How I became Director of Demand Generation at Sauce Labs without an university degree

Natalie Binns – Director of Demand Generation | Sauce Labs | LinkedIN

How was your University time?

 I didn’t go to university, shocker I know, but back in 1998 not everyone needed to go and I didn’t want to stay in academia mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and figured I would be better off working my way up to something I wanted to do. At 18 I got a job as a telephone researcher in a IT Sales headhunting agency, they pay was very low and it was hard job but it was an office job and my start in the IT world. By the time my friends were graduating, I was managing 3 people (with degrees), I know that this is usual and things have changed. Your degree is your foot in the door, but if you can get paid or unpaid work experience while studying, this will really help.

Why did you Seek out a career in this field?

I fell into it! I loved being on the phones, the more I learned about IT companies, the more I wanted to work in the industry and after 2.5 years of dealing with candidates and clients, I moved into IT sales for an IT reseller.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?

Hard work, putting in the hours, being a team player, pushing myself forward into new projects and basically took any responsibility that was given to me. As my career has progressed, I’ve realized that personal relationships go a long way to having fun and being successful. You spend so much time with your co-workers and although it’s great to have heated debates, passion and drive, it’s also fantastic when you work with people you choose to socialize with and have fun.

How did you prepare for an interview?

Interviews are so much fun but they can be awful. Personally, I take the time to research as much as I can about the company: the industry, the products, financials (if available), who are their competitors? Where do they sit in the market? I love an underdog so it’s not so much about whether they are the market leader or not but more getting an understanding as to where they are. Staff: this is huge, the tech world has so many great products but it’s the people that make the company. I like to check out all of the executives, senior leaders in a business, look at the diversity of the management team and check out each person I’m meeting on LinkedIn. I also look at Glassdoor, being careful not to read every bad review (often these are written by bad performers) but looking at the attrition and the middle ground ratings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Then put together my interview questions, interviewing is a two-way street and if you go to an interview expecting just to answer questions, then you are not getting anything out of the experience. Using research, I write down questions for each individual I’m due to meet and also have some generic questions just in case there is an extra person thrown into the mix! Finally, I arrive 15 minutes early, dressed smartly and conservatively. Earlier in my career, suits were expected to be worn at interviews and indeed in many office environments but now I wear smart dresses and plain heels, (with a pair of flats in my bag!). I also usually have my laptop with me just in case I need to refer to previous marketing content or campaigns.

Books that helped you.?

Tough one, I don’t read that many business books however, ahead of joining my current company, I read The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins, this was pretty good as I had been at my previous company for nearly 5 years so it was good to reset and look at things in a different way.

Things are changing very fast in the industry, how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc.

This really is a tough one, how do you cope with a full time career and balance your life, whilst staying up to date? I typically take bitesize content where I can get it. Vendors are getting better at helping you out by building educational content like ebooks, webinar recordings, videos, infographics. I’m consuming content on Account Based Everything! Or Account Based Marketing (ABM) Content strategies, A/B testing etc. and luckily there are companies like LookbookHQ and Marketo doing a great job serving me with what I need! We also work closely with Sirius Decisions who are a sales and marketing analyst organization, and they do a great job at helping you have easy and quick frameworks and documents to save you time, which is essential in a start up! I also try and attend free events- briefings and lunches etc. on marketing strategies. Conferences can be expensive but there are some good ones out there!

What can you recommend on CV?

Keep it focused on responsibilities, achievements and skills. Show your diversity and interests but also consider that despite the Tech industry being fast moving, if you’ve hopped from job to job within months, it won’t look good!

Advice for someone looking for job?

Network – start with your network, someone recommending you will get you to the top of the resume/cv pile. What have you got to lose? – apply for things even if they seem out of reach or even if you don’t think you have the skill set. Be humble, the job your going for may come with a pay cut, a title cut or stay the same, consider the opportunity above money every time! Think about whether you could work there for 4 years or more, can you learn from the people around you.

why do you think you were selected among other candidates?

My attitude, experience and cultural fit. Being open, honest and being me. Being authentic is key, be confident but don’t exaggerate your skills and experience because it will come back to bite you later.

Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.

Interesting question! Earlier in my career I went for a Sales Manager job, I had been managing for 4 years but I was still only 24 and looked younger. I got down to the final two but was told that they’d decided to hire the alternative candidate because they were “more experienced” this was pretty much implied that my age was the factor and altho it is illegal to do this, it still happens. I was a bit fed up because I really couldn’t change that! However, I found an amazing job in another company which really helped springboard my career forward. The best bit was the Sales Director from the company that had turned me down, called me a few months later as the “more experienced” candidate hadn’t worked out and they wanted to hire me! by then, I was loving my new role and company.

I believe everything happens for a reason, every interview is an experience and an opportunity and I have always gone with my gut feeling. I’ve been extremely lucky in every job I’ve been truly excited about and really wanted, I’ve been offered and taken. Maybe my passion and excitement helped getting those jobs. But some of the jobs I’ve applied for have been wrong for me for one reason or another but I’ve made new connections and enjoyed the experience. If you find a connection with someone, you should always take advantage of it as your paths may meet later on.

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