Tech Recruiting for MBAs - Discussion with Jennifer Royer, Director Product Marketing @DocuSign and Wharton MBA
This is a section of the discussion with Jennifer Royer, Director Product Marketing at DocuSign (Ep 43), where she talks about her experiences when recruiting for tech roles while she was at Business School at Wharton. The full discussion with Jennifer on her role can be found here - http://www.learneducatediscover.com/product-marketing-in-tech
Check out the discussion below!
Some of the areas we touch upon in this episode include:
1. Challenges she faced when recruiting
2. Her strategy for recruiting
3. How she reached out to companies
4. Interview tips
5. Qualities needed to succeed in a Product Marketing role in Tech
Here are the detailed notes from the discussion:
Was recruiting for Tech while you were in business school hard for you?
It's hard for me to say how difficult it was for me relative to someone else. But I feel like had I worked in tech before, or even if I had marketing in my title, I would have had an easier time.
The irony is that as a consultant, probably about half of my time was spent doing marketing, strategy segmentation - the kind of stuff that I do now. And I would work for the CMO. And somehow that didn't matter. Because my work experience said consultant, it didn't say, marketing manager, or whatever they wanted to see. And so it's frustrating when you get companies that are so narrow, that they're only looking for titles, and they're not actually looking for experience, but those companies exist.
There’s also a barrier, a stigma around MBAs, that exists. Perhaps more so for smaller companies.
What is it that stood out about you? What did you do to overcome this barrier?
I just kind of tried everything, because I just wanted to see what worked and I wanted to explore my options. I figured why not check out other roles and other companies and just see what seems interesting. I'll talk to people. So I had like a personal shortlist where I was reading all the tech news every day. And I was like this is a great company. And sometimes I would guess the name and email of the person, and cold emailed quite a few people.
Perfect. So how do you get them to talk to you?
So I'll give you the overview of everything I did, and I can go into each one of them. So I had Jennifer Royer’s cool company list. I didn't know in some cases, whether they were hiring or not. But these are cool. And I had that list. I had AngelList, LinkedIn, like the usual for jobs, job boards. And then I would also look at Wharton job postings, school network - not a lot of startup jobs there. And then I knew some people here. So I would ask them, or maybe go through people I knew who worked in venture capital or had worked there. And what are some of the cool portfolio companies that you know about? And who's hiring? And while I was looking for jobs, I did independent consulting too, sometimes paid and sometimes for free.
So when you were during your MBA at Wharton, you also did consulting for startups?
When I was in Philly, I worked for an ed tech startup called hire next that got acquired, and they were trying to improve how they did testing and assessment.
I think you’ve got to keep your options open, especially if you also really need to know yourself and what you want. Because if you go into it completely blind, then you're not going to get as much out of it as you should. So I knew generally that I wanted to be in San Francisco. I actually made some trips out from Philly, even when I was out there to come meet with people and talk to people as motivation to get meetings, but I knew I wanted to be here. I knew I wanted to be in a high growth company, probably tech. Product Marketing was an area I was looking at. I think I may have looked at like BD and something else. And, then it was just let's go hunting and find some leads. And I would I make my shortlist, I went on the boards, I talked to people and I kind of just saw who was biting while I kept myself busy doing these other consulting gigs.
Another thing folks should know is that a lot of companies, especially high growth companies will have referral programs. Employees get paid for referring successful hires.
I would generally get to a place where there's a company that I was interested in, whether that was sourced from Jennifer shortlist, or a job board or whatever, it doesn't matter. I've got my company. They're either hiring or they're not you figure that out. But then I see if I know anyone who works there. And/or anyone who can connect me to them. And chances are you do know somebody, but sometimes not, these are really small companies, they have say 10 people. And those are the ones that are such interesting conversations, but a lot of them didn't go anywhere, because they weren't big enough to need someone in marketing, or the person they wanted was like an SEO expert, a specialist. Yes, super specialized. And I was kind of like, I can learn super fast. But then it's also maybe too specialized for me. And they wanted someone who had a track record. So they're like, you're cool, but no. And, looking back on that I can understand why they made that decision is probably in the best interest of both of us. But yeah, I would try and I try and have a call or buy someone coffee, who worked at that company, even if they worked in another function and can usually introduce you and find the right person.
Sometimes I would do something more creative. Actually I think that for DocuSign, I made a PowerPoint presentation on the competitive market or something. But here's the thing, you don't really want to go do that too much. Unless you're super passionate about the place, or you're already in the process like you have an interview.
So don’t start with a presentation :)
I think that's burning too much time to start with that, with the exception if it is an awesome job. And you want to stand out from the start. Because that does happen. This one example of it was some storage company. And I know that sounds boring, but they had a really cool model for how they were doing it. And they're funded by Google Ventures. And somehow I got a hold of this guy, the CEO, and I think the reason he took the meeting with me was because I sent him some strategy or some thoughts I had on what to do with the business.
So you are not only expressing an interest in these companies, but you are also highlighting things that they could do. They saw immediate value in just meeting you. Because if it doesn't work out, at least they get some cool ideas from meeting you.
