Today, we’re beyond thrilled to chat with Becka Borody. Becka is currently the Marketing Manager at Ecopia.ai. Ecopia.ai is an industry leading artificial intelligence company that specializes in extracting insight from geospatial big data. Tune into our chat as we learn about Becka’s career path and her story:
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. Can you talk about your career path and where you are today?
How much time do you have? I left high school convinced I was going to be a geneticist, went through 2 years of pre-med in the States and then finished my degree in Biology and Chemistry at Laurier. I had always worked retail, and knew I loved interacting with people, so worked at an independent shoe store in Waterloo for 5 years as the Store Manager before heading back to Laurier to get my MBA. Because I had helped build the store’s social media and marketing campaigns over the years, I decided to specialize in marketing. While completing my degree, I met a ton of people in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech sector, participating in the Laurier Launchpad Program, and helped Bartesian (the Keurig of cocktails!) launch their Kickstarter campaign. After that I worked at the Accelerator Centre, as the Digital Marketing Manager, and the Client Experience Manager in Stratford, which is part of the University of Waterloo’s Global Business and Digital Arts program. It was an amazing experience to not only help the AC’s online presence grow, but to be part of the programming with students! After that, I worked at the iconic Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener as their Director of Corporate Connections, helping spur community involvement and making sure my tech friends from across the globe were staying at the coolest hotel in Kitchener. I missed being in tech though, so went back as a Customer Success Manager at Chalk, an education software, before landing where I am now: at Ecopia.ai! See? I told you, not a straight line! Typing/saying this, I feel out of breath.
At Ecopia.ai, I help to strategize, develop and implement marketing activities including digital, product, social media, sales enablement and recruitment marketing: many hats, no two days are the same! Currently the Communications & Marketing team is two people, so we’re constantly working together to achieve some pretty big growth goals. Up until the middle of 2018, Ecopia.ai flew under the marketing radar, they were heads down grinding away on product and sales, and had reached a really interesting spot, where marketing and communications began to play a super critical role, so I joined the team in September 2018! This role also required I move to downtown Toronto, which has been a goal of mine since I was little. I haven’t always known what I wanted to do (the path proves that), but I knew where I wanted to be!
TL;DR: I’ve worked in a lot of different roles, different sectors and different companies. But along the way, I’ve learned a ton, been able to build some really cool stories, launches and campaigns, and met amazing people along the way while helping companies grow! And I think my experience outside of “marketing” as it’s traditionally known, has enhanced my efforts within it.
What challenges do you think startups face when it comes to marketing?
The first challenge I’ve seen time and time again is everything-all-at-once syndrome. Especially in the early days of marketing at a start-up. “You must run an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Medium account, and they must all have 1000 followers by Tuesday while creating content, figuring out a paid advertising plan and going to 5 events” – the big question people forget seems to be “is this where your customers are?” If you’re spreading yourself across 7 separate things, you’re only doing it half decently at best. But if you look at your analytics of where your customers are coming from, and do 1 or 2 social media accounts really well, in order to prove a case for social media marketing and growth, and plan out the rest with intention instead of out of pressure and stress, then in the long-run you’re much more successful in my experience. The tendency to want to solve all the problems right away, usually leads to burnout, half-assed campaigns and mediocre results. It’s challenging when you step into a growing company because often marketing has been neglected and then it’s marketing on acid, and that can be overwhelming and challenging.
The second challenge I’ve seen is the silo-ing of marketing as a function. As companies grow, it’s so important for marketing to interact with customers, just as much as sales, or Customer Success, or figuring out a way to integrate marketing into those functions. The whole reason there’s a business year over year is the customers, so marketing should be talking with product, sales, and customer success, sharing what’s working and isn’t when it comes to attracting, activating and retaining customers. I think my background in customer service and success leads me to believe that this approach is the best way forward, but it seems like I’m not the only one that sees the problem and is trying to figure out how to weave marketing into everything, which is exciting for me!
What inspired you to get into marketing?
`Give me a break, give me a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. No joke! As a kid, I vividly remember singing this song, seeing the TV commercials (when you couldn’t just watch things without commercials), and thinking it must be cool to have a job where you can make a song that sticks with people. And then the early 2000s Pepsi commercials with Britney Spears, I remember vividly knowing that Britney Spears does not actually drink Pepsi, but that she could influence other people to, and I wanted to know how that all worked. Looking back, I’ve always been a good story teller, and I’d express that through merchandising, or creating business social media pages, or by working with graphic designers to make newspaper ads (I am not that old, but we definitely did newspaper ads!). I’ve always been creative, and I also knew I wanted to help people make better decisions, so marketing was a natural fit for me. And then I got to see the analytics behind the things I was creating, and it was all over: data driven customer marketing. I could nerd out about personas and acquisitions for hours, building campaigns for specific audiences and tracking revenue. But in the back of my head break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar plays always (and I don’t even like Kit Kats!)
We have many students and recent grads in the community. What advice do you have when it comes to careers in marketing?
