Dana Barrett

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Former Head of Product Marketing, Asana
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Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

I spent a lot of time in my early career worrying about getting to the next promotion and how I was progressing versus my peers. Looking back now, this was all wasted energy. I wish I had been more focused on learning and picking up as many skills and experiences as possible. I also wish I had been less worried about making mistakes. I think I would have been able to take more risks and push myself to try new things that would have ultimately helped me to build more skills.

I also wish I knew how to prioritize better early in my career. I worked a lot of late nights and weekends in my early career because I was afraid to say no. Now, I am much more comfortable saying No. I try to communicate my (and my team’s) priorities early and often. I also try not to take on new priorities unless something is removed from my plate. It's not a perfect system, but I have much better work/life balance now that I did early in my career.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

Yes, the easiest way to make this transition is to try to move into the Product Marketing org in your current company. I recommend getting to know some of the folks on the Product Marketing team. Ask them about their jobs and figure out if there are things you can do in your current job to prepare you for a role in product marketing. If you feel comfortable, set up time with the head of the team and express your interest in some day working in product marketing. This way, they will know of your interest should a role open up. 

Finally, if you are going to start exploring roles in Product Marketing, you may also want to let your current Manager know of your interest. Depending on their approach to career development, they may be open to helping you make that transition to a role in Product Marketing.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

Every product marketing org is different, but there are typically three big areas that may or may not be included in a product marketing org including, inbound (working more closely with Product), outbound (or GTM, working more closely with Sales), and compete (often supports competitive needs of Sales or Marketing). On top of that, Product Marketers can often be called upon to support many other functions across Marketing such as demand generation or acquisitions.

If you want to run a Product Marketing team someday, you definitely need some form of experience in all three areas of Product Marketing. I also recommend getting broader marketing experience if possible (e.g., demand gen, acquisitions). If you have a broad set of skills and experiences to draw upon, you will be better equipped to be an effective Product Marketing leader.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

You are 100% correct that the hardest part of a PMMs job is managing without authority. Often, PMMs rely on shared resources or centralized teams to get their job done. I have found three things work really well in managing without authority. They are all hard and take time, but they are effective.

First, invest the time in building a relationship with your cross functional partners. If someone knows you and likes you, they are going to be much more open to any feedback you have. They are also much more likely to prioritize your requests.

Second, create a shared vision for success. Every partner you are working with has goals and the best way to get them to prioritize what you care about is to find a way to show how working on your ask will help your cross functional partner reach their goals.

Third, if you cannot align your goals easily, you may need to sell your partner (and potentially his/her leadership) on your idea. Help them to see why shifting their priorities to support your initiative will drive greater value to the company or team than some of the other initiatives they are working on.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

You do not have to have direct reports to develop some of the skills you will need to be a good manager and demonstrate that you are ready to take on the challenge of managing a team.

Many PMMs have to mobilize large cross functional teams to get work done. To do this well, you need to set a clear vision, set expectations for what will be done by when, provide feedback and coaching when the work is not on track, etc. All of these skills are critical to being an effective manager. In addition, you can coach or mentor others on your team. If you are a more seasoned PMM, you can help other newer PMMs to learn the role and develop their skills. I personally appreciate and reward seasoned PMMs who step up and help their peers.

If you are interested in becoming a manager, talk to your manager about your interest. Ask them what you can do to develop the skills you need to manage. Make sure you come to that conversation armed with some ideas for how you can build and demonstrate those skills. Ideally, come to that conversation with examples of how you have already demonstrated your ability to manage and lead. Feel free to draw upon my suggestions above for inspiration.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

It's hard to break into product marketing with no experience as it is a tough job. PMMs have to manage a lot of cross functional stakeholders and are often responsible for executing large, complex launches. My suggestion is to enter a company in a function where you have experience and network your way into a PMM role.

That is how I got my start in Product Marketing. I transitioned from Operations to Product Marketing by working on projects (some outside the scope of my role) with a woman who was working on a product that interested me. Long story short, she was so grateful for my help that she let me know when a role opened up on her team, and even though I didn’t have direct experience, she gave me a chance.

