.

John is a social media buddy - I haven't met him in RL (i.e. real life) and I still think of him more as jljohansen - his Twitter handle - than by the name John. Funny how that works. But while I have not worked with John directly, he's been in my circle for quite some time. John was a Bostonian that is currently in Austin...part of that trend last year of some of Boston's brightest moving to Austin...what is up with that?!?!  To me, John exhibits all the best behavior of a community manager - even though that has not been an explicit role - he shares his knowledge and information freely, engages in conversation, and is not into gratuitous self-promotion.  I would guess that those qualities are what make him so plugged in.

If you are in the Austin area and looking for an interactive or social media marketer, you should snap John up quickly.  Here's his response to my questions - I love the Speedo incident!:

What part of the social web world are you most fascinated by and why?
I'm most fascinated by how the social web continues to change. Not only is it changing everything it touches but it keeps changing itself. It's nearly impossible to keep up with everything that's happening but the broad trends are starting to emerge and you can see how they start applying to specific situations in social spaces.

I'm also fascinated by the change in search and discovery using the Internet. I had an instance this morning when I was using Google for a search and switched to Twitter Search because I wasn't getting results that were useful to me. Real-time search is a powerful tool.
 
What are you passionate about and what motivates that passion?
I stopped to really think about this question and came up with some very interesting answers. Part of what I'm discovering in my re-assessment of my career path is that I'm passionate about solving problems. I thrive in situations that need me to be creative and innovative. Keeping up with my blog is an example of this, I post sporadically because once I find a topic that I want to explore my single post quickly grows into full-blown series

In the arena of social media, what drives my passion is that I have the opportunity to be exploring the space before the 'rules' are defined. There are a great many smart people that I respect in the social media arena. I read their blogs or follow them on Twitter because I'm interested in what they have to say and want to be influenced by their thoughts. But, I'm also doing my own thinking about the gray areas. I absolutely feel that the 'answers' to social media can come from anywhere and I want to be a part of that.
 
If you could construct your own job who would you be working with? For whom? On what problems?
Moving to Austin was a conscious choice for me. I came down here before I had found a job in the area. (I was fortunate enough to keepmy job back in Boston.) One of the main reasons I decided to come to this area was because of the industry in the area. Austin has its share of large companies (Dell anyone?) but it's also got a significant number of smaller companies and start-ups.

I want to work for a small- to mid-sized company that is looking to improve its marketing program. When I look at job postings, I don't take them literally. I make sure I meet the requirements (I don't want to waste my time or theirs). Then I look at the essential functions but I read them as the starting point for what I could do. What ideas are sparked when I look at what they're hiring for? What improvements can I make in the areas that I'd be responsible for?
 
Let me get back on track here. I don't see this as an "if" question. I take it as an imperative that if I get hired by a company, I am going to construct my job role in such a way that will push both myself and the company to learn new things and do them better. With that reference, it makes it very easy to answer the rest.

I would be working with a company that has a solid business model with objectives that marketing can support. I would be working in a department, or for a manager, that respects my ability to perform my responsibilities but also supports my initiative to branch out beyond those. And I would be solving problems related to demand generation, measuring marketing results, developing effective lead nurturing -- in other words closing the marketing loop.

Since you can't always make up a job that will support you - what are you looking for next?
Hmm. I think I wrote myself into a corner with the answer above. Maybe I can side-track again. I've had a wandering path through the realms of marketing. I began my career with a PR degree and a position at a PR agency. I've explored direct mail, project management, web design, webinar production, email, search, web analytics, marketing communications, and social media. Up to about a year ago, I probably would have considered myself an Internet Marketer because I'd been taking more of a focus on online tools. But, I don't agree with all the connotations that Internet Marketing conjures.

What I've realized is that I can use another handy marketing label: Demand Generation. I've been responsible for bringing in leads, in the B2B space, for about 5 years, so I think it's a reasonable space for me to continue looking.


What project/activity from past jobs gave you the most joy?
I had a wonderful opportunity back in Boston to roll up my sleeves straighten out the online marketing for Snowbound Software.

One of the first projects I took on was a major re-focus of the newsletter. Rather than using it to re-hash our press releases, I began writing in-depth articles related to our industry (document imaging and viewing).

From there I took a serious look at our Google AdWords account and discovered a significant amount of spending on keywords that were unproductive for us as a business. I took drastic measures in the short-term to cut our spending by nearly 40%. Then spent the next two years tweaking the campaigns and was able to bring in more qualified leads from SEM while keeping our spending down.

I also implemented and monitored Google Analytics for our site. I learned so much about the value (and limitations) of web analytics. We were able to shift our focus off the pages we thought we should be spending time on and started making improvements where our visitors were spending their time.

And, finally, I researched marketing automation systems and implemented Marketo for use with lead qualification and nurturing. This was also the spark that triggered my passion for lead nurturing. I believe that it's going to have a major impact on marketing and, again, I want to be part of that answer.

Now, I know that sounds pretty self-aggrandizing but what brought me joy in my role was seeing how my projects were affecting the business. It wasn't just that I got the newsletter out on time (which I did) but that customers were telling my CEO how much value they received from it. That's hard to beat.

What non-work related activities make you the happiest?
The ocean. Seriously, the ocean makes me happy. I grew up near the Pacific, it's a major factor in my childhood narrative. I could be quite happy going swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving on a daily basis. 

When an ocean is not available, I like to read. Most of what I read is fiction or science fiction, it's engaging and easy. But when I have time, I enjoy picking up a real piece of literature. My most recent read in that genre is probably East of Eden by Steinbeck. And if I can carve out some time, I've got my sights on One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
 
What's your most amusing work-related story?
My wife is a big proponent of looking professional. When I know that I'm going to be doing a job search, she always makes sure that I have a nice suit to interview with and wear to work if appropriate. Each time that I've bought a new suit at the beginning of a job search, I've ended up working at an office with a casual dress code.

At one company, when I was making sure to get an explicit definition to bring back to my wife, I asked what the dress code was. The HR person told me, "No Speedos."
 
Needless to say, I was always in compliance with that one.

What are your thoughts about the US economy and what is going on?
I don't think that the economy is a surprise. The market is righting itself and because it's been bolstered artificially (sub-prime loans, I'm looking at you) for so long, it's going to be messy before it gets fixed. 

But, if you want me to use this as a soap box, I think that this is also a good time for individuals. The lay-offs that are happening are shaking people out of the mindset of "I belong to the company." People are recognizing that they can, or may need to, create value themselves. The rise of social media is helping facilitate the concept of individual value. This series by Rachel is a great example of creating individual value, it's useful to me as a job searcher, it's useful to Rachel's readers to get perspective from others in the social media space, and it's valuable to Rachel because she becomes a hub.

That's where I see the economy going. We're getting so connected these days that it's increasingly unnecessary to take risks on people we don't know . If you're hoping to just find a quiet desk to sit behind until someone hands you a gold watch... well, good luck with that.

Anything else?

I think I've said too much already. ;-)

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