January 09, 2024

Innovative Marketing Leadership: It is okay to think outside the box but make sure you don't create surprises (podcast episode #82)


Check out my conversation with Sarah Hodges, CMO, Procore Technologies, in episode #82 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. Hodges discussed innovation in marketing, leadership lessons, empathy, and customer understanding.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Innovative Marketing Leadership: It is okay to think outside the box but make sure you don't create surprises (podcast episode #82)

Create innovative marketing using AI technology paired with MECLABS consumer psychology. Get a free trial to the AI Guild at MECLABS.com/AI (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

Any industry, and our marketing industry is no exception, has a pack mentality. We say certain buzzwords and share certain ideas.

But we can hear them ad nauseam, to the point where they just wash over us and don’t really mean anything. We nod in agreement at a networking event with a drink in our hand, but do we actually do anything about it the next day?

Not really. We’re back to going through the motions executing a campaign, buried in email and Slack notifications.

Here’s one such commonly heard phrase – ‘put yourself in the customer’s shoes.’ How many times have you heard that?

Now, how many times have you really done it?

Well, this episode’s guest has. She literally got out of the office, put on the customers’ shoes – or in this case, steel-toed boots – and experienced what her customers’ day is really like.

I talked to Sarah Hodges, CMO, Procore Technologies, about that experience, along with many more lessons from her career.

Procore Technologies is a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It reported $720 million in revenue in 2022, an increase of 40% year-over-year. More than $1 trillion in construction volume has run on its construction management software platform.

Hodges manages a team of 300 people.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

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Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Hodges that emerged in our discussion:

It is okay to think outside the box but make sure you don't create surprises!

Hodges developed a campaign strategy to drive awareness for a new product that included taking a sizable investment from the demand generation budget and shifting it towards the launch of the product. The campaign strategy had a very different approach than what had been executed in the past and required trust from her manager and from her team. The campaign strategy was to create a new and mysterious brand for the product that would invoke curiosity.

It also included renting food trucks and driving them to construction sites, which were considered highly relevant places for introducing this new product. The campaign was successfully executed and received press, customer, and industry accolades. However, it sparked some unforeseen internal concerns. The company’s CEO noticed a construction worker sporting the new brand on a t-shirt and was puzzled as to why the primary corporate brand wasn't more prominently featured.

Her takeaway from this experience is that even if a campaign meets its objectives, it's critical to ensure that everyone is aligned.

To grow as a marketing leader, make the leap to new, unfamiliar, even uncomfortable roles

At one point in her career, Hodges took a giant leap from marketing to product management and development. In this new role, she was responsible for driving product strategy in an industry with which she was not familiar. She came into the role curious and eager to make an impact.

Being in this role forced her to lean on her team for their discipline and specific knowledge. It also required being comfortable with being VERY uncomfortable as she did not have any former experience to rely on. She had to be vulnerable and declare what she didn't know, forcing her to focus on honing her leadership skills in a very short period of time.

It also required her to depend on functional leaders to carry out strategy and technical execution. This experience fostered a greater understanding and empathy for the product management and development side of the organization, particularly as she observed their handling of critical issues and prioritization of customer and support feedback. It not only improved her overall leadership abilities but also made her a more effective marketing leader.

You have to walk in your customer's shoes.... LITERALLY.

As marketing professionals, it is part of our role to understand our customers. It is critical to be able to build empathy and understand their challenges. In many ways, we can learn what is important to our customers through observation, being at their offices, being in their factories, watching how work is done. This helps create understanding of the workflows needed and the challenges our customers face on a daily basis.

However, for many marketers, our customers perform very unique tasks that can't always be observed from afar. Having been in high tech all of her career and spending a good portion of it in construction technology, Hodges learned that the only way to genuinely understand the challenges customers face, and subsequently connect with them through marketing messaging and experiences, is to actually perform their job.

For Hodges, this has meant putting on steel-toed boots, wearing hazmat fire protective overalls, safety glasses, hard hats, and gloves, going to an active construction site and shadowing the project team. Being able to see in real time how construction professionals execute their work in rain and snow makes you build real empathy for what they do day in and day out. She also countered that by shadowing a project manager on a sunny day.

