Whilst keeping an eye on the content published by PMA on the recommendation of friends, Seb Agudelo, Product Marketing Manager at Yabonza came across the PMA Scholar Program. His subsequent experience would change the face of his career as a PMM.
In this case study, we’ll focus on:
- Seb’s route to the PMA Scholar Program
- Key takeaways from the course
- The impact the PMA Scholar Program has had on his career
- Advice for prospective scholars
- His interview with Vanessa Thompson, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Twilio
- How to apply for the PMA Scholar Program
As part of his experience on the PMA Scholar Program, Seb also wrote a piece focusing on How Product Marketing will Evolve in Product-Led SaaS Companies.
Seb’s route to the PMA Scholar Program
Q: What was your motivation for joining the PMA Scholar Program?
A: “I had recently finished at Antler, a global startup incubator, where I focused on validating early-stage business ideas, customer interviews, and forming go-to-market strategies.
“After the program, I landed as a first marketing hire at a startup. My first project was on pricing research, which made me realize that I had been living the life of a Product Marketer all along. I was hooked!
“When I applied to the PMA Scholar Program, I was aiming to consolidate my previous experience while accelerating my entry path into product marketing.”
Q: Why did you choose the PMA Scholar Program?
A: “I already knew from some friends that the certification was valuable and I had been closely following the content that PMA puts out.
“The PMA Scholar Program stood out to me as a unique opportunity to learn from the industry’s best and to connect with a cohort of high potential aspiring Product Marketers.”
Key takeaways of the PMA Scholar Program
Q: What have you learned from your experience in the program?
“I have learned that product marketers come from a variety of diverse backgrounds and we share a common passion for deeply understanding a market, and launching products that make a difference to our customers.
“Product marketing is an ever-evolving discipline that can be misunderstood. As the industry grows, it will be on all of us to pitch in and educate on the strategic impact of the industry.
“As the tech industry grows exponentially, product marketing will become ever more important to achieving market traction. The beauty is that the product marketing framework can be applied to any tech business. It gives you the wings to fly at any market opportunity with confidence.”
How does the PMA Scholar Program enhance career prospects?
Q: If you hadn’t signed up for the PMA Scholar Program, what impact do you think this would’ve had on your product marketing career?
“I was very excited to get accepted into the PMA Scholar Program.
“If I hadn't signed up to the Scholar Program, I would have missed out on a lot of industry connections and valuable speaker content that is not available through other options.
“The video content is curated and laid out clearly in the weekly modules. The opportunity to apply the content and use the templates in the weekly tasks made the biggest difference.
“Learning with a group of highly motivated Product Marketers was also of great benefit. It felt that everybody contributed and we were all working together.
“Without this tribe, and our mentor Harvey Lee, it definitely would have been a slower start into the product marketing industry.”
Top tips for future scholars
Q: What would be your advice for prospective students who may be considering signing up for the program?
“Think like a Product Marketer. Reach out to previous Scholar alumni and learn from their application process.
“Then, reflect on your own unique experiences. Think about why you want to apply and what you think you will bring to the program. Tell your story as no one else can.”
Aspiring product marketers submit applications for the PMA Scholar Program in search of unrivaled access to product marketing experts.
Since taking part in the program, Seb’s PMM prospects have been boosted, with his recent interview with Vanessa Thompson, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Twilio an example of how the program gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with elite practitioners.
Here’s what happened when Seb picked the brains of one of the leading lights in the business.
Interview: Vanessa Thompson, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Twilio
Vanessa Thompson, Senior Director Product Marketing, Twilio has had a remarkable journey from working in Technology Strategy for one of the largest banks in Australia & New Zealand, through to being a VP Research at IDC, and now to leading a high growth product marketing team at Twilio, in San Francisco.
In this wide-ranging discussion, we explore Vanessa’s journey, product marketing for a Developer Audience, building an amazing team culture, and advice to Product Marketers on how to grow their careers.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, what was your journey from New Zealand, to San Francisco, and Twilio?
“I went to university in New Zealand and started an engineering degree, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I spent a few years working in retail and worked my way up to store management. I realized that I didn’t want to stay in retail for the rest of my life and decided to go back to university and then completed a degree in Business Information Systems.
“After doing an internship at the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology, I was accepted into the ANZ Bank Graduate program - and ended up working in the Technology Division as an Engagement Manager, before moving into a Technology Strategy role.
“After this, I got a job at IDC in Australia and moved to Sydney and built out the Software Research Practice. I built up relationships with the analysts in the US, which then opened up the opportunity with IDC to move into a Worldwide Research role managing the Collaboration & Social software portfolio.
“I was lucky enough to have the choice to live anywhere in the US where IDC had a presence and because many of my clients were in the Bay Area, I chose to move to San Francisco! In that role, I had the privilege of working with tier 1 software vendors on a range of research projects relating to Outbound Product Validation: Repositioning, New Market Entry, and Pricing Studies.
“From there, I was offered a cool job at Bluewolf, a large Salesforce consulting agency. I got to create my role as SVP Customer Experience Insights. During my early time in the company, we were acquired by ,and integrated into, IBM.
“But working at such a large company wasn't a good fit for me. It turned out that I had a friend who worked at Twilio and he was looking for someone who knew how to define new markets, product lines, and how to build GTM plans comprehensively.
