Executive Assistant to Director

  • by SalientMG Team
  • Apr 22, 2020

This is my story on how I started out as an executive assistant. 

I went to a liberal arts college where communications, business or other career specific majors weren’t offered.  So, armed with a degree in history, I didn’t really know what I was going to do after I graduated. So, when I tell people I fell into tech, I really mean it.  

I was living in Boston and using a staffing company to help find a job.  I had 2 interviews for a temp to hire position at Yahoo! and luckily I got it starting as an assistant.  After a short time in a lead qualifier role which was inbound requests for Yahoo! advertising sales, I learned sales wasn’t for me.  As it turned out, they were looking for an executive assistant for the head of the department/office in Boston, and they offered me the position, which I accepted.  

The role of executive assistant (EA) or assistant in general tends to have a bad connotation and I don’t know where this comes from or why.  At the time, I didn’t tell friends or family my title. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but more afraid of what they might think. We need to totally erase the stigma around what people think about EA’s because they are chiefs of staff, event managers, facilitators, organizers, somebody’s right hand person that they rely on.  As for me, if it wasn’t for my time as an executive assistant, I may have never found my love for marketing.  

What people don’t know about executive assistants is they are exposed to many cross-functional departments. So in my role, not only did I learn what other departments did, I was brought into the inner trust circle. I was leaned upon to fill voids in teams that needed additional support. I was EA, HR, Project Manager, Regional Events Manager, and supported the National Events Team on larger initiatives.  This exposure allowed me to see where skills could be best used and hone in on my next career move. This is where I found a passion for event marketing. By being a part of the larger initiatives and working with both internal stakeholders, trade associations and customer/prospects, I knew I could help impact awareness and consideration in the market. Luckily I had bosses who believed in me and helped me get to the next level.  

One boss in particular left Yahoo!, and offered me the opportunity of joining her team as an Event Marketing Manager at Demand Media (now Leaf Group).  So in July of 2010, I sold my Boston condo, packed up my bags, and moved to NYC. My time at Demand Media provided me the experience I needed to further my knowledge in Event Marketing.  I learned to partner closely with sales to garner what events were driving ROI, what associations we needed to partner with, and of course what we needed to do more or less of. After a few years at Demand Media, I was ready for my next challenge.  I was recommended by a close friend for a job as the Sr. Manager of Global Events at a personalization software company and was excited to try something new. Goodbye Advertising, Hello Software.

Software was eye opening to me.  No longer was it a lot of events related to client entertainment, but tradeshows big and small, client & user summits, roundtable dinners, and more.  We were selling to the top 1000 retailers of the world, the language was different, the people were different, I was traveling a lot, going to the UK, Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco, Seattle and more places, and I loved every minute of it.  I really sharpened my skills and learned so much about our buyers, partners, the events we wanted to be at, how to track ROI on each event down the MQL all the way through customer acquisition. I worked with creatives, SDRs, sales leadership, and more to ensure RichRelevance was a known brand and had prominent placement at the events that worked. I also tested new events and programs to see if they paid off and ensured all stakeholders had a clear view of what we were trying to achieve.

The team size ebbed over the years, and I took on additional responsibility.  Since events were such a large driver of leads and PR was always a part of our event strategy, my title evolved into the Director of Marketing, North America with a specialty in Global Events.  I was tasked with lead gen efforts for the North American sales team as well as leading the charge for our event strategy, PR strategy, analyst relations, and more. I had a manager, the CMO, who challenged me, and although he may have been infuriating at times (he will admit this), I grew so much as a marketer because of him.  

After 6+ years at RichRelevance, sadly my time was complete.  The market was shifting and they had to make some tough decisions.  While I was upset that it happened and had never been laid off before, it was a huge lesson both professionally and personally.  Lay offs are scary, but you can make it to the other side, and I did. I was introduced to an amazing team at Verve and I was trying something new, mobile ad-tech to add to my knowledge set.  

What drove me to Verve, outside of the team, was it had ties to personalization.  Instead of e-commerce personalization and shopping journeys, they were using what they call “Movement Science” to deliver personalized advertising to consumers.  I was only at Verve a short time, but luckily I was there to support marketing and sales leadership as well as the individual sales teams to help them market through an acquisition while maintaining business as usual.  I learned so much about programmatic advertising, which had changed a lot since I had been away from the advertising space. I also learned about mobile location platforms, white labeled solutions and much more. I am beyond happy that Verve got acquired in January of this year.  I took all of my learnings from there and was thankfully introduced to Mack, CEO of SalientMG, by my boss at Verve.

Let’s count 5 companies (including SMG) in 18 years, not a bad run.  The bosses from my days at Yahoo! through Verve are the same bosses who still believe in me today.  When I was between jobs they offered to make introductions, offered to be a reference, anything they could do to help which is amazing. 

My advice to people starting on their journey, you never know where you will be 5, 10, 15+ years into your career. I am not ashamed that I started as an executive assistant because I would have never discovered my passion for marketing.  On my career journey, I thank all the smart people who pushed me, taught me something new, and gave me opportunities, without you, I would never be where I am today. 

Follow my journey & get more advice from other posts on SalientMG’s blog. 


Categories:Culture, Executive Visibility, Marketing, SalientMG

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