people we admire, in their own words
what is a modern career in marketing like? q+a with a digital marketer
— Emilie von Unwerth
If you're under the impression that digital marketing is all targeted ads and #sponsoredposts, you're in for an exciting (and interesting) awakening. While social media marketing is a major player in the modern landscape, the realm of digital marketing extends so, so far beyond a hashtag.
To be a good digital marketer, you not only need great interpersonal skills (yes, face-to-face negotiations still exist!), but it's also essential to understand data in order to make informed predictions. These predictions lead to smart decisions, which lead to an increased ROI, which leads to increased revenue and a happy executive team!
Explain like I'm a child: what is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is a method to amplify your brand's voice on the web. Whether on
Facebook, Instagram, the affiliate network, email marketing, or on Google, digital
marketing is a way to introduce your brand to people who just might love it!
What drew you to your field?
The interconnectedness marketing has with all other areas of business (sales, finance,
design, development). Marketing is about amplifying a brand’s voice and getting heard
in competitive landscapes and platforms. It takes a combination of content creation,
analytical skills, and diligence to execute a campaign well.
How is digital marketing today different from the Mad Men era? Is there still a human element to it?
The relationships you have between people who work for different platforms is very much human. The networks are all still created and filled by people. So I’d say meeting new people, understanding the possibilities of new technology, and leveraging technology fundamentally comes from the people in your network, and what they expose you to.
As far as evaluating the efficacy of a digital marketing campaign goes, there’s very little “human” interaction that goes into that. You analyze whether or not a campaign is performing pretty much objectively, based on the data; you can compare your data to benchmark information and you can set goals for yourself that reflect what your objectives are from a CPC, ROI, revenue, or scale perspective, knowing that there are certain relationships that are naturally going to be inverse ones.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
I love the people I get to interact with. I feel as though I kind of live the dream, job-wise. I get to have a variety of interactions every single day. No two days look alike; I make decisions tied to top-line revenue that have to be agreed upon by major stakeholders. It’s a central role, one that is interconnected with seemingly every other department. A lot of visibility and weight are usually attached to the role depending on the size of the marketing budget as well.
What’s a not so glamorous part of your job?
The amount of sheer work (boring, repetitive, task-oriented work) it takes to launch a successful marketing campaign. You’re going to have to prioritize — there will be too much to do, otherwise. There are also a million ways to cut corners on the job, but the best way to go about things is always pushing yourself to be better, and you can only do that if you put forth your best effort.
To create a campaign, you have to create a brand idea; request assets from Creative if you’re a part of a company, or make them yourself if you’re part of a startup; request copy or write copy yourself; set a budget; predict how much you can spend; predict your runway of advertising; test between different creative assets and copy; test with different audiences; analyze the data; eliminate erroneous spend; rinse, repeat.
There’s also an endless list of ways to improve. I think the sexy unicorn of marketing is the “technical marketer” — one who can understand email marketing, a bit of design, a bit of development, a bit of data science, CRO, and how all of those things tie together. Learning is difficult because it takes a kind of humility to be a student. As a marketer you’re a perpetual student.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
At Lantera, we work with a hybrid business model – we have a consultative arm
and an education arm. I have a daily call with one of our clients at 9 AM, which
usually starts my day. After that, we have our company-wide standup, where we
review the basics (what we’re working on, and if we have any blockers). Then I
usually check our KANBAN board (a project management technique borrowed
from development teams) and start working through the tasks on my plate.
My day varies from email marketing management (sending campaigns, evaluating campaigns), affiliate management (managing a company’s program, adding publishers, negotiating commission increases or decreases with existing publishers), project management (creating and refining strategy for clients), data analysis (answering a question like “how do we reduce our shipping rates?” with strategy and a guideline), managing PPC campaigns, digging deeper into data science (woohoo), trainings, and more!
What kind of personality traits or qualities do you think make for the best digital marketer?
Someone who is analytical, interested in exploring new tactics, collaborative, and fun!
is coding right for you? q+a with a developer
— Emilie von Unwerth
"Developer and "coder" have become some of the most buzzed-about words in and outside of tech. What, with a job in coding being touted as a flexible, work-from-anywhere, make-your-own-hours, live-your-own-life solution, it's easy to romanticize the career.
While we agree that web development is an amazing and lucrative skill, we're also aware that everybody's different, and that there is no one-size-fits-all in terms of career. So we asked our front-end development instructor, Regina Battle a few questions to help people figure out whether or not coding is actually right for them.
Explain like I'm a child: what is front-end development?
Front end development is coding the parts of a website that you can see or interact
What drew you to your field?
Social media platforms such as BlackPlanet and MySpace. Both allowed you to customize
your page or profile with HTML and CSS. I found it interesting and began teaching myself.
