Friends, at some point in time you’ll re-evaluate your professional life and try to strategize how you could get to the next stage in your career.
Whether that strategy revolves around a complete career shift, developing your skills, or even going back to school, there are many challenges that come with each one- for myself, it ended up being a combination of all three strategies.
This is the story of how I transitioned my career from a $12/hr job to startup founder to growth marketer and what I’ve learned in the process. This will specifically help anyone thinking about getting into growth.
Right after I graduated college, I felt extremely motivated, but at the same time a little entitled — I naively assumed that I would get a high paying job at a company I deeply admired. As reality humbled me, I ended up getting a job that paid me a $12/hr wage and it was at a company I never heard of. Even though I worked with some great people and on thought-provoking challenges, after working there for almost a year, it made me realize that I was being careless with my career. For a whole year, I didn’t try to understand what excited me, how to develop my skills; I just showed up and worked on my job with little inspiration. I felt anxious to find something creative to apply myself towards.
Scrolling through Facebook, I saw some of my friends making websites for fun and some even made a living out of it. Immediately, I saw this as an opportunity to apply myself and fill this itch to get enthusiastic at the prospect of learning again. I made a site called Beepyo, with my friends Bryan and Richard, which was an item-sharing platform for college students. Bryan and I ended up quitting our job realizing that taking it seriously required our full attention.
Ultimately, it failed (see 3 mistakes validating my idea), but I learned how to scale something from 0 people to thousands in 3 months — something I never did before that time. It was marketing, product development, talking to people who used the product — the foundation of growth marketing. I wasn’t disappointed that it failed, instead, I was ecstatic for finding a deeper purpose and direction for my career.
Addicted to learning more about the process of launching and scaling software products. I knew that this would be the start of my journey towards growth marketing. I knew that if I wanted to get to the next level in this field I would have to enhance at a technical level. Lessons learned:****1. Try new things and be action orientated. I had no idea what it took building a website back then and decided to try it out anyway. Stop strategizing your next step, just start.
2. Take a risk, it’ll pay off. If we decided to keep our jobs and pursue Beepyo being part-time, we’d probably still be building the site. Even if it did fail, we progressed our personal skills and shifted our entire career trajectory.
After Beepyo, I bought more than 10 Udemy courses (there was a Black Friday Sale 😉), enrolled in an online digital marketing course, and started a small project to apply my learnings. Brian Balfour has a really great article on how to start a career as a customer acquisition expert that focuses on how you should shape yourself like a “T”. The article breaks down the path of becoming an expert into 3 layers: The base layer, marketing layer, and channel layer.
Shape Yourself Like A “T” by Brian Balfour
The base layer focuses on getting a foundation on subject matter that doesn’t necessarily relate to marketing but are the building blocks of everything you do in a career that requires critical thinking: Analytics, Stats, Branding, Behavioral Psychology, etc. The marketing layer emphasizes learning subjects that you would typically use for every channel in marketing such as SQL, A/B testing, Funnel Metrics, Photoshop, etc. The channel layer keeps you on path that forces you to focus on becoming an expert on only one or two channels. It takes time to become great at one particular channel, almost a year or two, so you have to be strategic on what you want to hone in on.
I adopted this “shape yourself like a T” methodology and took it to heart and it paid tremendous dividends. From getting consulting gigs to working on amazing projects with industry experts; this “T” furthered my skillset to become a complete growth marketer. Lessons Learned:1. Research a path and follow it. Sometimes when we’re learning something new, we don’t prioritize what we should be learning. This ends up being discouraging after we realize that the skill we learned turns out non-applicable to our job.
Ok ok I didn’t really go back to school in the sense of getting an MBA, but I did enroll in a program called Reforge, which was like a trade school for established growth marketers. The Reforge program is hosted by the former VP Marketing of Hubspot, Brian Balfour, and the Head of Growth at Uber, Andrew Chen. The price was steep but definitely worth every penny! Reforge is 7 weeks long and it helped me accomplish two things: 1. Learning about growth, not at a tactic level but at an in-depth framework level. Reforge completely shifted how I thought about growth by teaching me how to formalize tactics into a growth engine. From learning about modeling, acquisition/retention loops, building a growth team from within an organization, and much more; this program significantly expanded my depth of knowledge.
For the first time, I was getting an inside look on how top growth experts approached challenges and now I had that knowledge to adopt on opportunities back at my company. 2. Building relationships with growth professionals in the tech industry. Most trade school type programs I’ve been exposed to have a tendency to attract people who are really new to the industry and want to make a complete shift in their career. One thing an offline classroom does better than an online one is creating a strong community. When you have people who are at completely different levels in their career it makes it challenging to connect with other classmates.
However, Reforge efficiently created a network of engaged peers; growth professionals that I can confidently ask for advice from and bounce around ideas.
Going through this program made me establish a more professional boost in both my skillset and my network that I know will payoff for my entire career. Lessons Learned: 1. Find a community of professional peers. To me, it was important to meet numerous growth professionals working on similar problems, because I know that having a one-sided view doesn’t expose me to new ideas. 2. Learn from the top 1% of professionals. Reach out to the top people in your industry and read their material, ask questions, and maybe even grab a cup of coffee. To all those looking to make a shift in your career, just know its never too late.