I was recently invited to an event about digital marketing. At the beginning of the talk, I mentioned that the material included lessons learned from The Iron Yard, a company I co-founded and helped to run for over five years. (The Iron Yard was at one time the world’s largest in-person code school1.)
After the talk, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I’d like to have a word with you.” Not sure whether to expect praise or reprimand, I said, “I’d love to talk,” and stepped aside with him. As he pulled out his phone, he told me that during the talk, he’d sent a message to his grandson letting him know that he was at a talk being given by on of the founders of The Iron Yard.
1. You can read more about code schools on Wikipedia.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a variety of people about the marketing/sales funnel, which I wrote about recently2. Even though many would a consider clear understanding of where you’re customers are coming from—and how to scale those channels—an essential part of business (which it is), many companies simply haven’t defined their marketing/sales funnel.
For those who have an intimate understanding of their funnel, the temptation is to be critical of businesses who don’t. When you step back, though, the context for most companies without a funnel is understandable and, in some cases, even justifiable.
1. You can read my first post, called The Amazing Marketing/Sales Funnel, here.
A few weeks ago I gave a talk explaining some of the lessons I’d learned about marketing as I helped grow The Iron Yard. As I reviewed my presentation with the conference organizer, one slide towards the beginning caught his attention. Here it is:
His advice on that slide was, “you should explain what the marketing funnel is. Not everyone will know what that term means.” His observation was a great reminder that, when you are fully steeped in a discipline, concepts that are second-nature to you probably aren’t to people outside of that discipline.
Recently, while working through a list of agenda items with several people on my team, I noticed a new feature in Google Docs: recognition of what is likely an action time and a suggestion to create a task for the person mentioned.
This has been a common theme for Google products over the last few years. From consolidating travel information into easily-actionable bundles via Inbox to offering suggested analyses of data in Google Sheets, their ability to turn raw data sources into semantic, proactive features for users is impressive to say the least. (If you’re unfamiliar with these features, click on the “Explore” icon in the bottom right of your screen next time you open a document in Google Drive.)
Since writing about varying opinions on social media and ownership of online content, I’ve been musing about ‘online presence’ as a concept in general. Last night I mentioned to a friend that in 10 years (or less), it’s very likely that some of the basic web development skills we teach at The Iron Yard to help people launch careers in software development will be either an expectation for most knowledge workers’ jobs, automated in some way, or, more likely, a combination of both.
This topic is a complex one without singular answers, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind as of late.You can find links to all of the posts in the series on this page. Here’s Part 2:
Take a moment and think about this question: is it possible to be a successful professional in today’s world without an online presence?
During a stage of significant growth at The Iron Yard, several executives had a conversation about how to quell what had become the insanity of our heavy travel and meeting schedules. The CEO asked me to test out a virtual assistant that could spend a few hours a week booking transportation and wrangling calendars. After a bit of research, I decided to try a service called Zirtual.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been culling through a gigantic pile of links, articles and ideas that I’ve saved up for this blog. One of the files contained quotes from team members at The Iron Yard (the company I help lead). I’m not exactly sure who said what or when, but I do know that I copied them from Slack or other internal tools.
Management is a topic that draws no shortage of opinions, studies or differing experiences.
I’ve heard a variety of terms and concepts used to describe managers. Managers as leaders, managers as cheerleaders, managers as experts and so on. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a manager as an editor, similar to the editor in chief of a publication.
Some time ago I signed up for an online course about user growth. Overall it was underwhelming (so I’m not going to link to it), but there were a few exercises that challenged me to articulate my thoughts about products I’ve used and the company I work for. In particular, one of the assignments required me to “name a product either you’re working on, or a product you currently use, and explain why you feel it has achieved product/market fit.”
I chose to write about Front App3, a product that, earlier on in The Iron Yard’s growth, allowed a very small admissions team to manage email across a huge number of campuses. Below a full re-post of my homework assignment.
1. You can read more about Front App on their website.
One of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had in my professional life is named Heather Hough. When I was just out of college, she took a big chance on me as an over-confident, inexperienced grad and opened doors of opportunity I wouldn’t have had the chance walk through otherwise.
She taught me many lessons, but one in particular has made a significant impact on my career. It is a concept she referred to as “managing up.”
In organizations, the word “management” almost always refers some level of top-down authority or hierarchical leadership, even in ‘flat’ company structures. Managing up is the initiative of first looking beyond your own work to understand its context in the broader business, then second, understanding responsibility of the person you report to, finding ways to contribute to their success.
Good employees do good work. Great employees do excellent work and find new, creative ways to make the business better. Future leaders seek to understand how their work and the work of their leader adds to the bottom line of the business and proactively helps equip their manager to deliver results.
Ideas like these can easily become somewhat ambiguous, easily-Tweetable business wisdom, but why is this true?