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Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Celebrating #IWD and …

Continuing yesterday’s celebration of International Women’s Day, and as March is Women’s History Month, in this week’s Community Corner, we’re featuring the incredible female search and digital marketing experts who will be sharing their knowledge with our Search Marketing Expo (SMX) audience next week in San Jose.

I asked each speaker for some details about how she began her marketing career, as well as any advice she would like to pass on to industry colleagues. The advice from the speakers who participated was so inspiring that I decided to focus specifically on those responses from the group. You can see them all below. All of these women, with fascinating backgrounds and histories, are incredibly talented, and combined, they have a diverse wealth of knowledge. I highly recommend you check out their bios (linked to their names) and get to know more about them.

If you’ll be joining us at SMX West, be sure to connect with these experts and catch their presentations.

Benu Aggarwal
President & Founder

“I started in Search almost 15 years back. One of my developers challenged me on SEO … I attended several workshops, wrote a book etc. etc. and today Milestone is a 300-person company with offices in four locations. So my advice is to challenge your comfort zones. Take calculated risks. Unleash your potential. Spend time in creating something amazing.”

Karen Amundson
Founder & CEO
Apiary Digital

“When I told a former colleague, Tasneem Manjrathat, I was founding my company, Apiary Digital, she advised me to start building my team before I absolutely needed them: Hiring is a lot of work, and when you’re desperate, you make less savvy hiring decisions.”

Dawn Anderson
International SEO Consultant/Director/Lecturer

Move It Marketing — Manchester Metropolitan University
Whilst I’m not necessarily a fan of ‘personal development gurus,’ there is one in particular whose writings have always stuck with me. That person is Jim Rohn, who wrote such books as ‘The Art of Exceptional Living.’ Many of the advice pieces I read in his materials resonated with me. One in particular was about careers and business (and life) taking the same cyclical pattern as the seasons. … Spring is a time of opportunity, Summer is a time of great abundance, Autumn (Fall if you’re in the US) is a time when things may be descending or dwindling a little and you need to start to adapt, Winter is the time when things are a bit tough or you have to draw on all your strength or resources to get through. I’ve found this to be true over the past 30 years. Remember to store up in the barns for the Winter times, remember to make the best of the Summer times (but don’t presume they’ll always remain that way). Harvest and keep a little back. Everything changes. Everything is seasonal. Be aware of it and expect things to follow these patterns. Remain positive through the Winter times because if you dig in, the Spring (time of new opportunity) is just around the corner, and new abundance will follow if you work with those patterns. Watch for it and you’ll recognise it.”

Olga Andrienko
Head of Global Marketing

“Say ‘yes’ to all the opportunities. Ignore self-doubt, lack of confidence or skills, this voice in your head that will tell you that you won’t succeed. If someone gave you an opportunity, they already believe you can do it. So you should, too.

Sana Ansari
General Manager
3Q Accelerate

“Always be learning. If you are not constantly learning and being challenged, then you are never growing your skill set and overall value in the industry. Find ways to proactively take on new responsibilities which will push you to continuously learn and catapult your growth.”

Jennifer Barry
Director of Social Advertising

“When I joined the Dragon360 team, the overall culture was about finding a subject that you’re passionate about and then owning that area of expertise. That was incredibly empowering and encouraging and is something that I try to teach mentees and newer Dragons when they join the team as well.”

Ruth Burr Reedy
Director of Strategy
UpBuild, LLC

“Networking doesn’t have to be super awkward, and it doesn’t have to feel like you’re just using people for what they can do for you. Networking also doesn’t mean you try to collect business cards from the keynote speakers at the conference and then add them on LinkedIn. Networking, in its purest form, is just making friends with people who have a shared interest with you — namely, your work. The best advice I can give mentees is to try to get to know the people around them at conferences, instead of just focusing on the ‘big names’ in the industry. The people who are just getting started in their careers, the people who are in the same point in their careers as you are — those are the people you’re going to run into over and over as you progress in your career. Ultimately, the search marketers I ‘grew up’ with are the ones I’m closest to now, and when I think about the connections that have had the biggest benefit to my career, in every case it was someone with whom I’d become actual friends, not just industry acquaintances. Take the time to get to know people, and let them get to know you. That’s where the magic happens.”

Maddie Cary
VP of Client Service
Point It

“The best advice I can give is to not be too hard on yourself for not knowing everything when you just start. Digital is at times a very level playing field. So don’t confuse years of experience someone has with capability or talent. If you work hard and work well with others, you can grow faster than you’d ever imagine.”

Christine Churchill

“If I could pass on one piece of advice, it would be to develop the self-discipline to force yourself to constantly learn new skills. This industry evolves at too fast a pace to sit on your current knowledge base. If you want to stay ahead, you must constantly be on the lookout for new trends and developments. When you see a new area with opportunities, push yourself to learn everything you can about it. Don’t wait to be spoon-fed information or you’ll be behind the curve and miss the opportunity. Being an early adopter puts you miles ahead of the field. By the time others have caught up, it will be time to evolve to learn something new.”

