Georgiana has been bringing tech brands, products, and campaigns to life for 15 years.
As an early employee and the VP of Marketing at Unbounce, she helped grow revenue by 900% in her first 3 years, scale her team from 1 to 35, and go from under $1M to $15.6M in ARR without any major funding.
As a strategic advisor at her company A Better CX, she helps high-growth SaaS companies scale their marketing and customer experience, invest in their team, and drive serious business results.
How did you break into marketing leadership?
My career in marketing really started when, following university, I worked for my father’s retail business. I taught myself basic web development, SEO, PPC, social media, ecommerce, email marketing, content marketing, brand management—the list could go on.
Sometime around 2008, I discovered Twitter and it rocked. my. world. Back when brands were just starting to take their online presences’ seriously, I started doing client work at an advertising agency.
While this was going on, I was part of the quickly-growing Twitter movement that connected the local tech scene. I began leading a local community for women in tech and organizing free, insanely popular, and almost always standing-room-only events.
Leading this community definitely helped me to establish myself, my network, and my credibility. So much so that I was able to quit my job and begin freelance web marketing full-time for small businesses and tech startups. I hit a (very busy) sweet spot but, despite being happier than ever in my career, was on the fast-track to burning out.
That’s when, in January 2012, I decided to accept a job offer (with a director title) at Unbounce, which was a relatively young startup with only 14 employees at the time. I moved across the country to Vancouver to join the team.
The founders told me that, when they were vetting me, they saw—as demonstrated by the community I led—that I “get shit done”. Naturally, this was something they were looking for to help grow the mostly bootstrapped company.
Within a few months, I was promoted to Director of Marketing, and I made my first hire (shout out to Stefanie Grieser). The rest is history!
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
As it is for many women who lead, being perceived as pushy or intimidating was part of my everyday life.
As the only woman on the executive team, it became part of who I was at work, honestly. I often thought (sometimes obsessively) about whether I was coming across as too aggressive in my emails or during meetings.
Even more bothersome was whether I was considered approachable by members of my team. The idea that someone might feel like they couldn’t come to me when they needed help or advice was unsettling, to say the least.
Trying to remain me (achiever, ambitious, assertive), but not “difficult” or “bitchy” or “bossy” was tough. I sincerely hope that the assertiveness double-standard—from men and women, I might add—suffers a quick but very public death.
Hilarious read on the topic: 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women
“I’m not bossy. I am the boss.” #favequote
Another challenge that stands out was getting pregnant.
In Canada, mothers get 12-18 months of paid maternity leave. You can imagine how scary the idea of losing one of your most senior people for that long would be for a high-growth startup. At a young company that had never dealt with such a thing, being the only woman on the management team, let alone the only one to become pregnant, was, well, messy.
Not only was I deathly afraid of how becoming a mother would fuck up my career, but I also felt guilty for leaving the team, and, of course, for not taking every last second I could of government-funded leave to spend with my newborn. It was an existential crisis, to say the least. I even wrote a personal blog post about it, in which I played it super cool.
I ultimately settled on taking half of my maternity leave, but reintegration was challenging professionally and personally all the same. A lot can happen in 6 months and companies that are not yet set up to support a prolonged leave like that can mishandle things despite everyone’s good intentions.
How do you secure buy-in for your ideas?
I hear this struggle from marketers a lot, particularly women. Gaining trust and buy-in from your boss and other stakeholders comes down to a simple truth: people care about their own struggles more than anything else. Your boss is no different. If you can 1) learn to speak the same language, 2) appeal to his or her biggest struggles, and 3) prove that you’re operating in the business’ best interests, you should be in a good position to get buy-in for just about anything. That said, it’s not necessarily easy to do all of those things…
Speaking the same language might mean learning numerous business KPIs and metrics or understanding your product team’s roadmap or dev sprints. Whatever it is, it’s up to you to gather the context you need to meet them where they are and speak a language that’s meaningful to them.
Understanding their struggles will mean literally asking things like, “What keeps you up at night?”. Figure out how you, your ideas, and your work can help them. Speak to their needs whenever possible.
If you build bridges with other departments and advocate for others’ ideas, you’ll surely get it back when your turn comes.
Lastly, it’s imperative that you prove that you understand the larger business strategy, which you may or may not be privy to—yet. Marketers at product- or technology-first companies face a unique set of challenges. When in doubt, or when you’re doubted, continuously demonstrating how your ideas will contribute to business and revenue goals is a sure-fire way to win buy-in.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I’d invest more in my own professional growth while I had a company to support (and benefit from) it. For example, I should have sought out mentorship in a more deliberate way. I also wish I’d taken advantage of a professional development budget while I had one.
I was so head down in my role—obsessed with the growth of the company—that what came next for me was barely an afterthought. It seems entirely silly to me now, but I guess I thought that it would somehow reflect badly on me or look as if I didn’t know what I was doing.
Before I knew it, I was the one being looked to for guidance and mentorship. I definitely could have used some myself.
I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but they were all meant to be and led to where I am now, doing work I’m uniquely qualified for and deeply passionate about. #ftw
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Hands down, helping marketers go from being “the marketing girl” to becoming strategic leaders at tech companies over this past year has been ridiculously gratifying.
I’m grateful to do this in a few ways:
- Along with Claire Suellentrop, I run Forget The Funnel—free weekly workshops and guided training that help SaaS marketers be more strategic and effective at work.
- At my company A Better CX, I work one-on-one with marketers at tech companies. I’m essentially right-now me for 10-years-ago me. I can’t even imagine how much more effective I would have been in the early days if I had someone like right-now me to help navigate it all. For companies that have yet to hire a marketer, I work directly with CEOs to help them attract, hire, and onboard them.
- I’m also part of the advisory committee of a 3-year government funded initiative to develop and implement company programs and inform government policy to promote the advancement of women to leadership in STEM industries.
Share something interesting or valuable with the community.
At the beginning of 2017, I left my VP gig to start my own business helping SaaS companies with their marketing strategy (with two toddlers and a new mortgage!). I recently wrote a post about the year that went from total mystery to utter clarity: Note to self: My 17 professionally-personal happenings in 2017
Also, if you’re a marketer at a SaaS company struggling to be taken more seriously and think more strategically, we created Forget the Funnel for you: Join Us.
Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in April 2018.