People are often willing to give someone without direct experience a chance, but in my experience, they will only do so if they know you.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

I started as an IC and was working on a product that was on the verge of being deprecated. Fast forward three years, and I got a promotion and was managing a team of 9 people.

How did I do it? Well, the short answer is that I delivered results. I saw an opportunity to grow the product I was assigned to, and sought out other people who had the same vision. We all worked together to turn that product into a success. Once the product started succeeding, I was given a small team. Then, I was called upon to help turn around other product areas that were underperforming.

The story I shared illustrates one path to Director - find an area or product to “own” and deliver results. That is the most effective strategy if you want to get the title in your current company. Another path to obtaining that Director title is to switch companies. The latter may be the faster route depending on how competitive your current company is and how long you have been working towards your promotion. That said, switching companies does come with risks (e.g., building new relationships, learning how things get done, etc.). You will ultimately have to make the decision that feels right for you based on your current situation. Make sure you seek advice from trusted friends or mentors before choosing your path.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

I don’t think there is a typical career path to get to VP or CMO. That said, many CMOs for tech companies have product marketing experience, so it's a good place to start if your ultimate goal is to be a CMO. From my perspective, the VPs and CMOs that I admire most have often worked in a range of roles across Marketing (and sometimes even Sales), so they have a wide range of experiences and skills to draw upon. They are strong managers who are able to build high performing teams because good people want to work for them, and they know how to set a bold vision and mobilize a team to execute that vision.

My suggestion is to invest the time and focus required to build the skills you need to be an exceptional leader. I often see folks early in their career overly focused on promotions and titles versus the skills and experience they need to build to become a strong leader. I am not saying that you should not advocate for yourself, or ask for a deserved promotion, but don’t make that your only goal.

My advice is to try to get a broad range of experiences early in your career as an IC. Try two or three different roles across Marketing and/or Sales depending on your interests. This is also a good time to hone your abilities to work with cross functional partners and problem solve. Then, shift your focus to building your scope and managing a team. Start by managing a small team (2 or 3 people), so you can learn how to be an effective manager. Work on your ability to delegate and to mobilize your team to set and achieve big goals. When you have mastered managing, focus on taking on bigger roles until you reach your goal, whether that is to be a VP of a function or a CMO. Good luck on your journey.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

I don’t think there is a typical career path for Product Marketers. I personally started my career in investment banking and consulting and transitioned into a corporate role via Operations. I made the transition to Product Marketing by networking and building relationships while I was working in Operations. I built a relationship with someone who gave me the opportunity to work in product marketing even though I didn’t have experience.

From there, I worked on products that I loved (video for many years) and did whatever was required to ensure my products were successful. I did everything from shaping narratives, training sales, working with product to shape the roadmap, pitching to customers, etc. Eventually, I found myself with a small team, and over time the size of my team and remit grew.

My advice to anyone who wants to build a career in product marketing is to find a product that you find compelling and get to work. If possible, try to get a range of product marketing experiences (inbound, outbound, compete) before moving into management roles. This will give you a broader set of skills and experiences to draw upon when you are someday running a Product Marketing organization.

Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett
Former Head of Product Marketing, AsanaOctober 16

I look for a couple of things: 

  1. Can they proactively identify and solve problems?
  2. Are they coachable? Do they have a growth mindset? 
  3. Are they able to drive cross functional alignment, with peers and senior stakeholders?
  4. Are they acting as a mentor and coach to others on the team and/or cross functional partners that have less experience or are struggling?

When ICs demonstrate the skills above, I will often put them on the bigger and more strategic projects, or ask them to run a whole program (e.g., sales enablement). As their remit grows, there is typically a point at which either a manager role opens up (and I encourage them to apply), or their program becomes so big that I give them some direct reports to ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth to complete the work.

Credentials & Highlights
Former Head of Product Marketing at Asana
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Solutions and Platform Product Marketing, Building a Prod...more