Valerie Angelkos

Valerie AngelkosShare

Product Marketing Lead, Plaid
Experienced B2C and B2B Product Marketer & Strategist with 10+ years of experience across Consumer Apps (e.g. Google Ads, Google Meet, YouTube Shorts) who recently switched to Fintech.
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Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 24

I think it depends ultimately on what the team needs. In a highly technical area, I'd value industry and product knowledge highly, as long as the person is then coachable and open to learn on other areas within the PMM world. In a not so technical area, I'd prioritize PMM skillsets over other areas. Soft skills should be part of the package either way, aligned with the value of your team and company.

Ultimately the goal is to find the right balance and bring different perspectives so the team can learn from each other as well.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 24

Messaging for me is both an art and a science. I've seen very good narrative building frameworks and courses around that can you help you nail basic concepts (e.g how to structure a well written value prop) but it needs constant practice and iteration.

As an immigrant whose first language is not English, I have also found general writing courses and workshops very helpful.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 24

I'd weave these topics in as you answer the hard skill questions. Depending on your examples, theu could be easier to be included. Things to touch upon:

1. Leadership + Influencing without authority 

2. Collaboration with XFN teams

3. Dealing with ambiguity (in particular in startup/smaller companies)

4. Managing conflict 

5. Inclusiveness (this is something I look for frequently but hardly ever touched upon by candidates)

6. Communicating across stakeholders

However, please note that a good interview process should cover both hard and soft skills. If no one in your interview panel is asking you the soft skills questions, I'd do a deep dive to see if this is a red flag - you want to work for a company that cares about these areas and that pushes their employees to develop them as well. Both the WHAT and the HOW are equally important.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 24

I personally used my MBA to transition from CPG to Tech. However, I've seen many do so without an MBA and generally speaking, it is possible by focusing on transferable skills, for example:

1) Focus on user insights - relevant across both industries but might be executed in practice in different ways. In Tech, and depending the size of the company, you rely more on UXR teams and product-usage insights whereas in CPG it's generally more scaled Market Research. 

2) End to end campaign and/or program management - Show how you can deliver a campaign end to end, from strategy to execution to measurement and iteration. This is a consistent area across industries.

3) Partnering with R&D - R&D looks different in these two industries but the concept of leveraging user insights and data to inform the Product roadmap long term is still relatively the same. For example, when I worked in the beauty industry, many of our market insights went back to R&D teams to develop products that adapted more to our markets, based on skin type, skin tone, and weather. The lifecycle is longer vs. tech, but the practice still applies although perhaps less frequently.

4) Business impact - Brand Managers and PMMs sit in the center of many functions and prioritize both product and business impact. These skills are also transferable.

Focusing on these four skills above + showing your interest in Tech and the company can help you make a successful transition (and I might have missed some other points). I personally think the best marketers come from CPG as it's a more established industry with well developed best practices and it's a matter of time for Tech to focus more on recruiting CPG Marketers. 

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 24

A couple of others that come to mind:

1. Excellent communication skills and the ability to adapt these to the right audience - whether that's for consumers at scale, customers, or internal stakeholders.

2. Cross-functional influence - PMMs sit in between customers/consumers, Sales, Marketing, Product and even more functions depending on the organization. The ability to rally folks towards a common goal and bring everyone along is critical.

3. Related to curiosity - that constant need to understand the end user, whether that's consumers or customers, and continue to study their pain points, what motivates them, their issues, etc. Being empathetic with the people you are building for makes you a better PMM.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 23

Retention is a hard topic and I personally think a healthy amount of rotation across different companies and roles is critical to develop a robust PMM skillset, so I have that in mind when I think about the team's I've managed and how to provide them with what they need to feel motivated and continue to progress in their career. A couple of things I focus on:

1) Scope breadth and complexity - People want to continue to grow and feel they have incremental impact in their roles. I make sure I work with PMMs to design a scope that balances their strengths and areas of opportunity, and where they can continue to grow over time. This can mean things like covering a bigger area of the business, focusing on specific product areas they are passionate about, having the ability to mentor others, more exposure internally, or eventually finding a path to manage teams.  

2) Respect as an individual - I do not believe in micro-management and respect people and their boundaries. In an ideal scenario, I focus on providing strategy and direction and guidance on what to do next to achieve our objectives, and let people run on their own, with some consistent check-points on where things are at and creating an open space where people can feel space to ask me questions if/when needed.  

3) Coaching - I am open to teaching folks how to do things based on frameworks and/or my previous experience and I dedicate time during my week to coach, regardless of the seniority of the person I manage. I also love this dynamic with my managers, to ensure that I'm continuing to learn and I get a different perspective to feed into how I make decisions and do my work.

3) Building a team culture they love and feel connected with: Culture is one of the most important aspects of loving a team and a company and has a huge impact on retention. Building a culture where people feel they belong is one of my top priorities, in particular as a BIPOC in Tech Marketing - and not only for the team's I manage but for the broader team's I'm in. I have been too often in spaces where I don't feel I'm valued, I feel judged, or where I can't connect with others comfortably can connect and this, on top of managers, are the two main reasons why I've decided to leave teams and/or jobs in the past. 

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 23

First of all - I empathize with you and I know it's hard to receive critical feedback, but I applaud your interest in wanting to do something about this feedback and improve it. Feedback and manager relationships are often tough to navigate and there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but I'll share what has been helpful to me so far - both when receiving feedback and as a manager.

I think you have a couple of questions here - so I'll break them up first:

1) On what to do with feedback and how to improve it.