If I think about people contacting me about DocuSign, which a lot of people have, there is a difference between people who say, Hi, Jennifer, I'd like a job at Docusign. Can we talk? And I madke a face. And the people who say, Jennifer, I saw you're in this role, and I just read this cool article about Docusign. I'd love to learn more about your growth plans and day to day product marketing. I'm super interested in these things. And I'm like, thank you for spending five, maybe 10 minutes to actually understand why you're interested. And that also tells me that you cared enough to look at it, and even if you're not being genuine, you sound pretty genuine So you've convinced me and yes, let's have coffee. But the people who just say I want a job. It doesn't cut it. I am a nice person. I just don't have a lot of time.
Especially if you're getting so many calls. You also have to pick and choose, right?
To take an analogy - we have a lead scoring model here, where we have an algorithmic way of saying that, if you're the CEO of a company, and you attended a webinar and read a white paper, we better be following up because that is a hot lead, number one on the list. Versus you have someone who spent five seconds on your website, do you want to follow up with that person? Probably not. So I think it's a similar analogy. And if I'm the employer, or I'm someone whether indirectly or directly, it's still really important that you're doing something to show that you care, and that you have a vested interest.
What three to five qualities do you look for in someone?
I would look for someone who has a passion for Docusign. One of the questions that I will always ask when interviewing people is, why do you want to work here? And it's very simple. The question. But the fact of the matter is, we work really hard here, and we care very deeply about this company and this business. And you're going to spend a lot of time thinking about the product and thinking about the customers and interacting with them. And, that comes through. So you want someone who has that passion.
I think another quality is just around what I would call strategic leadership. So the ability to walk in and understand what you need to do to define your charter and your priorities in the first 90 days. Comfort with ambiguity and being able to structure. There's that quote or phrase, the only constant is change. And understanding and defining your charter, your strategy, and really sticking to that is important.
The other thing is partnership and collaboration. So in this role, it is one of the most visible and well connected across the company. So you've got to find a way to work well with other people. to drive alignment, to ask the hard questions. Very important.
How do you test something like that in an interview?
So there's a couple of things for evaluating that I think are important. And there's definitely the qualitative stuff. But there was a statistic that stood out to me in one of our management classes at Wharton, which is that behavioral interviews correlate 4% to job success, which is horrible. One of the highest that correlates to success is work history and work product. And with that in mind, as much as possible, we like to give people projects during the interview.
I've seen that in Silicon Valley. You don't just go through five interviews, you actually work with the companies.
Sometimes it will be a project with a set time limit, it could be a case interview like consulting where someone gives you a business problem, and you need to present the recommendation in the results. It could be something like that. Sometimes it really just happens on the fly, where you're kind of doing the same thing, but we're just having this conversation so you're about to enter this new market, or you're evaluating this new market. How do you decide what to do? Or can you walk through a mock? You might also ask someone to teach you something or to explain something. They recently did something.
So, I think there are different ways to test it, and everyone runs it differently. The other way to test collaboration, the cross functional nature of it is to actually involve people from other parts of the business. And we do that. So, generally, when you're interviewing with product marketing, you will talk to someone, multiple people who work in Product Marketing, obviously, but then you'll have someone who works in product management, maybe someone in BD, I certainly had both of those. And it may be some folks in sales.
Teach me something is a great idea. Because that is something which the candidate has to come up with on their own, and they are forced to collaborate with you. They can't really prepare for it, because you will be asking questions about that thing, which they cannot anticipate.
So you were talking about qualities. You said, passion for DocuSign, strategic leadership, and then collaboration.
I mean, the other thing is just evidence of past success and work product. So it's usually helpful if we can see like a writing sample or a project they've done in the past or something like that. And I alluded to that, and some of the questions that we might ask people, but it's different to see something than to hear someone explain it to you. And which one do you prefer? I'd rather see what they've done and have them explain it to me.
You’re clearly doing well. What keeps you going?
I like hard things. I like a challenge and that plays out in every aspect of my life. I can't really tell you what specifically made me this. I was a marathon runner. I've done triathlons, I'm like the crazy workout person. I love to travel and I just love to get exposure to new things. Try new activities, push myself to the limits in a healthy way. And the same goes for any position. It's telling that I was in consulting, to start my career. Because what I really liked about that is that we were solving big hairy problems. And it was very intellectual. And there wasn't always a clear answer. And I did a ton of different projects, I worked for a waste management company, I worked for chemicals, financial services, consumer products, pharma, I did a ton of Life Sciences, and some of it was marketing. Some was strategy. And some of it was just getting people to agree on the top three priorities. And the projects that were more cookie cutter with a framework were so incredibly boring to me. And they were harder for me than the ones that were really tough. Because I'm driven by challenge.
And I think that has carried over to this role, the versatility, the opportunity, the challenge here, and being able to come in and define what the core challenges are, how to solve them, how to measure success, and pilot different things really makes me feel like I'm having an impact, and I'm learning something. So, I guess that's what has got me here.