Give yourself more time
On marketing careers, leadership, and patience
I’ve been thinking about career progression, growth, and work-life balance lately. This was prodded by a couple of life events, and a few conversations at work.
Around the same time, my friend Mohita Nagpal, VP of marketing at Hiver, wrote this excellent post about lessons from being a first-time leader. It’s a lovely piece, self-aware and felt, and it talks about what it takes to mould yourself into someone who gets stuff done and also takes the rest of the team along. Please read it.
Her larger theme is something I’ve written about too, about mistakes I made as a manager. But what I also took away from Mohita’s piece, and which was very interesting to me, was how our workplaces shape us.
Both Mohita and I were at Wingify, one of India’s bootstrapped SaaS success stories, and we had great stints there. My first leadership role was at Wingify, and it came good partly because of the reasons Mohita also talks about:
"Wingify is one of the best training grounds for SaaS marketing in India. We had no investors or business pressure, generously made mistakes and learnt at a leisurely pace. It was the perfect environment to be trained."
I agree whole-heartedly. My careful, organic, let-it-all-come-together style was perfect for Wingify, and the company’s culture helped me play to my strengths. I was given permission to make mistakes, and learnt from them, as she did.
Mohita is a product of that culture, and to relearn things from there to Hiver took time, as she says. This is something I have had to do too. I’m a product of the Freshworks culture, where empathy and a clear approach to work shared space with breakneck pace. Moving from there to the solidity of Wingify and now at Accel, I’ve also had to navigate completely different styles of functioning.
What’s the secret to doing so successfully, then?
Mohita doesn’t say it outright, but implies this throughout: The aspect of time.
Mohita has been tremendously successful at Hiver. She has been there almost 4 years. This is healthy, but doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? Wrong. That doesn’t take into account two things: one, the hiring frenzy in the Indian scene in the last two years, when she must have been headhunted several times, and two, the remarkable lack of patience startups display with marketing leaders.
Fun fact: Marketing leaders switch jobs way faster than their product, engineering, and sales contemporaries, most times because founders and companies do not give them the time they need.
Wingify gave Mohita and me that time.
But it’s not enough that the company gives us marketers time. We have to give them time too.
I wrote about this in a brief career guide for SaaS marketers:
"Give your organisation and your leaders some more time. Organisations take time to get things right, and like us, they make some mistakes along the way. Give them the chance to try and make it right. Good organisations don’t want to lose good talent, and will try to make it up to you.
One way to figure out if you should give your organisation some time is to look at what their intent was in terms of decisions. If the intent is right, but the execution is wrong, stay. Give yourself some more time."
And what about the times when we feel we have no gas in the tank? When things just aren’t clicking at work and you don’t feel like putting in the effort?
The answer to that too, is time.
As knowledge workers, our work happens in cycles: You have a great month or two, and then everything’s difficult, and then you get good again. No one talks much about this: It’s just not possible as a creative to be at 100% all the time.
And hence back to my original point: Time. If you are in your hitting zone for a few months, also understand that there will be a time when you can’t see the ball at all. Plan for it, and don’t jump ship then, because you’ll be solving the wrong problem. Your patience, and your company’s patience, will be rewarded.