According to Girls Who Code, 74 percent of young girls express interest in STEM fields but only 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women. In our Women in Tech series, we dig into what motivates some of our most driven employees to lead successful tech careers.
On any given day here at CallRail, you’ll find Madelyn hopping from one meeting right into another, or tucking herself away to dig into some deep research, or even working with our customers to identify innovative ways for us to continue building the world’s leading call tracking software.
Madelyn is a poised and busy woman in our neck of the woods — but our Women in Tech series would be missing an integral piece of the CallRail story had we not had the chance to pick her brain about her career journey. A feat in itself, as Madelyn is (again) heading up one of CallRail’s biggest and most exciting projects to date: Our agency relaunch.
Madelyn is a huge proponent of the shift toward inclusion and more women in tech. We both shared the excitement of bringing on our new CMO, Mary Pat Donnollen — the excitement of having a woman at the table. “I think having different views and perspectives from people, no matter their gender, race, religion, any of that, is so important. Because if not, your marketing is monotonous. If not, you can’t speak to your audience, because your audience isn’t just that one segment of people that are sitting at that table,” Madelyn starts.
She continues, “I can tell you that in my last career, other than my boss, pretty much everyone that had a seat at the table was a man, and they were all white males. And I love that coming to work at CallRail everyday, I look around and there are a lot of people that don’t look like me, aren’t like me, and come from different places than I’m from. And I think we’re doing a really good job of moving the needle in the right direction.”
For a lot of women, a career in tech finds them, rather than the other way around. But, Madelyn says she’s been a woman on a mission from the beginning: “I’ve actually always worked in tech. I just knew when I was college that it was an industry that was taking off and that it was an exciting place to be. So, that’s all I’ve ever really done and it’s all that I’ve ever known, but I’m grateful for it.”
Madelyn hit the ground running in her tech career with customer-facing roles. She began on a team that planned user group meetings. She travelled around the world going to those meetings and learned about customer behavior on a deeper level.
Next, she worked her way into a social media and community forum management role, which is still very much customer-facing, focused on engaging those customers and answering their questions. From there, her next challenge came by way of a customer success role here at CallRail. In that role, she gained the extensive knowledge and expertise she didn’t realize would propel her to incredible success as a product marketer at CallRail, which she’s identified as one of the most pivotal moments of her career.
Leadership at that time approached her because they’d been trying to fill a product marketing position, but everyone they talked to on the outside just didn’t have the product knowledge. They didn’t understand our customers.
But Madelyn did. And she’s damn good at it. Though nervous about taking it on, she ran lead on our Salesforce integration launch, even though she’d never done anything like that before. But, the longer she researched and developed the project plan, the more she realized that this was what she was meant to do. She hasn’t looked back since.
Madelyn is also a good bit of the brain power behind our international expansion. “Putting all those different pieces of the puzzle together was really, really exciting,” she recalls. She’s been a phenomenal force in CallRail’s history, fearlessly blazing a path in a market we’ve been able to take by storm.
“So, all of that to say — that all led me to product marketing. I think a really big part of product marketing and being good at product marketing is understanding your customer and how to talk to them, and how to target them in the right ways. All of that experience in getting to know my audiences really well has been so beneficial, and it’s what led me to the strategy end of how we talk to those people and what’s the best way to get our point across — which is really the heart of product marketing at the end of the day.”
But where does that interest in customer behavior stem from? It turns out that, just like the tech field, it’s been a longtime interest. She always had a passion for numbers, so she studied economics at UNC Chapel Hill. But, thanks to that enthusiasm for human behavior, she ended up double-majoring in anthropology as well: “It was one of those things where I just took so many of those classes because I liked it, so I only had to take three more to get the major, so I did it!”
“They were definitely my favorite classes. It’s the study of culture and how people’s outside forces impact what they ultimately do. Which, once again, I think is a really important way of thinking in product marketing — how do all these external forces impact what your audience is ultimately looking for to solve a problem? So, even though a lot of people would think of archeologists, and that sort of stuff, I think it’s actually a really beneficial way of thinking about the world and how it can be applied in other ways.
