The Start of My Transformation from “Digital Marketer” to “Digital Marketer Who Writes Code”
I still remember the day I deployed my first line of code 4 glorious weeks ago. And it was awesome!
As the daughter of your typical Silicon Valley software developer, I grew up loving tech, startups, and fully knowing how much developers can’t stand marketers (thanks, Dad!). As my career transformed from print journalism to corporate PR to digital marketing, I found myself desiring more.
Each time I had a great idea, I always needed someone else to execute it for me. As my list of unexecuted ideas kept growing over the years, so did my frustration.
In college, I started Kaurista, an online lifestyle magazine, that was built using WordPress. While I didn’t do much of the implementation, I began slowly experimenting with HTML and CSS style sheets. Even though my skill set grew, I remained restricted to editing only pre crafted WordPress themes. Leaving me, again, dependent on someone else to create my vision.
After college, I worked within the VC side of the startup world, doing marketing consulting for portfolio companies. One of the companies was working on an Android app to streamline cross platform communication. The only issue: customers were not completing signup. So, I proposed a few shortcuts to help make the signup process easier. I got a lot of pushback from the development team, who told me my ideas were not possible to implement. However, after doing some digging around on Stack Overflow, I was able to support my change request. The end result was an impressive increase in successful signups. This was the first moment I realized the importance of thinking and speaking like a developer when proposing ideas as a marketer.
For the past year, I have been working at Rival IQ as a digital marketer. My focus has primarily been on social media strategy, but I am starting to expand my reach. We are currently working on updating and expanding our website content, which has become my primary project. And so, opportunity presented itself. As a two person marketing team, it has become critical for us to be fast and efficient. When taking on this site revamp project, it became that much more important for me to learn to code.
I was now responsible for content creation, but had no way to implement my work directly. Working with Seth (aka Doc), a developer and data scientist, I realized how powerful it is to bridge the gap between marketing and development teams. Instead of asking me create mockups in GoogleDocs and send them to him for implementation, Seth got me plugged into GitHub, the source management system that controls the code for our marketing and product site. This allowed me to start developing, refining and deploying site content. Being able to immediately implement my ideas has been empowering. It has also made our process faster and more efficient — allowing us to truly divide and conquer.
It only takes a nudge to help someone and put them on the path to lifelong learning. By getting me setup in GitHub, I was now able to participate in product discussions and experiments. The side-effect of learning was just the cherry on top and something you should always strive for at work.
When do you know you are really learning? When you break stuff.
During Mig Reyes’ talk at MozCon last week, Mig told the attendees to stop pigeonholing themselves as just marketers or developers and to push their boundaries. Break things and take them apart — after all, that’s how we learn. And honestly, he is right. The fear of ruining, breaking and not knowing can be intimidating and disabling. Which is why it took me years before I finally started to explore coding.
I remember my first day of learning jade, the templating syntax we use. I started making changes, not paying attention to any of the code formatting. So, after clicking “commit change” and refreshing our staging server page, I realized I had, as Mig encouraged, broken the site. A minor panic attack later, I compared what I did to another similar page in our branch and realized my mistake: those damn indents actually do matter. Great!
I definitely encourage you to download and check out his deck from MozCon!
Team Encouragement Matters
Being part of a team that encourages and helps you grow makes a huge difference. I know I can go to anyone within our development team with questions and they will be more than happy to guide me.
As a team, we use HipChat to communicate. Anytime someone deploys a branch in GitHub, you see it show up as an automated notification in our development team room. Seeing my name in that HipChat room and hearing the cheers from my team was such an exciting moment for me.
Make Marketing Efficient: Learn to Code!
As I start asking more questions and learning the basics of coding, I realize how freeing it can be. It has made my work process much faster. I no longer have to wait for someone else to make new pages on the site or commit site changes. It has helped me explore a new and much-needed skill set.
As marketers, we often struggle to convey our ideas because we don’t understand the process that takes place after passing on our mockups. Learning the basics of coding has helped me understand the development process and set realistic implementation goals.
I urge every marketer to learn to code, even if it’s not your cup of tea. Understanding programming will help you communicate across teams better. It may even fuel your creative marketing juices.
Thank you, Team! Shout out to the whole Rival IQ team for being so supportive. Especially to all of my friends on the development team for inviting me to participate in their morning stand-ups and encouraging me every step of the way!