This helped her see how the sun creates glare on their devices, how hot their suits are, and how difficult it is to stay hydrated. Through this experience, she learned to build real empathy for the customer. To her, this is one of the biggest learnings – you cannot assume you know till you have walked in their shoes.

Lessons (with stories) from people she collaborated with

Hodges also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with.

Set and declare your expectations

Via Karen Doss Becker

Becker was among the first marketing executives Hodges had the pleasure of working with. Their collaboration occurred during Becker’s tenure as Senior Director of Marketing at Autodesk. While Hodges had previously worked with other business and functional leaders, Becker stood out as a seasoned brand marketing expert who had transitioned to the business strategy team by the time Hodges began working with her. During her time working with Becker, it was as if two halves became a whole.

What she means by that is Becker brought the depth of brand marketing to the table and Hodges brought the industry and product knowledge. Together they built a full multichannel approach.

When Hodges first met Becker, she said to herself "I want to be like Karen." She carried an aura of confidence and knowledge; she was approachable but had high expectations that made Hodges always want to do better. Becker taught her to maintain high expectations for her work, herself, and her team, and to DECLARE it.

Rather than providing solutions or answers, she challenged Hodges with probing questions, pushing her to consider the potential outcomes. As a result, Becker helped her grow as a manager, marketer, and colleague. She credits much of her capacity to ask questions and declare her desired outcomes to Becker’s guidance.

Coach and simply ask questions, don’t dictate

via Scott Reese, CEO, GE Digital

Reese was someone Hodges always admired as an executive even before she had the opportunity to work directly for him. Reese consistently prioritized his team, urging them to represent the business and its strategies and programs. However, he always contributed something extra to enhance the discussion, demonstrating his close involvement with the team and their efforts. Scott would take a ‘coach’ approach to managing his team.

He would always ask "how can I help you?" or "where are you facing challenges and how are you thinking about approaching the solution?" He leaned heavily on ‘coaching’ and not directing. She learned from Reese the importance of checking in with team members, the importance of asking simple questions such as "where are you stuck?" to drive discussion, and active problem solving.

Reese also taught her how to help identify and solve problems together by opening the dialog up and creating the right environment for discussion.

Believe in yourself

via Mark Hodges, former CCO and now retiree, and Sarah’s dad

Her dad began his career as a mechanical engineer and later entered the technology space. He spent most of her childhood working with manufacturing companies and product designers to help them transition their workflows from pen and paper to CAD. She grew up hearing her dad tell her and her sister stories of how technology was transforming the way manufacturing design was done.

Then when she began her own journey into technology serving an adjacent industry, she saw firsthand what he had been referring to and she became even more fascinated. As she grew in her career, her dad was always there (and still is today) to offer advice, sharing what she had learned and where she saw things work or break down.

Since the industry she served was behind the manufacturing industry in its digitization, the insights she gained from her dad were incredibly valuable and timely. Above all the advice and teachings she shared, the most crucial lesson he imparted – and continues to remind her of – is that she has to believe in herself. He continually emphasizes that the only obstacle to doing her best work is herself.

Imposter syndrome is a common experience, one she grapples with daily. However, her father is a constant reminder that anyone is capable of anything if they put their mind to it, and more importantly, believe in it.

Related content discussed in this episode

Transparent Marketing: How to make your product claims credible … not incredible

The Hidden Upside of the COVID-19 Crisis for Brands and Marketers: 10 opportunities

Consumer Financial Services Marketing: Your customer is your most important stakeholder (podcast episode #39)

Marketing 101: What is influencer marketing?

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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.

Sarah Hodges: All you have to do is ask a few questions and customers. It doesn't matter who they are, they will go. They will go because just like I am introverted and I'm being extroverted now, I'm extroverted because I am passionate about this topic. I'm passionate about what I do. I'm passionate about the customers in the industry that I serve.

It's no different when I engage or anyone engages with a customer. You just need to 3 to 3 questions. They will go and then from there you can take it in any direction you want, but it can be as simple as. Tell me about your day though. Go. What's your biggest challenge? They'll tell you, and then I'll probably tell you three more.