Network, network, network, network, and when you’re tired of networking: network some more. Go to career fairs and ask questions about culture and goals, attend marketing workshops run by industry leaders, and don’t go in thinking you know all the answers (you don’t, I don’t, the CMO you know doesn’t). Ask questions and listen, without ego, and learn from anyone you can. If you’re still in school, it’s never too early to learn, and leverage the alumni from your school, I, and many like me, are happy to help however we can. Ask questions, learn about people’s experiences and never underestimate the power of your connections. It’s maybe not the advice you were expecting, but it’s the advice that will propel you forward into figuring out where you want to work, how you want to work, the kind of work that fuels you, and the people around you. And follow up with a thank-you. And then, don’t be afraid to try and fail, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you learn as much from failure, if not more, than success. Try things, learn, grow, repeat.
For someone who is completely new to marketing but is looking break into it what advice do you have?
Network, network, network, network, and when you’re tired of networking: network some more (I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere)…and check out courses from places like BrainStation, where you can gain tangible digital marketing skills, that’s what companies need moving into the future. I think we’re coming into this interesting shift where there’s a mix of traditionally educated marketers, non-traditionally educated marketers, and networked marketers. Credibility in marketing shouldn’t be about the letters behind your name, but the work you produce, KPIs and passion you have for helping and storytelling. Some of the best marketing humans I know have degrees in global issues, archeology and finance. Education does not define what you can do, so figure out what you’re passionate about, and if it’s marketing, reach out to people who you admire, join meetups or events that are marketing focused. And don’t underestimate your transferable skills. My background in retail means I have a strong customer-centric approach to my marketing, and I have a tough skin when it comes to constructive criticism and feedback because the customer may always be right in their mind, but they’re not normally nice about it. So, look at your background, and your experiences and craft your narrative, sell yourself the way you’d sell a product or a service. And then find a place that sees your value, gets your message and that fits you. More and more, we’re seeing people who have stepped out of one career path and into another, and you know what? They’re some of the best marketing humans!
What are some of your favourite books and resources in marketing?
Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? By Seth Godin
Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom
Blue Ocen Shift by W. Chan Kim and Renee Maugorgne
P2P Marketing Groups are also super valuable to me, especially when I’m tackling a problem that I think is uniquely Ecopia. I talk through it only to find that someone just went through something similar, and someone else is currently having similar issues. It’s comforting and valuable to be able to talk to likeminded individuals who are in similar grow stages and be able to learn from each other.
Podcast wise, I was just introduced to Better Life Better Business by Bill Widmer, particularly How to Scale Your Content Marketing with Tracey Wallace and I LOVE Work Life with Adam Grant.
How do you stay relaxed and take time off work?
I guard my weekends with my life. I will do almost anything to avoid having to do anything work related that isn’t absolutely essential on the weekends, or past 6pm on weekdays. Obviously, there are situations that override this well-crafted plan, but it helps me have my down-time, where I can have brunch and mimosas, or explore a new area of the city. I also think for my sanity, it’s really, really important to surround myself with friends who get me, and push me to be better. They can let me vent or freak-out but the rallying happens back into positivity instead of hanging out in the mud. I enjoy a good wine, a finely crafted cocktail, the ballet, doing laundry, reading and hanging out with my nephew (I will soon have another one too!). And wine, which I already said, but it’s important!
And when it comes to time off, I take it, I don’t feel guilty, and I don’t do work. I know enough about myself to know that I can’t be on 24/7 so when I have vacation days, I take them as such: vacation. My job doesn’t involve nuclear codes so things can wait, be passed off, or priorities can shift. When I start getting stressed out of the office I remember what someone once told me (and what I’ve told many people since): If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, your company would replace you. You’re replaceable. It helps keep me balanced in a weird way. I spend my vacations exploring places like Singapore, Texas, Bali, anywhere that has me away from my home, and experiencing things.
How do you stay motivated?
People keep me motivated. It’s cliché to say and often is, but for me it’s true. The customer, my coworkers, people in my network who motivate and inspire me, people and their experiences push me always. And, my mentors keep me motivated. Find a mentor, someone who you respect, who you want to be like, who can push you to be better, and then ask them to hold you accountable. I set up bi-weekly meetings with mine, where we discuss what I’m doing, goals I’ve met, things I’m achieving and challenges at work. We also talk about wine, and the craziness that are our personal lives, but it helps keep things in perspective and keeps me focused and motivated. And in turn, motivating others by mentoring, and giving back. Someone else’s success genuinely is my success, so my mentees and their progress are something that makes me so happy. See? People motivate me.
What is the best advice you have gotten?
1) So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act. And will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed (98 and ¾% guaranteed) – Dr. Seuss
2) Don’t try to be the ‘next’. Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new – Seth Godin
To learn more about Ecopia.ai:
About the Author in Collaboration with Becka Borody
In Pursuit of World-Class Excellence. Eric is founder of FoundersBeta with a wealth of expertise in startups, growth hacking, and product development. He is a top ranked tennis player and always up for a conversation about startups.