When I was 24, I walked into an interview for my first corporate job. I had a sprinkling of various marketing related part-time jobs on my resume from my college years, but I actual knew very little about marketing.
They asked me if I knew what the company did, and my response was, “I know Red Hat has something to do with Open Source.” I cringe now, thinking back to my lack of preparation for the interview. But somehow - in spite of myself- I was able to convey to them just how hungry I was for a chance.
I was hired under the umbrella of marketing to do a very unglamorous job. I managed a database of software applications that were compatible with our product. I spent my days reviewing software partner requests to be added to the database and digging through massive, product matrices from large technology companies. It was about as boring and mind numbing as it sounds, but I was so excited to be working in the corporate world that I didn’t care.
Slowly, I was given one off opportunities to learn “real” marketing. I started creating marketing documents for our software partners. I wrote and distributed a newsletter. I started planning small events.
The role grew and so did I. I got promoted and received raises. Over the years my role changed from managing an online database to managing strategic relationships with some of our largest partners and then eventually I landed in a field marketing position where I supported our sales organization and got to be involved with all kinds of events and creative marketing campaigns. I fell in love with marketing and I knew it would forever be a part of my life in the working world.
But something happened when I moved to San Francisco. I became the sole remote member of an east coast based marketing team. I was 3 hours behind and had to work twice as hard to be heard, to be seen, to feel like a contributor. It was at this same time that some major life events were also happening - I’d just gotten married, was exploring an intoxicating new city and then learned I was pregnant. There were distractions everywhere, and being so far away made it hard to feel connected.
I enjoyed the work I was doing, but my confidence started to lack. Sometimes, being so far away and constantly feeling disconnected to the hub of the rest of my team, I felt invisible. I remember laying in bed many nights convinced that I was going to be fired. It was the heaviest feeling to know my family was depending on me to succeed and that I was certain I was failing them. I doubted that I was capable enough to be impactful. I began to think that perhaps everyone I’d worked with up until that point had overestimated me.
We moved back to Raleigh after Everly was born and I felt re-energized as I was given the opportunity to manage our field marketing efforts in the North East and Canada. I loved working with the sales organization and once again felt that passion for marketing. But things were changing- over the course of the next year, the entire marketing leadership in my department changed.
I felt like I was treading water as our goals and objectives shifted and refocused under a new structure. Nearly half of my immediate team was let go in an unanticipated layoff. There was so much work to do and not enough hands to do it. I also had new managers that I hadn’t yet built up enough rapport with to ask the hard questions and express my true concerns. All my old doubts on my abilities crept in again… I hesitated to contribute in meetings. I questioned if the work I was doing was significant and meaningful. I wanted to live and breath marketing the way I once had but saw no clear path to getting there again.
So I took a leap. I interviewed for a new role at a new organization. I landed the job. I left the comfort of what I knew and walked into a role that I knew was more visible and carried high expectations and would require me to do things outside the scope of my job experience. It was a chance at a clean slate. Early on, those old whispering thoughts crept in as I tried to soak up all of the new information being shared with me.
I was trained on 7 different systems in the first month. I jumped head first into the middle of marketing a large executive event and worked to get up to speed on supporting a customer retention organization. In the beginning, I was on information overload. I remember feeling like my new team believed in me more than I believed in myself.
I had been there two weeks when I was surprised to see that a bullet point on a big meeting agenda had my name next to it. I felt unprepared but quickly jotted down a couple things I felt might be relevant and tried to quiet the beating of my heart in my ears as I waited for my chance to speak among a large group of new colleagues.
That evening, there was a call on my voicemail from my new manager. I sat on the floor outside Everly’s room at bedtime and pressed play. “Several people stopped me to say how impressed they were with your knowledge in the meeting today. Keep it up.”
I sat there thinking about how long it had been since I had heard words like that from a manager and I just felt so flooded with the desire to make it happen more often. Week after week, my confidence grew. I found myself leading projects, heading discussions in meetings, speaking up often. Late last year, I was even given the opportunity to drive the marketing on a major new corporate project.
My passion for marketing exploded. That voice that had allowed me to undervalue myself for so long was silenced.
This past year has give me a new voice, a renewed love, and a stronger point of view. Never again will I allow myself to believe that I’m not capable of being a leader and a change maker. Never again will I shrink.
The move from Red Hat to SAS represented a clean slate - a chance to grow and start over, but this next move represents so much more. Now, I know I’m capable of making impact. Instead of starting from zero, I’m excited to push forward with my current momentum. I am hungry to make gains, to drive business, to take on projects that scare the hell out of me.
I don’t lay in bed at night, paralyzed by the fear of losing my job anymore. Instead, I swim in a thousand thoughts of how much potential lies ahead.
And it feels amazing.