Elizabeth Clark
CEO & Co-Founder
Dream Agility Ltd

“There are lots of initiatives out there to support women, but they’re no use at all unless you actually put yourself forward.
If your comfort zone isn’t expanding, it’s shrinking; push it a little every day to push yourself forward.”

Heather Cooan
Founder & Principal Growth Strategist
HDC Digital

“Always prioritize fulfillment over achievement. Both are equally important, but achievement without fulfillment leads to unhappiness. There’s absolutely no sense in working yourself to death for a job that would just replace you in a week if you died.I learned this the hard way.Years of running too fast, working too hard and neglecting my own health and happiness lead to a cancer diagnosis. I did the work to overcome cancer and in the process learned that the universe always has your back. If you let go and work on prioritizing fulfillment, you will always be happy and healthy enough to do the work, and the rest just falls into place.”

Lauren deVlaming
Social Group Director

“The only person looking out for your career is you. Everyone else has a slightly different agenda that might not promote your personal career goals, so at the end of the day, you are responsible for the decisions you make — whether that’s how much effort you put in to your current role, how long you stay in a particular job or whether you stretch yourself by applying for a position that’s slightly out of your comfort zone. As a supervisor, I strive to ensure my employees are fulfilled professionally, but I think the above statement (by my dad!) is a good career mantra.”

Dana DiTomaso
President & Partner
Kick Point Inc.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to people that you want to meet. Every industry, and particularly ours, runs on personal connections. Say hi! Comment on their articles! Respond to their tweets! Don’t be intimidated because someone seems like a ‘celebrity.’ Getting on someone’s radar can open up connections for you and your career that otherwise aren’t accessible.”

Caitlin Halpert
Growth Engineer
3Q Digital

“My biggest piece of career advice is to speak up and ask for what you want. I often see people sit on the sidelines waiting to get recognition or waiting for a promotion. You can’t have what you don’t ask for, what you don’t fight for. If your manager or your company doesn’t support finding a path to get you what you want, then you’re probably not at the right company.”

Chanelle Harbin
SEO Manger
Disney ABC Television Group

“Surround yourself with people who empower and support you. It’s important to collaborate with those people who challenge and inspire you to empower yourself. That’s what will drive you to create, think strategically, build your personal brand and have a voice.”

Cindy Krum

“I have two pieces of advice to give: Specialize and be brave. There are plenty of generalists, and it is super hard to be the best generalist. It is much easier to stand apart from the crowd and be the best when you specialize. To specialize, you have to be willing to pick something and stick with it, but beyond that, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, you have to be willing to say things that have never been said. This takes practice; it takes a willingness to see things as they are instead of just seeing what other people are telling you they see. It also takes a willingness to question common assumptions and to sometimes be wrong.”

Laura Lippay
Organic Search & Technical Optimization Lead

“Think of being an SEO like being a doctor or a fitness coach. Your patients tell you their symptoms or what they want to achieve, and you come up with a different approach for every individual person. Even with the same symptoms or goals, no two people are alike, just like no two SEO projects are alike. What may work spectacularly on one site may not make an ounce of difference on another, so guide your clients towards success through testing and learning, testing and learning, set expectations that reaching success is a long-term, consistent effort, and just like a doctor’s patient or a fitness client, the more dedicated you are to relieving your symptoms and/or reaching your goals, the more likely you are to succeed.”

Debra Mastaler
Features Editor
Search Engine Land

“I didn’t get any career advice when I started, there were very few people involved in SEO in those days and even fewer women. Happily, that’s changed, so here are a couple things I’d like to share in hopes it helps someone else: Never stop reading or learning. This industry changes daily, keep up with what’s going on by reading multiple sites, attending conferences and getting involved in forums and Facebook groups. Second, always test something for yourself and never take what one person, company or tool says as gospel. There are just too many factors involved in SEO to make absolute statements; use multiple tools and don’t pledge your allegiance to just one community. Lastly, don’t put all your eggs in a Google basket. Companies made fortunes before Google was around and continue to thrive without depending solely on Google. Figure out how to use Google as one of many marketing vehicles, not the only vehicle in your marketing arsenal.”

Laura Ann Mitchell
Director of Digital
Cisco Systems, Inc.

“Three very simple values that I have held dear all my life. As a girl coming from Barbados in the Caribbean, I had no idea what I would become and if I could make it in the US.
1. There is no such thing as the perfect job, just the perfect job for you — we are all individuals, don’t ever aspire to be someone else or a carbon copy of what you think you need to be. Just do you!
2. Work smarter, not harder, and foster relationships that matter.
3. Lastly, and perhaps the most important, treat people the way you would want to be treated — regardless of who they are. The way you treat the President and CEO and the way you treat the janitorial staff should be exactly the same. You never know — the person you yell at today may be the person who will give you your next opportunity tomorrow. Be careful how you treat them.”

