Name: Derek Pando
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Title: Product Marketer
Company: Zoom Video Communications (past: LinkedIn, Salesforce)
Education: Undergraduate degree in Political Science and MBA from Brigham Young University
Social handles: Blog, Quora, Twitter, LinkedIn
Tell us about your path into the tech world and your product marketing role.
I’ve always been drawn to technology. My father is a software engineer and exposed it to me at a young age. I remember as a child, the day he showed me the internet and explained what it was. The first site he took me to was Disney.com. It took so long to load he said, “you get the idea” before the whole page loaded. Though I like technology, I was not interested in being technical. I did a few marketing internships in college that were for tech companies. That seemed like a good fit. I was lucky enough to get an entry level web analyst role at Salesforce when I graduated college. It was at Salesforce that I was able to transition into my first Product Marketing role.
How did you know product marketing was for you?
My first job at Salesforce is when I first met Product Marketers and learned what they do. As I worked with them and I got to know them, I realized that they seemed like “my kind of people” and I aspired to be like them. They were creative, strategic and played an important role in the company. I then decided that’s where I wanted to be.
What challenges are you currently facing as a product marketer in your current role?
I’m currently experiencing the most rapid growth of a product and company in my career. It’s sometimes hard to spend the time to do the sort of thoughtful analysis I’ve been used to doing in the past. It’s a challenge to know when to dive deeper or when to let it go, but I’m enjoying the ride.
What’s a particularly fulfilling project you’ve worked on?
At LinkedIn we launched a new product called LinkedIn Sales Navigator. I worked on the NPS analysis after launch. We poured our heart and soul into trying to understand our customers needs and how to improve it. We were able to improve the product rapidly and the improved NPS score was even mentioned in an earnings call by our CEO.
What’s your secret to staying productive?
There is so much coming at most Product Marketers, what has helped me to stay productive is to print out and keep in clear view at my desk my goals for the quarter. This is a constant reminder to prioritize what’s most important and just do my best with everything else. In my experience, most Product Marketers will be judged by a few of their most strategic initiatives.
What’s your advice to someone interested in breaking into product marketing?
Find a way to get some sort of product marketing experience. At Salesforce I once was able to help a salesperson get a Product Marketing job because she had a food blog that she had done a great job of marketing. Even though she did not technically have “Product Marketing” experience she was able to talk through a lot of the same marketing principles she learned from her blog that gave us enough confidence to hire her. Start a blog, help a start up for free on the side, or just to an amazing job marketing yourself, the principles are the same.
Why do you think product marketing is an important function?
As much lip service people pay to the idea of voice of the customer, I see Product Marketing as the one function that is truly committed to it. Also, as companies grow, Product Marketers are a critical bridge between sales, product, support and many other functions. When done right, Product Marketing is one of the most strategic and influential roles not just in marketing, but the whole company.
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