“This conversation led to me starting as the first marketer for the IoT team at Twilio. From there, I started building the foundation for the IoT business, before getting asked to run product marketing for all the major product lines across Messaging, Voice, Video, Email, Account Security.”
Q: What’s unique about product marketing for a Developer Audience?
“One thing we hear a lot is that Developers hate marketing. Our VP of Developer Relations says that “Developers don’t hate marketing, they just hate bad marketing.”
“When I say bad marketing, I mean superfluous language, not writing as you talk. Fluffy words, like better, faster, quicker (we call those weasel words). Not specific or direct language. Not giving developers a product that they can get their hands on right away.
“If you’re authentic and you can create the experiences in the way developers want to consume it, you will be fine marketing to a developer audience.”
Q: How have you seen product marketing evolve over the last few years and where do you see it going?
“More startups are looking for a PMM to be their first marketing hire, rather than on the revenue marketing side. I think there has been a big shift in the last 6 months.
“It’s less about acquiring eyeballs on your site and more about landing your product message, telling the right story to your audience, and ensuring you are nailing product-market fit as early as possible.
“Product marketing in Twilio has been high growth, alongside the rapid growth of the company. The same is true in any company, as a business grows and needs to expand into different areas, you may need something different from Product Marketing.
“For us, our transition came quickly and we have had to launch many new areas across Competitive Intelligence, Technical Documentation, as well as Localisation becoming important for scaling into Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific.”
Q: What does a day look like in the life of a Senior Director of Product Marketing, how do you prioritize and manage at scale across many product lines and geographies?
“Every day is different. Product marketing is in the middle of so many different things and decisions.
“I spend a lot of time making sure we have alignment across the functions. We work across different teams, team calls, 1:1s, and customer calls.
“There are so many things we get involved in and as PMMs, we must be able to context switch between Narrative Building through to Operationalising.
“As product marketing is a highly collaborative function, how have you and your team managed to maintain stakeholder relations in Product, Marketing, and Sales virtually through COVID?”
Q: I meet with Product Stakeholders regularly, some every day when we are on important projects.
“On the Sales Side, it will come in waves. We tend to get out of the way at the end of the quarter unless we are needed for strategic customer calls. We tend to get more face time with sales earlier in the quarter.
“For the rest of marketing we have built interlocks and we know how to get things done across the team.
“When I think about Stakeholder relationships, sometimes I hear the team talk about wanting to collaborate more, but I would prefer to spend the time planning in a more disciplined way so that we can execute together.
“I'm more of an introvert so I don’t like meetings just to talk about things. I much prefer meetings that are focused on outcomes and what we are trying to achieve.
“I prefer the first meeting to be focused on aligning on a plan, we can then follow up on execution asynchronously. From here, we can then set up meetings if there is a specific issue. Working through the pandemic has helped us be more effective in this way too. We just need to find more time for virtual social things for those in the team that wants it.
Q: What are the most important things in building a culture for a Product Marketing team?
“I like to create psychological safety in my team. Especially, In a high-growth environment. If my team doesn’t feel comfortable raising tough topics to me, then we aren't going to work through anything that’s broken and that needs to be fixed.
“For skills building, we have started doing a Peer Insights program. I am of the view that every PMM has a superpower - and that we can all learn from each other. One person on my team is great at Narrative Building, another one is great at Consumer Research, others awesome at Launch Planning and another is awesome at Demo Videos. When I see someone do something well, I will invite them to come and present Peer Insights for the whole PMM org:
“Peer Insights does 2 things:
- Helps shares the knowledge, resources, and templates for the team to do their job
- Gives kudos to the team member for being awesome at what they do
“We also bring in guest speakers as well on SEO and Marketing to Developers.”
Q: What would be the best piece of advice you would give to PMMs at the beginning of their journey into product marketing?
“Trust your superpower. So many of us as humans look at our strengths and weaknesses and think we have to work on all our weaknesses.
“I would say don’t bother. Focus on being awesome at what you are good at.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but I believe you can be an awesome product marketer at the right place, in the right role, with the right company - because any company, at whatever size, will need a collection of different Product marketing skills to build up a great team.
“If you know instinctively what your strengths are, and hone in on developing those, you will be good.
“Your team will be able to see the value you bring and hiring managers will be able to see that as well.
“By focusing here, you will be able to build a great product marketing career.”
How to apply for the PMA Scholar Program
We’ve said time and again how awesome a career in product marketing is and the findings in the State of Product Marketing Report 2021 supported our claims.
64% of the PMMs we surveyed are plotting the next stage of their career, and while this is great news for people with their foot in the door, there’s increased competition for budding PMMs.
Need a boost in your efforts to kick-start your product marketing journey? Look no further than the PMA Scholar Program - there are a whole bunch of perks waiting for you.
🔖 Product marketing certification (providing you pass the exams)
👩💻 Live, weekly workshops with industry leaders
✅ Marked, practical tasks to test your learning
👣 A platform to build your portfolio
🌎 Exposure to some of the world’s biggest brands
🔥 Official accreditation from the industry’s go-to association (aka, us!)
🆓 All of the above for free (worth $5,000 RRP)
So, if you’re committed to a product marketing career, ready to go above and beyond in your pursuit of success, and have a proven passion for product marketing, whaddya waitin’ for?Become a PMA Scholar