A good framework to follow when giving and receiving feedback, is the following:

  • Step 1: Clarify Intent. 
  • Step 2: Provide Context. 
  • Step 3: Describe the situation. 
  • Step 4: Give your Opinion. 
  • Step 5: Prescribe Next Steps.

This is generally used by the person who is giving the feedback. From what I read, it seems to be that the feedback you're receiving ends in Step 4 -- when you have conversations with your manager, ask to align on Step 5. Both of you should align on next steps in order to address this feedback, if it's negative, or next steps on ways to continue to do work that you're doing well. The more you do this the more natural it'll become, and the more comfortable you will feel aligning on next steps - together. 

2) What do to when you don't think the feedback is correct?

This one is a bit trickier. Before you assume that the feedback you're getting is not correct - try asking others around you, perhaps your peers or people you trust, for feedback or observations on that specific aspect you've been discussing with your manager. We often don't see our areas of improvement as clearly as others, in particular when we are confident and very capable professionals. 

If you've done this and you disagree with your manager's perspective - I'd have that conversation with your manager by acknowledging that you hear their perspective and have processed it, but you want to explain your own point of view on that specific topic and that you disagree with their feedback, with calm and patience, and NOT acting defensively. A good way to do this, based on Radical Candor -

1) Check your understanding - this helps make sure you are both on the same page and that you show you are listening to the other person

2) Take time - You don't have to react right away. It sounds from your question that you've put some thought into this already though.

3. Find common ground - Find some aspects that you agree with to make the conversation easier. 

4. Discuss your disagreement. Let the person know what you don’t agree with and why. Ask to discuss both your thinking and theirs.

5. Commit to a course of action - same as the point 5) above, whether you agree or disagree, it's important to finish the conversation with agreed next steps.

I acknowledge this is a hard conversation to have and there might be instances where you might both agree to disagree. But it's worth a shot trying! Remember most managers are really trying to do what's best for you and care about you and your development. If you think this is not your case, I'd recommend you to seek for help elsewhere, either via your manager's manager or your company's HR department.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 23

Product Marketing Specialists, Associates or General Marketing Specialist roles are good roles to kick-off your career in Product Marketing. They all will require you to develop Product Marketing skillsets and eventually become proficient in them -- including areas like working with Product/Tech teams to define product strategy, defining and understanding your target audience, launching a new product, feature, or service, running end-to-end marketing campaigns, etc. The difference is typically the scale - in more junior roles, you'd be doing one or two of things above vs. all of them, and would likely be focused on a smaller product and/or service the company provides. 

When I hire junior PMM, I care about a couple of things: 1) Being exposed enough to these areas to show high-level understanding of how they work and why they matter, 2) Execution, Execution, Execution. Depth in a couple of these areas above so I can assess how they execute a PMM related-project end-to-end. 3) User-centricity. This can be shown through their day-to-day job as well as just curiosity for how tech products work and how can they improve users' lives and 4) Interest in learning and continuing to develop their PMM skillset over time. I highly value people who are coachable and know their strengths and weaknesses. No PMM knows everything, and every company has new challenges, problems, and things to figure out where people need to flex their skills. 

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 23

Most of my career has been spent in Marketing and I used my MBA to transition industries (from CPG to Tech) and location (from Latin America/regional teams to the United States/global teams). 

While I had practical experience as a Marketer, what I learned through my MBA is the strategic and analytical side of marketing - focusing on understanding what frameworks are best to solve different problems, what data and insights I need to inform my decisioning process, and how to measure success of different aspects of the business. During the early stage of my career, the Marketing work I did was very executional - heavy on launching products/brands, running campaigns, etc. An MBA allowed me to level-up and understand why these actions were needed and how they impacted the broader business, and in the case of Tech, the overall portfolio of products.

Personally, I think an MBA allows you to focus on strategy, understand how your peers have tackled problems in different roles/industries, and how Marketing fits into the bigger picture. Even if you've done Product Marketing before I think there's real value in pursuing it, in particular if your previous experience is in startups and/or more executional roles at bigger companies, which tends to be what folks focus on in the early years of their professional life.

Valerie Angelkos
Valerie Angelkos
Product Marketing Lead, Plaid | Formerly GoogleMay 23

Understanding how Brand Marketing works is critical to succeed in Product Marketing as these two teams work closely together to bring any Marketing and Product work to life.

Brand Marketing thinks about creating a long-term, strategic plan to continuously boost a brand's recognition and reputation. It involves creating and maintaining brand-consumer OR brand-customer relationships and marketing brand attributes—the traits that people think of when they picture a particular brand. I see this as the overarching umbrella of any company -- and often categories and/or products within each company (for example -- YouTube or Google Workspace). 

In tech companies, brand marketing represent this higher-level hierarchy. They generally invest in marketing the higher-level brand (e.g. Google) and this has positive halo effects on the product portfolio for that specific company.

Product Marketing comes in at the second level of this hierarchy. It benefits from brand halo effects of positive and well-done brand marketing, but it's core is to focus on communicating the benefits of what the product delivers to its users. It leans more into the functional and emotional aspects of a particular product or set of products, vs. a set of high-level, aspirational attributes. 

The combination of these two can yield in positive brand awareness, consideration, and intent, as well as long-term usage and retention of products with our core audiences. The most successful teams I've worked at have Brand + Product working hand-in-hand to nail what exactly the user wants, how to properly message it, and how to creatively bring this idea to life.

Credentials & Highlights
Product Marketing Lead at Plaid
Formerly Google
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In Sunnyvale, CA
Knows About Product Marketing Interviews, Building a Product Marketing Team, Product Marketing So...more