Why do people do what they do? Psychology is more so the study of how your brain works, and that you’re born that way. But this is more about the things outside of your control that make you do what you do.”
That sort of knowledge is valuable for any marketer — being able to dissect your marketing efforts in the context of the study of why people do what they do is an invaluable skill. It’s why Madelyn has always been a step above the rest in her playing field.
Having strong and exemplary women in your corner to cheer you on couldn’t be any more important as a woman in the workforce. When I asked about the mentors she’s encountered along the way, Madelyn recalls the pivotal relationship she developed with her first boss. Having been nominated for and won several awards in her IT sector, it’s clear how big of a positive impact that boss had and continues to have on Madelyn.
“She taught me how to have a voice and really stand up for what I believe in. She also taught me the value of hard work and that sometimes, you’ll have to spend those long hours working but it’s worth it in the long run.”
Finding your voice in the workplace is something women are all too familiar with, and an obstacle that Madelyn is no stranger to. In fact, she called it out as one of the main challenges in the nature of her career in product marketing.
“I think one of the biggest challenges in product marketing is that you interface with so many different departments, but it’s something that I like a lot about my job. I talk to almost every single department here at CallRail, but it can also be hard because you are juggling that cast of characters,” she starts.
“As a woman, you tend to want to appease everyone. That’s not always the right answer. You have to find it within yourself that it’s okay to say ‘no, this is how we’re going to tackle that, and this is why.’ And backing that up, it’s totally okay to set people’s expectations correctly, instead of constantly saying yes to everyone around you. You’ll never get anything done that way.” Those lessons learned from her first boss are things she carries with her day in and day out.
Aside from leaning on her mentors’ guidance, Madelyn also takes it upon herself to remain a student of the marketing game. She notes that she’s gotten into more business oriented reading, thinking back on the book our CMO, Mary Pat, gifted her.
“Crossing the Chasm is all about how these great companies like Google and Apple jumped over ‘the chasm’ and made it through on the other side — they didn’t just fail. It’s really specific about targeting, making it very product-marketing-oriented.”
Right now, she’s reading Radical Candor. “I know they made fun of it this season on Silicon Valley but it’s actually very helpful, I think. Once again, it goes back to being in the workplace and not being afraid to say what you think is right or wrong, but how to not hurt people’s feelings in doing that.”
She’s also a member of product marketing and SaaS Slack groups. She says that those are perfect for asking one-off questions and hearing from some of the industry’s leading marketers. She also mentioned Sharebird as another favorite resource due to its roster of well-respected brands. “It’s a forum, but some of the best heads of product marketing, like people from Intercom, Marketo — a ton of big names, they’re all on there.”
When asked about the best advice she’s ever received, she didn’t disappoint, and it’s something anyone working in a fast-growing startup should learn to take to heart.
“I actually found this article and I didn’t know that it was huge thing but it’s been around for a while. It’s about ‘letting go of your legos.’ The whole premise of it is that we are all here, as a company at CallRail right now, and we all have this huge pile of legos in front of us and we’re taking from the pile to build this big thing together.
But, sometimes, we hire on all these new people and it can feel like we’re all crowding around the same pile of legos. And people can get really anxious and nervous that they’re taking your legos. They’re taking your tasks, and you’re left asking, ‘What am I supposed to do since there aren’t any legos left for me?’
The most important thing you can do, especially in a fast-growing company like this, is turn around and realize that there is a whole other pile of legos behind you that you didn’t know about — that’s a new opportunity. Everyone’s job is going to change, whether it be monthly, quarterly, or every year. I know my job here has changed so much since I’ve been here.
We have to recognize that it’s okay to let go of some of the stuff that you’ve held onto for a long time. To go tackle a new project is one the best things that you can do for your career, no doubt.”
Trust me when I say this: CallRail is on the edge of its seat, excitedly awaiting the next big thing Madelyn will build with those legos.
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