Authors often have the arc of a story in mind, but get there one chapter at a time. When it comes to taking on your first executive marketing role, enlist the same mentality. Sketch out your vision for your role, but recognize that you’ll fulfill it in stages. For Schneider, this has meant setting reasonable expectations for herself at the onset, starting with her first year.
“I think it’s really important to be realistic with yourself. If you’re a straight-A, gunner type, you’re going to want to get in the role and see immediate, seismic impact. But the truth of the matter is, it’s rare that a new leader can make such sweeping change on behalf of an entire organization,” says Schneider. “So I gave myself three goals for my first year. If I fulfilled these three, I’d not only keep myself focused, I’d make my priorities clear as I built relationships with my team.”
Too often people forget that joining a company also means getting intimately acquainted with its industry. To get smart about an industry quickly — and your company’s role in it — Schneider recommends a few 1:1s with your founder or CEO. Don’t ask for the origin story (read: table of contents), but get them to start at the index: a list of what’s important, organized for comprehensiveness, not chronology.
“As any marketer knows, you need to represent your company. As an executive, you will represent your company and your industry, even if it’s your take on it. So you need to be able to speak with a reasonable level of authority on the sector,” says Schneider. “For an executive new to a role and industry, this takes some serious upfront work. In addition to reading hundreds of pages about how health insurance works, I tapped into the mental archives of [then CEO and founder] Tom Lee over a series of 1:1s.”
This tactic is helpful for any new hire starting at a company, but is requisite for an executive on a leadership team. “It doesn't matter how good you are at the discipline you represent, at the end of the day, you need to learn the ins, outs and influencers of your industry. For Eventbrite, I learned every ticketing platform under the sun. At Airbnb, that meant knowing all about travel. And now at One Medical, it means being fluent in what care options exist,” says Schneider. “Ultimately, there are two relationships to focus on at the start: how your team fits into your company. And how your company fits into the landscape. The CEO has those cliff notes. I spent a lot of time on the phone with him before I even got started in the role.”
Schneider’s days working on book tours and drafting marketing copy are behind her, but she still draws on principles from publishing, PR and communications in her role as an executive. Among them: commit to the book, but write in chapters. In other words, your narrative as a leader unfolds; even if you’re ambitious, remember to take it year by year. Flip to the index to get a suitable synopsis. Most seek origin stories. But if you want comprehensiveness over chronology, look to the index: your CEO. To get to know your team members — and their voices — ask for a “lookback” that allows them to be the protagonist of their story. Earn trust by calling out a POV, inflection points and BS. Steward the relationship between leadership and your team. Lastly, unabashedly pitch the immeasurable to anyone who’ll ask and listen.
“I think the biggest difference between being a ‘manager’ and a ‘leader’ is going from a position where you're accountable for strategy that is within the realm of your expertise versus being accountable for strategy that extends beyond your direct experience. For me, marketing has always been about being curious about how people identify and gather — and about what relationships people choose,” says Schneider. “As marketers, we already feel driven to connect people to a new experience, one that’s beyond what they know. Those uncharted territories are areas to explore; as an executive, you truly own them. That’s an exciting prospect for anyone.”