HERstory: Lauren Schuman, Director of Growth, MailChimp
Lauren Schuman is the Director of Growth at MailChimp. In her free time, she's also the Co-Founder of ThinkFluency, an EdTech company that specializes in innovative digital products for teachers and students. As a customer-centric marketing leader with a passion for building best-in-class online customer experiences, she has spent the last 14 years driving growth for eCommerce and SaaS businesses of all sizes.
How did you break into leadership?
I've always been drawn towards leading, so the transition happened pretty naturally for me. As an individual contributor, I would either volunteer or be selected to head up special projects, which often meant leading or collaborating with a cross-functional group. By embracing these ‘informal’ leadership opportunities, I was able to begin honing my skills and be seen as a leader by other leaders and my peers. That way, when the time came to ask for a leadership role, it felt like less of a risk to those around me.
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
I started my career in corporate retail, which is a pretty female-dominated industry, so I think my perspective is a bit different than some of my peers. From an early age, I was surrounded by many female leaders who helped shape the vision for my future. However, the one thing that seems to have held true from retail to ecommerce and now to SaaS is the glass ceiling. At the manager, director, and even VP level, I see many badass women. But, when it comes to the C-suite, it's hard to find a face that looks like mine among the crowd.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
Over the past few years, I've found my niche in roles that straddle marketing and product. People who ‘get’ my background recognize and appreciate that I'm a bit of a unicorn—someone that can add value in a multitude of ways. On the opposite side, I've found myself having to constantly explain the value I can bring and prove my worth.
Looking back, this has happened primarily with males on product teams and is not only demoralizing, but it can also bring out the demons of imposter syndrome. On several occasions, their doubt has planted doubts in me, and I've had to dig deep to remain steadfast in believing in my own abilities. The key to staying strong is to surround myself with mentors, family, and friends that lift me up when I am down.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I'm really happy with my path. But, overall, I'd not be afraid to take more risks.
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
I'm most proud of building and scaling growth and optimization practices from scratch in both a startup and mature company environment—all self-taught and by applying lessons learned over years of building customer experiences.