6 min read

On Marketing

When people in my life discover that I have abandoned engineering for a new career in marketing they react in one of a few ways. To address the value of marketing let's examine an brilliant example of marketing, for a B2B SaaS Platform.
On Marketing
soft pastel gradient spring

When people discover that I have embarked on a new career in marketing they react in one of a few ways:

marketing huh? do you like it?
...you sure you won't come back to engineering?
Audrey Hepburn's eyes widen, eyebrows lift as she lowers her cat eye sunglasses with a hand that is casually holding a lit cigarette
wow you went over to the dark side
*looks around* shhhhh! don't say that! you are technical and still kind of an engineer

I am left with the impression that the only thing worse than being a tech marketer is being in tech sales or recruiting...

It is disrespectful at worst and inaccurate at best when engineers and technologists routinely dismiss the entire discipline of marketing/marketers...what these people (I think) really mean is they've suffered from poorly executed campaigns or manipulative marketing schemes or dark UX patterns or when marketing is used for evil purposes.

What irks me about the generalization is that the whole entire point of marketing is getting a relevant message delivered to the right audience. We aren't really doing our jobs when the recipient is annoyed, frustrated or walks away with a negative impression of the company/product/brand/rep.

OK with that in mind let's examine an brilliant example of marketing, for a B2B SaaS Platform intended for a very different audience than you

Hashtag Ad

Note I'm not delving into my thoughts about Workday as a product or employer

While mining old magazines for snippets during a collage making phase I stumbled upon an issue of Golf Digest. My interest was piqued since I am the absolute opposite of the typical readership and figured by flipping through the pages I could get a peek into another universe. boy howdy was it ever.

ads had vibes of masculinity, expensive/quality and general executive fanciness totally counter to what I am marketed to a as a feminine millennial crafter in the pacific northwest that works in tech. one particularly unsavory advert that is forever stuck in my mind was for a golf club set called the "Sugar Daddy II".

Man at the range taking a golf swing saying "golf" he's wearing a puffer jacket 

ughhhh 🙄.

But then there was a full page advert that stopped me in my tracks. Gaze upon its magnificence below

Bright orange background featuring a golfer gazing out on the shot he just took with the club still swung above his head. Behind him the afternoon sun is shining and the golf course is aglow. The photo is in the shape of a cloud. Red text at the top says PRO TIP: When it comes to finance, Workday is the best club in your bag. Below the cloud golfer picture in smaller text it says "With the ability to plan, execute, and analyze all on a single platform, Workday gives your Finance team the insights needed to make fast decisions with confidence - no matter the conditions or competition. In slightly larger bolded font below it says "Workday, the finance, HR, and planning system for a changing world." 

What in the world was a software company doing advertising to Golf Digest readers? Then it dawned on me.

This is marketing done very well.

The target audience of golf content and this magazine appeared to be wealthy dudes who were likely business executives like COOs or heads of companies.

It ultimately is this cohort at the top who have the power of the purse. Convincing them goes a loooooong way vs. having to convince someone at the individual contributor or middle manager level that this new software is "the way" and having them convince their boss and so on.

The first thing I admire about this ad is the tagline - it clearly connects the dots for the reader relating purchasing this B2B SaaS business software to the clubs in their golf set - something the audience immediately understands.

The next is that once you're hooked, in small text is a terse explanation of what all Workday does (an executive summary if you will) and still carries through the theme of the "best club in your set" sort of deal.

Kris Jenner saying seriously "It's all about communication" 

Relevant message at the right level in a specific channel - this is effective marketing!

Me + Marketing

While on a radical sabbatical last spring I was recovering from burnout and was looking for a role that was a blend of new frontiers to explore while relying on my strengths and existing knowledge so I could put my career in cruz control and direct more energy to life goals. In my case this means opening and sustaining a vertically integrated alpaca farm and fiber and textile mill and contribute to a cooperative circular economy promoting creative reuse. Anyways....

Hence, tackling the exciting, interdisciplinary yet emerging role of Developer Advocate. The position fulfilled all my criteria:

  • New frontier = marketing!
  • Strengths = communicating complex technical concepts to a range of audiences
  • Existing knowledge = observability, distributed tracing, OpenTelemetry, monitoring, operating cloud native systems
  • $$$ for alpaca farm = excellent pay

Where? Chronosphere, an observability platform built by people with deep understanding of the complexity managing and scaling a cloud native sociotechnical system and sharing my value of the future of open source instrumentation and reliability as a core platform feature. I expand on why Chrono in Why I Joined Chronosphere as a Senior Developer Advocate.

The pull was also personal - too many times have I seen observability and monitoring companies make ridiculous claims, name their features and products in convoluted ways, bolt on features fracturing the user experience, rely on clickbait taglines instead of substantive releases and generally sow confusion in an already complicated subject matter.

My salty take on why the role exists is engineers or folks deemed "technical" tend to have scorn and derision for "non-technical" departments. One effective way to "market" to this crowd is through a technical person so the message is coming from as genuine a perspective as possible.

My charitable take is that the proliferation of software and technology in an increasingly inter-connected world has lead to a noisy environment so to even become a blip of awareness relies on a continuous stream of hyper tailored multi-channel content and engagements. Doing this effectively requires a talented team with a wide range of skills that adapt as quickly as technology companies innovate which means emerging functions (DevRel, SRE, FinOps).

Wait...What's a Developer Advocate?

This question I get asked on a weekly basis from people in and outside of marketing and tech. I think its hilarious that I have ended up in another job that didn't exist when I was growing up (see also: Site Reliability Engineer) that requires further explanation.

Everyone who's asked has been genuinely curious - most of the time its the first they've heard of the role. My elevator pitch of my responsibilities when explaining to a co-worker is a flavor of:

"I create a variety of content (blogs, podcasts, tutorials, conference talks, videos, webinars, demos etc) informed by 5 years experience as a SWE and SRE at mid to late stage startups in addition to other observability companies. Special topics are distributed tracing, OpenTelemetry, Kubernetes, monitoring and incident response."

Now I am "in the room" (virtually ofc) where I directly contribute to messaging and shape the delivery and consult on direction. Its fantastic! As much as I adore my job, my team, my org my company I would rather live in a world where marketing/sales functions were respected and engineering supremacy came to an end so we didn't need DevRel.

Until then catch me talking all things o11y on Mastodon / Twitter / LinkedIn or the elsewhere page where I roundup my more polished pieces ✨

Cat Tax

the late, great, Rocky aka Rockycat aka bae aka Rockford with his milk tab aka his favorite toy to chase up and down the halls

Rocky a handsome grey tomcat sits legs akimbo, toes pointed, tail askew looking disapprovingly over the photographers left shoulder.