Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

Four top marketers discuss their first job in marketing and reveal what it taught them about the competitive world of B2B

We sat down with four leading marketers to discuss their first role in the industry, what it taught them, and how it's made them the thought leaders they are today.

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

Craig Coffey
US marketing communications manager
Lincoln Electric

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

I took my first 'real' B2B marketing job before I knew there was even such a classification. It was working for an architectural firm in Cleveland, Ohio, called van Dijk, Pace, Westlake – now Westlake Reed Leskosky – under the watchful eye of managing principal and lead designer, Paul Westlake, in about 1995. In the three years I spent in his employ, I was focused on new business acquisition, which took the form of formal proposals, delivered primarily in person, face-to-face, to large enterprises in the healthcare, education and corporate sectors. Paul was extremely successful in large part due to his ability to focus on customer needs and differentiate his services from other providers – two principles that guide my practices today.

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

Christi Olson
Search evangelist
Microsoft

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

The first job I had out of college was territory sales manager for Philip Morris USA. I managed brand placement and displays, promotional signage and product visibility in 125 retail locations – i.e. gas stations and grocery stores within my sales region. I worked with retailers to sell in monthly product promotions and pricing discounts, and to look at their product sales to make recommendations on inventory levels to maintain product freshness. I also managed the relationship between the local business Costco and Philip Morris, including assigning and distributing promotional products at an individual retailer basis. And I also worked on a side project for which I won a national sales award. I developed an Excel template to automate how sales reps should distribute promotional products based on product sales.

How did I get to where I am today? I took my knowledge from sales and my passion for all things online, and I partnered with an ad agency Visible Technologies to sell their products and services. I ended up learning the basics of search advertising, and I made the transition from running sales to running marketing campaigns. The rest is history. 

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

Christine Nurnberger
CMO
Bottomline Technologies

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

My first job out of college was as a marketing assistant for a start-up company called AP Engines. Because we were a lean team in start-up mode, I had much more responsibility than I probably should have had as someone so green. I got to participate in all areas of marketing as the company grew from 50 employees to over 250 employees. From re-branding to product naming, demand generation, public relations, product launches, digital marketing – it gave me a fantastic overview of how the different functional areas of marketing integrate to become more than the sum of the parts. 

In addition, I had direct responsibility for an event program that included over 15 major trade shows a year. Orchestrating these events so early in my career taught me the importance of being obsessively detail-oriented, how to manage up and across a company to drive a successful result, and the art of keeping cool under pressure. 

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

Faith Wheller
Head of content marketing communications Europe
Cisco

Top marketers discuss their first role in marketing

My first role after university was working as a marketing assistant at Ericsson. This was before the digital era so my work mainly involved cleaning databases for print mailings, managing events and producing the company newsletter. I learnt that a lot of the marketing strategy you learn at university and other institutions doesn’t prepare you for learning the basics, and nothing beats hands-on experience. It's fundamental that you sweat the small stuff to develop yourself into leading the big stuff.

It also taught me the the importance of networking: seize every opportunity to get involved in projects and stretch assignments that are outside of your day job, as this will increase your exposure to other teams and often open up exciting job openings. Take the time to attend industry events and webinars: it's important not just to understand how marketing operates within your organization, but to understand the latest trends and innovations from other companies.