As Head of Product Marketing, Kathryn Nyhus is CoSchedule’s conversion copywriter, customer research junkie, and sales landing page addict. In her free time, you might find her mastering her sourdough baking skills, geeking out at a coffee roastery, or renovating her 118-year-old house with her hubby.
How did you break into marketing leadership?
I took risks, made mistakes, and said yes to less-than-stellar opportunities.
In college, I worked for the campus coffee shop. During my senior year, they opened a second location. To everyone’s surprise, I applied and got the manager position.
I was the quiet one on a staff of 30+ women. Unlike most of them, I wasn’t interested in the job simply to “be in charge”. The position meant something to me. I was passionate about coffee and wanted to make it a full-time gig.
That position taught me what it’s like to work hard, cry, sweat—and still come back wanting more. In those 12 short months, I learned how to manage a full-scale coffee shop with 15 employees, who I hired (and sometimes fired), trained, nurtured.
After college, I started a mobile coffee business, while working as an assistant manager for a fast casual restaurant. My days consisted of deciphering restaurant licensing and food permits and walking door to door to find potential customers, then clocking in at 3 PM to make falafels, pitas, and mop floors. It was in no way glamorous.
Running my mobile coffee bar alone was rough. I did it for a year and was slowly building up clientele, but after awhile the itch to pay off my student loans faster got strong. I sold my business and started applying for positions all over the United States at coffee roasters in Los Angeles, Portland, North Carolina, and Denver as well as tech startups in DC, Chicago, and Texas. In less than 4 weeks, I was packing my bags and moving to DC to work for a web design and development company as their Operations Manager.
In under six months, I got a pay bump and took over 100% of their marketing efforts. I had no idea what I was doing, so I signed up (and got my employer to pay) for a digital marketing course offered by General Assembly.
Again, I was out of my comfort zone. I threw myself into projects, tested crazy ideas, and did my best to find folks smarter than me who could “show me the way”. It was this process that eventually led me to a slow “dating” relationship with another startup way out in Bismarck, North Dakota.
I had been visiting my (now) husband in Bismarck and decided to attend a networking event known as 1 Million Cups. The guest speaker was the founder of Bison Booties and her story was so inspiring. The whole town was, quite frankly. Here I was, a DC city girl sitting in middle-of-nowhere America, drinking hipster coffee and listening to an awesome entrepreneurial story.
Soon after, I discovered CoSchedule hosted these events. For the next six months, I ‘stalked’ them online. In April 2015, they had a position that seemed to suit me. I applied and within a day got the familiar auto-reply: “thanks but no thanks”. Only, instead of accepting that, I hit reply and told them my story. In less than a few hours, I had the CEO emailing me back, asking to get on a phone call with me.
The rest is history.
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
I’ve definitely experienced obstacles, but none of them were because I was a woman. In many ways, being a woman gave me an edge in tech. We stand out, ladies! 🙂 We bring a perspective that many of our male counterparts simply can’t give. Embrace those differences. It’s what makes you you!
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
Most of the obstacles I’ve faced revolved around skill gaps and being entrusted with a lot, despite not knowing what the heck I was doing. I had to learn fast and bring my A game.
In the startup world, you have to be ready to sink or swim, and you’ve got to be willing to take risks, step out into the unknown, and make calculated decisions despite only having 50% of the information.
I overcame imposter syndrome with humility—by being okay with asking “dumb” questions, being willing to ask for help, and knowing which areas I needed more training in and taking the initiative to ask for it.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
Honestly, nothing. I really believe everything happens for a reason. And while, in the moment, things might seem bleak or like you’ve run out of luck, it’s just a season.Remember that. You never know what’s on the other side. Say yes to less-than-ideal opportunities. Nothing is perfect, but you never know where those opportunities might lead you.
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Gosh. Most of my time at CoSchedule has been a whirlwind. When I started, we had 9 folks on the team. We’ve since grown to 67 employees in under 2 years.
I’ve had the opportunity to develop CoSchedule’s style, persona, and personality (marketing-wise). And, I’ve grow my team from just me to 6 kickass designers and product marketers.
Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in March 2018.