In our first instalment of ‘How I Got My Job’, we spoke with David Gilmour at PayByPhone, who gave us an insight into how he secured his role as the company’s Head of Product Marketing.
This week, we’re switching our focus to the increasingly popular world of online language tuition and speaking with Elliott Rayner, Head of Product Marketing at Babbel.
Based in Berlin, Babbel has consolidated its status as a market leader in the language app market, with 10 million subscribers to its name at the time of publication; considering the app doesn’t offer a free subscription tier for its users, it’s testament to the quality of service and teachings on offer.
We'll be discussing:
- Elliott's journey to Head of Product Marketing
- Elliott's role as Head of Product Marketing at Babbel
- Tips for an aspiring Head of Product Marketing
Elliott Rayner, Head of Product Marketing at Babbel
A storytelling expert, (check out his top product storytelling tips 😉), Elliott spent seven years working at the Adidas global HQ specializing in product marketing and innovation, during which time, he developed innovative performance products for the 2010 Football World Cup and the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Post-Adidas, Elliott also spent three years in Amsterdam leading the creation and development of ASICS global running apparel and creating sustainable products for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Join us in saying: bonjour, willkommen, guten tag (hello!), to our latest guest, as he reveals How He Got His Job at Babbel.
Elliott's journey to Head of Product Marketing
What was your dream job growing up?
It changed every week. There are very few things I didn't want to be at some stage.
Does your current role resemble what you wanted to do growing up, whatsoever?
I would have loved the idea of inventing or creating new things. Being able to work on projects and at the end of a project being able to use the thing I have been working on.
How did you get into product marketing?
I discovered it accidentally. I wanted to work in the sports industry so I applied for dozens of internships until I finally ended up being an intern for the Adidas football product team in Germany.
With the power of hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently, at all?
I would have focused more on learning languages at school. I never thought I would leave Newcastle so I didn't put too much interest into learning a second language.
Now after ten years working for global companies, studying international business, and managing diverse teams, I can't imagine how helpful it could have been to have to start earlier, but I am determined to correct that mistake and I am improving my German and Spanish every day.
Which product marketers have inspired you the most, en-route to the role you occupy today, and why?
Rachel Howard was my first boss and still a long term mentor to this day.
Elliott's role as Head of Product Marketing at Babbel
What does your role entail?
At Babbel, we are on a mission to make language learning easier. To do that we need to make sure we have a product that connects and engages with our learners. To do that we are working with hundreds of Linguists and didactic experts to create a digital experience that helps people to create a successful language learning ritual. My team helps shape all of our different product solutions to make sure they connect with our learners.
If you had to explain your job to someone with zero knowledge of product marketing, how would you explain it?
There are two ways to create value. Create something people already want, or drive demand for something you already have. Doing both at the same time is Product Marketing.
Do your family members and friends understand what you do?
Never. I always just told them I make things. So at Adidas, I made football jerseys, at Asics I made running shoes, and now at Babbel, I help create an App.
Tips for an aspiring Head of Product Marketing
What does an entry-level PMM aspiring to eventually work in your role need to do so?
Take risks, be entrepreneurial, put yourself in situations where you are constantly learning.
What advice would you give to a product marketer plying their trade in the current circumstances?
Have a think on which products you believe will still be needed in the future, and what skills and insights you would require to work in that industry. At the same time, find a good mentor and also become a mentor to somebody else. The simple experience of learning from someone and teaching someone will be incredibly beneficial in the future
What would you consider to be the most important quality needed to succeed in your role?
Empathy. It plays a key role in helping you understand your consumer, understand how to better collaborate with your stakeholders, and become a better team leader and manager.
In terms of extra-curricular activities, is there anything someone who may want a role similar to yours can do to improve their knowledge? Any recommended books/podcasts?
I once heard a story from a recruiter that Product Marketers usually have extremely contrasting hobbies. For example, someone who plays chess but also fixes motorcycles. That makes a lot of sense, as product marketers need to be able to understand people from all angles. So having a diverse set of interests and passions betters sets you up to understand more people and also resist making narrow assumptions.
How to become a Product Marketing Manager (and more!)
Elliott has devoted years of hard work, effort, and dedication to reach the role of Head of Product Marketing; it doesn’t happen overnight.
During his appearance on PMA’s Product Marketing Insider podcast, he gave an insight into his fascinating PMM journey.
Not only did Elliott give an insight into his role at Adidas, he also delved into the details of how he eventually transitioned over to the digital arena at Babbel, plus the vast differences in a day in the life within those spheres, his key learnings, as well as his top three skills that have propelled his career.
And our career guidance doesn’t stop there. 😏 Our specialist resource PMM Hired offers everything you need and a whole lot more to climb the product marketing career ladder, including interview advice, vetted and tested resources from respected PMMs, and exclusive articles, with invaluable insights also available to PMMs with a PMA Membership.