I think a lot of people believe that being a coder means you have to fit the stereotypical mold of “smart” or “nerdy” — do you think that’s true?
No, anybody can be a coder. Coding is like learning a new language.
A lot of coding bootcamps talk about how you can make a lot of money, work from wherever you want, and be your own boss… is that true? What are some of the non-glamorous parts of this type of work?
Freelancers or entrepreneurs have the opportunity to be their own boss and work from anywhere. Both may require wearing different hats (ie. project manager, designer, etc) which can become stressful. Working for a company or organization can be a little strict but flexible — it depends. A work/life balance is becoming more important to employers, so you may have the opportunity to work from home occasionally. Start-ups don’t always have much of a work/life balance, and you’re expected to work longer hours at times.
What’s your favorite thing about your career?
Solving problems for people and building cool things.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My time day is usually split between coding and meetings.
When I get into the office, I put on my headphones and start
coding away. When I’m not busy, I’ll find something new to
learn or help my coworkers, if possible. I meet with my team
daily to give updates on what I’m working on. If any problem
comes up, we get into a room together and work it out.
What kind of personality traits or qualities do you think make for the best coder?
Problem solver, self-motivated, pays close attention to detail, ability to work independently and collaboratively.
a portal to our best selves
— Emilie von Unwerth
When I first heard about the Shared Studios’ Portal in Monroe Park — a big gold shipping container where you video chat with people from other countries — I thought, ok, a controlled (read: less predatory) version of ChatRoulette.
Technically an arts initiative, the Portal is similar in structure to the mostly obsolete video shuffle service: you interact with strangers you’d likely never meet otherwise. Differently, the portal is a physical space curated by “ambassadors,” with set dates and times for interaction with certain cities.
So, what’s the art portion of this initiative? “Human connection is the art,” says Richmond portal ambassador Karen Manning. “The portal is the channel, and at some level, the human is the channel, too. The art is the conversation.”
I’ve gone to two portal discussions now: one freeform conversation with Ipswich, Massachusetts, and one topic discussion — on monuments — with Berlin. You can enter and leave at your leisure. The conversation flows freely, doesn’t feel too awkward, and is surprisingly rewarding.
“Something happened last night when we were speaking to Ipswich,” says Karen. “Someone asked what was going on with the Richmond governor, and I thought, ‘oh no, where is this going to go?’ And everyone in the portal — they had differing opinions — but everyone remained respectful, and people actually listened to each other. People were taking it all in, people were hearing each other. There’s something about the atmosphere of the Portal.”
It’s true. It’s weird. I’ve not experienced anything quite like it before. There’s something about choosing to step into this 8 x 20-foot box that tempers judgment, that heightens our empathy, that piques our interest, and enhances our ability to learn from one another.
“One of the most interesting things, to me,” says Taylor Logue, another Richmond portal ambassador, “is that everyone is an expert on something, but also doesn’t know basic information about something else. It’s so cool to watch people educate each other.”
This learning from each other in a safe environment has produced an unintended benefit: instead of only connecting with strangers on the other side of the earth, people are also connecting with their neighbors. “It’s such a magical thing to watch,” says Karen.
One of the most major surprises of the portal? Conversation doesn’t gravitate to politics anywhere near as much as I thought it would. Both ambassadors agreed politics comes up 25% of the time or less. And when the subject does come up? “It has not gotten anywhere close to out of hand.” says Taylor.
"We really are more alike than different."
“We had a VCU doctoral student come into the portal when were connecting with Mexico. And she asked, ‘would it be ok if I asked you about what’s going on with the wall?’ And, you know, I got nervous,” says Karen. “But, the people in Mexico said yes. And the student here started asking all these great questions, and — oh, my gosh! — I learned so much! Here’s this robust conversation… here we are being educated.”
So, does something like the Portal really attract people from all walks of life, or is it only drawing progressives? “Oh, no, it’s everyone.” says Taylor.
“We had a man come in a few weeks ago, during another call with Mexico City. It became apparent pretty quickly that he was very sheltered,” says Karen. She explains the man started to ask about normal, daily life things: how is the weather, what did you eat for breakfast, what do you do for fun?
“At the end of the conversation, he said: ‘you guys are so cool, you’re not like what they say in the newspapers. You’re just like us.’” Karen says, at that moment, she knew the Portal had served its purpose: that simple conversation shattered biases, destroyed preconceived notions. “We really are more alike than different,” she says.
Maybe we just all need to walk into a Portal for every important conversation we need to have. Maybe we need to stand in shipping container and ask a stranger on a screen about their daily life, about their thoughts and opinions, their joys and their struggles… or just what they ate for breakfast. Maybe a big gold box in the middle of a park could they key to regaining (or, to be honest, just gaining) empathy for our fellow humans.