This Was My Path into Product Marketing

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”

– Henry Ford

Not every path is carefully planned out or prepared for. Sometimes the best things in life are the ongoing results of choices made and ensuing doors you walked through. This was my path into Product Marketing.

“In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.”

Annie Duke

I still remember the conversation like it was yesterday. My boss asked me what sounded like a simple question: “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years Ashish?” It was a question I hadn’t asked myself and it floored me.

At that time, my role was focused on Sales Enablement. I was working to help support a large sales team that was organized by industry verticals. The startup I worked for had gone through a variety of growing pains, and somehow I found a place on the Sales Operations team.

I was focused on the various needs of the sales team I supported, as well as finding solutions for the the various organizational challenges most startups face. I was always willing, able, and resourceful in solving problems, making my team better, and always pushing myself in ways to grow.

It had been about eight months into the Sales Enablement role, and this question my boss asked me during our weekly one-on-one, had stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn’t have an answer for her, and it bothered me.

It took me a few weeks to sit down and reflect on my journey, and then imagine what type of future I saw for myself.

I’d had a front row seat to the buyer journey and the various steps involved in helping turn prospects into buyers, and buyers into customers who loved your product. But there was something missing.

I realized how much I didn’t know about our product. How did Engineering and Design and Test and Product work together? How did we choose what to go build? How did ideas turn into products, and how did those products help customers solve real world problems?

All these questions and more led me to General Assembly. I was able to start a ten week course in Product Management.

I began to understand at a very basic level, how the products we build are closely tied to the specific problems we’re trying to solve, for a specific group of folks who needed them solved.

It was my first foray into a world I had no clear understanding of. If anything, I had to lean into the analogies and insights from other disciplines I’d been involved with. I brought those with me as I was introduced to this world of Product.

As I was close to completing my course at GA, I saw that our Product Marketing team was forming at the company. I read through the job description of what they were looking for, and felt like I should give it a shot.

It seemed like the perfect meld of what I had been focused on. There was this grounding in the discipline of Product and the story-telling and go-to-market execution of Marketing.

I reached out to our CMO and talked to him about the role. I told him I was interested and that I’d love the opportunity to interview. That conversation started a process that’s gotten me to where I’m at today.

I’m thankful I was given a shot. That team took a chance on someone like me. They gave me an opportunity to learn from other world-class product marketers.

I won’t lie to you and say it was easy. But what I can say is that once I stepped through that door, I finally began to see the answer that had eluded me all those months ago when I was talking to my boss.

“We navigate most of our lives and businesses with cursory knowledge rather than local knowledge. Only when we stick with and deeply explore one area, whether by choice or accident, do we learn better routes.”

Scott Belsky

At the end of 2019 I joined another startup. It is a much more technical product and an earlier stage company, but the core product marketing challenges are the same. We need to tell our story and position our products in ways that connect with our target market, and solve our customer’s problems in meaningful ways.

There’s something incredibly powerful about crafting the story a company uses to describe itself and their products. Words can be hard to find, but they are this elemental force of nature. Once you find the right words, they have the power to become inherently viral.

This was my path to Product Marketing. It wasn’t conventional. It wasn’t necessarily planned out. But it’s been the ride of my life, and one that I can’t wait to keep going.

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