Michelle Morgan
Director of Client Services
Clix Marketing

“Don’t be afraid to play outside of your sandbox. I’ve been given that advice a number of times from different people in different ways, but this is always how I hear it in my head. That simple piece of advice has been helpful in letting me explore new ideas and partnerships that might not have made the cut if I were trying to focus on my specific discipline. In nearly every instance, playing outside of my sandbox has been a positive experience as well as a great learning opportunity, but also has led into some great friendships along the way.”

Merry Morud
Social Advertising Director

“I joined Aimclear as employee number four about nine years ago as a recent graduate, when digital marketing was one chapter of one book at University. Shout-out to Marty Weintraub, Aimclear’s founder, and Manny Rivas, Aimclear’s CEO, for recognizing my potential and passion to ignite what has been a frenetic and rewarding career. My advice is to stay agile and keep learning, regardless of industry, and don’t be afraid to pioneer a new role if you’re passionate because you are enough.”

Jillian Nagle
Red Ventures

“Don’t compare yourself to your peers. Instead, look at your boss or mentor and identify the skill sets or development gaps for you to get to his/her level.”

Leandra Parks
Senior PDM Analyst
Workshop Digital

“The best advice I received is to be the CEO of your own career. This is vital because it is up to you to determine where you want to be in life, especially when it comes to your career path. You have to believe in yourself and believe in your abilities to succeed. Also, always be willing to ask for and receive feedback. Be willing to work on feedback, even if it’s not what you necessarily want to hear. Those who are giving you feedback most likely have more experience and are ultimately trying to help you grow. Lastly, find someone who can mentor you, personally and professionally, because it is so valuable to have an outsider provide perspective. ”

Alexis Sanders
Technical SEO Account Manager

“Some of my favorite pieces of advice:
– You only have your reputation, stay true to yourself and ethics.
– Everyone is trying their best with the skills they’ve been given.
– You have a choice in how you respond to external stimuli.
– Luck is the intersection between hard work and opportunity.
– Luck favors those who work hard.
– Fail often and step outside comfort zone to build confidence.
– Participate in Nanowrimo at least once.”

Ayat Shukairy

“‘There are only so many balls that you can juggle; something’s gotta give’ and ‘make time for yourself and your sanity’ are two pieces of advice I received from friends, actually. These words keep me in check in a couple of ways:
1. I’m the type that moves on from project to project. But what I learned early on in my career is you have to keep your eye on the ball and what’s most important to you: family and career. Everything else, while it would be nice to do other things, they aren’t a priority. So if anything’s “going to give” it should be the less important items and not your family first or career second.
2. We get caught up with work and other responsibilities [and] forget to take that much-needed break. Whether it’s retail therapy or a day at the spa, or even something simple like going to have lunch alone, me time is crucial. It clears your mind and helps you maintain focus and sanity.”

Shari Thurow
Founder and SEO Director
Omni Marketing Interactive

“I give two pieces of advice:
1.Know the foundation of SEO extremely well.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Regarding #1, all teams involved in SEO (content, design, development, marketing, sales, etc.) should have a common vocabulary and frame of reference. Without a common vocabulary, people will often have a difficult time communicating properly with each other. Regarding #2, I work in both the business world and the academic world. One thing I really like about the academic world is that students seem less afraid to ask questions… no matter how silly the questions might seem. Ask your mentor for additional resources. A good mentor is always happy to help you learn.”

Leslie To
Director of SEO
3Q Digital

“Always advocate for yourself, because no one else will do a better job of it than you can. The worst possible outcome is that the powers that be say no. And you’re back where you were before you asked. But the ceiling on best outcomes is endless. And when possible, always take credit for your work, and when you’re finally in the position to help others, pass it forward.”

Casey Wilson
Vice President of Digital Media
Chacka Marketing

“The best professional advice I was given was to always do what’s right. Sounds cliché, but it has helped me in my career by aligning me with like-minded professionals. If you feel good about your contributions, your company’s mission, the product or service you’re delivering, then you will thrive and enjoy what you do each day.”

About The Author

Michelle Robbins, SVP Content & Marketing Technology, oversees editorial direction as Editor in Chief for Third Door Media’s digital publications, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today, directing a full-time staff of reporters and editors managing contributed content. She is responsible for developing the content strategy across all properties and aligning those initiatives with the programming and audience goals for Third Door Media’s two leading marketing conference series, Search Marketing Expo and The MarTech Conference. In addition, Michelle oversees information technology operations, directing the marketing technology department.

An experienced domestic and international keynote and featured speaker, she enjoys connecting with the community at SMX, MarTech and other industry events. Connect online with Michelle on Twitter @MichelleRobbins, and Linkedin.

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