How I Got Into Tech (Google) As a Marketer in 3 Simple Steps
Whether you’re working in an agency, in-house marketing department, or freelancing, it's not easy being a marketer.
You probably stepped into marketing thinking the job would entail creating sexy creative campaigns like Don Draper in the TV show Mad Men. Instead, you’re investing long hours into projects that, at times, can feel unimportant and undervalued.
I know how you feel.
I attended a small business school with a concentration in marketing, interned at a global marketing agency, and worked for an in-house marketing department. After a few years in the industry, I realized I wasn’t learning anymore nor had any interest in climbing the corporate marketing ladder.
That is when I decided to make a career change and get into tech.
Step 1: Deciding to Get into Tech
What initially attracted me to the tech industry was its innovative and collaborative culture. After transitioning to a role at Google, I can sum up a few of my favorite benefits below:
#1 Scale, Impact, and Performance-Focus
As a marketer, your impact is limited to constraints of the business. This includes the scale of the business, scope of your role, as well as leadership's desire to expand marketing efforts. In tech, you often have a wider variety of products and services, the potential for a global footprint, wider customer base, and a hungry appetite from leadership to innovate and grow. As long as your efforts provide a strong return on investment, you'll be able to grow your project with scale and flexibility.
#2 Internal Mobility
In my 6+ years at Google, I've travelled to 9+ countries for work and managed side projects across 7+ areas of expertise including diversity and inclusion, product management, sales, measurement & analytics, and internal tool development. These projects not only allowed me to continuously feel challenged at work but also helped me discover my true passions in product management. Because working in tech gave me exposure to so many areas of the business, I was able to relocate from Hong Kong to the US and change teams from Account Management to Global Product Leadership, where I am today.
#3 Fast-Paced Environment
In my past marketing experience, larger teams and complex organizations made it hard to get visibility or move projects along more quickly. At Google, I've never worked with a direct team of more than 2-3 people. The business evolved quickly so there are always new challenges and things to learn. This environment makes work exciting and meaningful since I’ve been able to start and lead my own projects with cross-functional teams to solve problems.
#4 Compensation and Promotions
Your base salary isn't the only form of compensation in tech. Common forms of compensation could also include gifted stocks, employer-matched 401k contributions, company bonuses, relocation bonuses, sign-on bonuses, performance bonuses, and performance-based promotions. I’ve frequently received peer-nominated, manager-nominated, and referral bonuses too which shows how tech companies support not only a collaborative environment, but also performance-based rewards. In return, I'm constantly focused on driving impact for my company and teammates.
#5 a Test and Learn Mindset
As a marketer, I was often repeating campaigns and planning processes based on what previous teams did instead of focusing on innovation. In tech, I'm able to guide and implement test and learn strategies, including launching test products or creating a/b experiments. This mindset allows me to comfortably and confidently make decisions without the fear of failure while ensuring teammates are always open to new ideas and willing to collaborate.
Step 2: “OK Google,” you've sold me, where can I start?
When I transitioned from marketing into tech, I landed a role in account management as a way to get my ‘foot in the door’ . I also wanted to work with clients and enjoyed the performance-focused culture.
Generally, there are 5 possible roles that marketers can aim to interview for:
#1 Account Management
Account management includes roles and titles such as Account Manager, Account Executive, Campaign Manager, Client Solution Manager, and Customer Success Manager. These roles help businesses invest more in the company’s technology while making the most out of its product features. Account Management can include individually managing a portfolio of smaller sized businesses or a few larger businesses together with a small account team. These roles are widely available in the industry and are great for people who have experience pitching internal stakeholders to adopt, use, and host company-wide trainings for the software tech companies create.
#2 New Business Sales
Sales is similar to account management but instead of working with existing clients, you hunt for new business. Titles can vary between companies including Business Development Representative, Account Executive, Client Sales, and New Business Sales. Sales roles are great for anyone who is driven by individual performance and the potential income benefits of a commission-based compensation plan.
#3 Product Marketing Management
Product marketing works with product and sales teams to ensure products are promoted and positioned well for both the business and customers to drive growth. Business growth could mean acquiring new customers, whether across consumers or small medium businesses. It could also mean maintaining loyalty among current large clients, corporate partners, or frequent users. No matter the goal, this role is great for anyone who has experience in building scalable campaigns, loves using data to drive decision making, and enjoys managing projects with internal stakeholders.
#4 Marketing Analytics
Marketing analytics works with marketing stakeholders and strategy teams to evaluate marketing channels, develop models and tools to direct marketing strategy, and present meaningful insights to stakeholders. This role is great for anyone who has strong analytical experience, likes working with large data sets, and enjoys developing forecasts to inform marketing decisions that drive business growth.
#5 Customer Insights and Research
Customer insight teams gather qualitative and quantitative data about users to help internal stakeholders make better decisions about a product’s marketing positioning. Customer insight roles are great for anyone who has market research experience, loves telling stories with consumer insights, and enjoys influencing internal or external stakeholders. Be wary of confusing this role with user experience (UX) insights roles as these tend to require more of a technical background.
