Jenny Coppola is the Director of Content & Creative at Wistia, a video marketing software company in Boston. Prior, she worked in marketing in the publishing software space. From coming up with creative ad campaigns to perfecting a line of copy, Jenny currently leads a team of talented and creative marketers. In her spare time, you might find her recording music out of her bedroom, designing greeting cards, or listening to [way too many] podcasts.
How did you break into leadership?
During my senior year of college, I managed a community radio station of over 100 DJs, as well as a student-run executive board and a work-study program. This gave me my first taste of what it was like to be a leader, and I absolutely loved it. I knew that leading a team again was something I’d want in my career, but wasn’t sure what path would lead me there.
I started out as more of a marketing generalist, but once I found the areas I was most passionate about, I drilled down deeper into those and got more specialized. At the same time, I also jumped on opportunities that pushed me out of my comfort zone. When new opportunities presented themselves, I made sure to raise my hand to take them on. I wanted to gain a better understanding of how different marketing functions worked together so I could have a voice and an opinion outside of my own area of expertise.
Gaining a broader understanding of marketing helped me see the bird’s eye view of what makes a team successful, and I think that perspective benefitted me as I transitioned into a leadership role. You have to see how the puzzle fits together and also be able to relay that to your team to get them bought-in on and inspired by the work they’re doing.
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
So many of the challenges women in tech face are unfortunately not very unique—the experience often feels universal, with women of color facing these obstacles at an even greater magnitude.
The biggest challenge for me personally has been coming to the realization that the workplace is not a meritocracy, and then figuring out how to navigate within the current system. Taking on additional work, putting in the extra hours, or exceeding your goals doesn’t equate to a raise or even necessarily recognition. Being seen as credible and worthy of the position we currently hold is often something we are constantly forced to prove as women, which is a hindrance in and of itself.
As leaders, we should be putting substantial time and energy toward using our position of power within the organization to enable and advocate for other women so that they too can succeed. We should also focus on changes we can make on a foundational level that sets women up for success in the long-term, so they can flourish long after we’ve moved on.
How do you secure a promotion?
I realized early in my career that businesses, and the people within them, will typically not go out of their way to promote you unless you expressly ask for it, which ties into the misconceived notion I had at first around business being a meritocracy. This will vary from business to business, but at smaller companies with less structure, you often have to forge your own path to get ahead. Great managers will always exist, but for every great manager, there’s one that is not focused on helping you advance in your career or get the recognition you deserve.
I’ve learned that you have to ask for what you want and take matters into your own hands—even if that means asking repeatedly, as it often does. When going out for a promotion, I always try to come to the table as prepared as possible. I recommend documenting and tracking all of your accomplishments, big and small, so that, when it comes time to negotiate, you have a long list of successes you can use to back up your case. Focus on the business impact. Highlight the positive trends you’re seeing year-over-year thanks to your hard work. I also suggest looking at salaries online for the role you are hoping to be promoted to so that you’re educated on what the market rate looks like in your area. Bottom line is, come prepared. Practice having the conversation with a friend or peer. Do whatever you need to do to get comfortable with fighting for what you deserve!
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would work on being more direct, more vocal, and more confident earlier in my career. I know those things often take time and experience to develop, for women in particular, but I think that would’ve helped me with some of the intense imposter syndrome I felt early on (that I still grapple with today!).
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
This is a super tough question, and I’m going to cheat a little with my answer and say that I’ve been experiencing a ton of micro-highlights lately. They all center around seeing my team mature and grow, both within their respective roles and as professional women in tech. Nothing gets me more excited than when I see my teammates gaining confidence within themselves, with their opinions and their perspectives. When that’s able to shine through across the organization for all to see—it’s really the best.
What’s your advice for up-and-coming marketers?
My advice for up-and-coming marketers is to know your worth. This can be hard when feelings of inadequacy start to creep in (as they often do), but it’s super important to acknowledge that you are bringing unique skills, perspectives, and experiences to whatever company you work for and that you were hired for a reason. Remember, you don’t “owe” the company anything outside of respect and a job well done. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at the value you bring to the company and the value you personally get out of the company and see how those two things stack up. If the scales are not tilted in your favor, see what you can do to change that, whether that means working within your company or going elsewhere.
Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in August 2020.