Hi, Could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Sara Rosso, MBA – I’ve worked in technology for more than 20 years for companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Ogilvy, and I currently work for Automattic (WordPress.com & more) as Director of Product Marketing. I’m a board member on the Santa Clara University MBA Alumni advisory board.
What are you working on?
I currently work on our flagship product, WordPress.com. I lead the Engagement team in the marketing division, which is focused on the customer from the moment they enter the signup flow through the entire customer journey at renewal.How did you get into your current field? I spent over a decade working abroad, and communication was extremely important to stay in touch with friends, family, and to network. Though I started as a network engineer, the communication, collaboration, and customer empathy that come natural to me paved a clear path towards becoming more involved in creating solutions and products. Though I have some experience with packaged goods via my strategic work with Nutella, I specialize in digital products and experiences.
What are your goals?
Today? I am very goal-oriented, perhaps overly so, but I tend to set differing goals for both the time period and my motivation. I do a yearly reflection exercise - a look back and look forward which I find is really helpful to orient me for the upcoming year, and I also make overarching goals for health, finance/wealth, and relationships. I've made my planning template available online. https://whenihavetime.com/2020/01/02/your-year-reflection-planning-exercise/
Do you have a mentor?
I have a pretty tight network of friends and colleagues I go to for advice on certain things, but I would always love more mentors. I talk about having a personal board of directors at the end of the below post, and I think that approach is well worth it - you likely don't need one mentor, you need a whole board of specific subject-matter experts to be in your corner. Don't forget to give back yourself to people in whatever you're most skilled at.https://whenihavetime.com/2015/07/27/to-my-girlfriends-how-to-be-an-independent-woman-in-a-relationship/
Do you mentor anyone?
I have a few people I connect with on a regular basis and I'm always open to new connections (my Twitter DMs are open right now, or LinkedIn) but a key component to engaging with someone you don't know is asking good questions - be respectful of their time! Don't expect them to give you a full download of their brains or default directly to a request for a sync/call/video (super precious time!) right away.Do some research. Get clear in your ask. I've written so much online, so a lot of my advice is already there, and I'm always happy to answer specific questions and asks! I've even written an article about How to Ask for Help…and Get an Answer for specifics on putting this to work. Feel free to reach out with a specific ask. https://whenihavetime.com/2012/06/26/how-to-ask-for-help-and-get-an-answer/
What could the tech industry do to better foster female talent?
The tech industry is so varied, I think this is an incredibly hard question to answer. The most immediate thing we can do is by starting where we are and encouraging those around you to succeed, and ask that they do the same to the next person. I started as an electrical engineer in college, before finalizing my journey in Management Information Systems, and definitely being exposed to STEM activities as kid and having access to a computer (when that wasn't as common) made a huge difference to me being interested in and comfortable with technology.
Younger generations don't have as much of a problem getting access to technology, but they need help being guided to make an impact with technology - on themselves, on their communities, on a business. Providing more opportunities for 'edutainment' and helping them see phones and computers as powerful creation devices instead of just consuming takes lot of help and curation.
What advice would you give to people getting into your field?
I have always been very curious and I make dogfooding products in my everyday life a priority. I still do that today with new products I come across - testing, using, and learning.Without knowing exactly which specific product or company you'd like to target, I'd suggest narrowing down a few, or even just products that you're excited or curious about, and actually writing about your experiences with the products: what do you like? What would you suggest they do differently? What's the experience like for the customer? What could be better? Are there confusing parts of the app / software / site? Writing some "I expected..." type reflections can be helpful about understanding the customer experience.
Try it with the lens of a PMM, too - in short, be a PMM for that product.Then, I strongly suggest publishing and writing about that process. It can become a sort of portfolio for you in a way, or at least a side project to talk about how you approached bridging the gap between where you are in your career right now and where you'd like to be. I know I'm biased because I work for a site builder / publishing software company but don't be afraid to publish and share along the way. You never know what it might do for you, and you can always archive it later in your career if needed.
Some good resources for PMMs in tech are the Product Marketing Alliance and for more product-focused (highly recommend focusing on product and not just marketing): This is Product Management (podcast), Product Collective, and Mind the Product.
What's the best and worst advice you have received?
- I think my stepdad (amazing manufacturing engineer who filed patents for disk drives) said it best "90% of the job is showing up" - you'd be surprised how much people don't show up. Showing up can mean a lot of things but I take it to mean continuing to be emotionally present, curious, supportive, and collaborative. It's a commitment to optimism, continual reinvention, and learning.
- any advice from someone that's "what's best for you." You're the only one who knows how much risk you're comfortable with, you're the one who has to live with the decisions you make, you're the one who will have regrets (or decide not to regret anything), and you're the only one who walk in your shoes in the end. Absolutely gather opinions and advice, but then make your own decision.
How do you stay up to date?
I follow a lot of blogs but also receive subject-specific newsletters which help me stay up to date with industry news or find new trends or things to be interested in. I prefer email for subjects which require learning or processing so I can be sure to be in a mindset & have time for them vs. just coming across news or interesting content on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?
I have had a newsletter for a few years but LinkedIn is probably the best place for work-related topics!
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