After I understood the possible roles in tech, the next step was to identify the right experiences that I could bring to the table to kickstart my job search.
Step 3: Tailoring Your Job Search and Land the Tech Offer
Choose the Right Role
Many people think that you need technical experience in order to get into tech. In fact, Glassdoor states that 43% of open tech roles they’ve seen on their platform are non-technical. So instead of focusing on gaining technical experience, it’s important to lean on existing experiences across your industry, business, and role.
Industry experience and knowledge is really important in tech. In your job search, you can use your clients’ industries in your marketing agency or your employer’s industry to inform either the type of clients you could manage in tech as an account manager or the type of tech company you could target for your next job as an in-house marketer.
A second area of expertise you could lean on is your business experience. If you’ve used specific software platforms in the past, such as cloud, CRM, ads, or email management, you could transition into the tech company or team that built those platforms. In addition, if you’ve marketed for different either physical or online products and B2C or B2B markets, you could transition into managing clients or working in tech companies that have similar products and customers. This way, you can align your expertise to marketing experiences these tech companies may be looking for. For example, since I worked in the airline and education industries in the past which are physical and B2C markets, I was able use this experience to transition into Google to manage consumer banking and government trade show clients.
Lastly, the job search process can be overwhelming when you see so many roles and titles in the tech industry and are not sure what they mean. Leveraging your past experience could allow you to either align your current job title to the same title within tech such as marketing manager and data analyst, or translate the day-to-day responsibilities of your current job into a completely different title within tech.
Adapt Your Resume
The Ladders conducted a resume eye-tracking study in 2018. The study showed that hiring managers and recruiters only spent an average of 7.4 seconds reading a resume.
That's why it is important to tailor your resume not only to ensure it’s easy to read but also is supported with data-driven impact numbers. When I adapted my resume to tech, I honed in on my achievements, added key results, linked examples of my work, formatted the resume clearly, and aligned my content to the role I was applying for.
Before adapting my resume, I spent 10 months passively applying to 108 jobs without hearing back from any of them. Once I tailored my resume with this approach, I was able to land two offers from tech companies within two weeks.
Set Up Informal Chats
In his book “Work Rules!”, Lazlo Bock, Google’s former President of People Operations, mentioned that the company receives 2 million applications each year. Since there is such a large number of applications, hiring teams will often focus on internal candidates and employee referrals before even looking at the hundreds or thousands of online applications. This is why setting up conversations outside of formal interviews with employees in your target company, especially on the hiring team, is a great way to “cut the line” among applicants.
In order to find people to chat with, you can connect with people on Linkedin, ask for connections within your network, or even reach out to alumni from your school’s directory.
Before adjusting my job search approach to tech, I would passively apply to companies like Google and immediately receive a rejection. After realizing my mistake, I set up informal chats with someone who had recently left the hiring team to understand exactly what they were looking for, what challenges their business and team were facing, and how the role ladders up to the team’s success. Additionally, I got a referral that let me “cut the line” among applicants. During interviews, I was able to tailor my answers based on the information I learned from my informal chats and was able to land a final offer among 50+ other candidates.
Prepare for Behavioral Interviews
The tech industry is known for conducting behavioral interviews that seem unpredictable and difficult to prepare for. Behavioral questions focus on hypothetical situations or example experiences from the past that look to demonstrate leadership, problem solving, culture fit, and role-related knowledge. Many companies like Amazon have other traits they look for, but these four are most commonly seen among tech companies.
When applying to my first role with Google, In order to tackle behavioral questions during my interviews, I not only made sure to tailor my answers based on my informal chats, but also worked to frame my answers in a clear and concise way.
There are two frameworks that I use: one is the 1-2-3 method and one is the STAR method:
- The 1-2-3 method is a framework where you answer with “first...second.. third…” when asked to explain your approach to a hypothetical situation or reasonings to a question. Having three concise points makes it easy for interviewers to follow your answer. For example, I would use this method on questions such as "why do you want to join this company?" or "how would you upsell a client who did not see value in the product?"
- The STAR method helps frame answers that explain your approach to a past experience or situation. The word STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. I would use this method for questions such as "Tell me about a time when you led a project" or "Tell me about a time when you failed.”
Lastly, I always worked to keep the length of my answers between 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes. This way I could ensure the interviewers were following my example stories and made sure I had time to ask questions at the end of the interview so I could learn more about the role.
Comparing my interviews before and after I used these frameworks, I could tell that the interviewers were much more engaged - I noticed that they were enjoying the conversations. If you want to learn more about the structure and examples, download my Ultimate Interview Prep Guide here with 43+ top interview questions
Next Steps for You
While it seems like there's a lot of work to do to choose the right role and company, set up informal chats, prepare examples of your experiences for interviews, and tailor your job search to tech, I’ve seen first-hand how this process lands people their dream tech jobs.
If you're really passionate about making a change, I assure you that it is worth the effort and that you can do it. You'll just need to take the first step!
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