How do you overcome that? How do you drink coffee when you have these gloves on and you can barely pick up the coffee cup and it's freezing cold out? They'll tell you.

Intro: Welcome to how I made it in marketing from Marketing Sherpa. We scour pitches from hundreds of creative leaders and uncover specific examples, not just trending ideas or buzzword laden schmaltz, real world examples to help you transform yourself as a marketer. Now here's your host, the senior director of Content and Marketing at Marketing Sherpa Daniel Bernstein, to tell you about today's guest.

Daniel Burstein: We've been any industry and our marketing industry is no different. They've got a pack mentality. We say certain buzzwords and share certain ideas, but we can hear them ad nauseum to the point where they just kind of wash over us. They don't really mean anything. Yeah, we nod in agreeance and a networking event with a drink in our hand, but we actually do anything about the next day.

Not really. We're just going to go back through the motions. Executing a campaign buried in email hearing Slack not notifications. So here's one for you. Here's a great example of a buzzword. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. How many times have you heard that? Now, how many times have you really done it? I mean, I like the idea, but, like, really doing it.

Well, my next guest actually has she literally got out of the office, put on the customer's shoes or in this case, steel toed boots and tried to experience what her customer's day is really like. Joining me now to share that experience, along with many more lesson filled stories, is Sarah Hodges, the CMO of Procore Technologies. Thanks for joining me, Sarah.

Sarah Hodges: Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

Daniel Burstein: Let's take a quick look at your backgrounds of people, understand who I'm talking to, why they should listen. Sarah worked at Autodesk for 12 years, leaving as a senior director of the construction business line. She was vice president of Product Marketing strategy for PTC. She actually came back to Autodesk for another four years as vice president of product Management, and for the past year she's been the chief marketing officer of Procore Technologies.

Procore Technologies is a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It reported $720 million in revenue in 2022, an increase of 40% year over year and $1 trillion in construction volume has run on its construction management software platform. You heard me right. That is trillion with 80. And Sarah manages a team of about 300 people at Procore.

So, Sarah, give us a sense. What is your day like as CMO of Procore?

Sarah Hodges: What is a day like as CMO at Procore? It's very busy, but it's filled with what I would like to say, two or three different categories of where I spend my time. So the first one, and I loved what you said in the intro, Daniel, because I truly believe this is being connected with customers. So there isn't a day that passes for me where I'm not either emailing a customer or slacking a customer or getting a customer on a on a Zoom call, because I think that's critically important to making sure we're validating our messaging.

We're saying relevant with our customers. We're hearing what's top of mind for them in terms of challenges that they're facing in the industry. So always a customer component. And any day that I am, I'm working. The other piece would be spending time with the team. So Procore, as you mentioned in your your intro, it's grown significantly over the past year alone.

And so you can imagine that that takes a lot of evolution. So I spend a lot of my time with my team helping us stay true to the vision that we have as an organization, helping us see what it's going to take to accomplish that. Deepening our accountability across the teams, looking at metrics across the full funnel, challenging each other, or challenging our teams to think not just about how do we continue to grow, but how do we continue to grow by being relevant to our customers.

And then I'd say the third piece of my day is working with my stakeholders internally. So as the CMO, I spend a lot of time with my head of product, a lot of time with my head of sales and customer success, because I am a huge believer that in order to have any facet of a marketing role, you have to be in lockstep with the customer and you have to be in lockstep with customer, with product and with sales and customer success.

And so that's there in prong of where I spend my my, my day is super important to make sure that marketing is relevant and how we go to market and is in lockstep and in some cases even driving the execution of ourselves and our customers and to make sure we're meeting the needs of customers. So a long way of giving you an answer there, Daniel, But it's really three, three buckets of time customers, always customers appreciating what they do, building empathy for them.

The second one was with the team driving us towards the vision that we have and making sure everyone is in lockstep towards that. And the third one is making the three legs of the stool steady and complete because the only way to go to market is to have synergy between marketing products and our sales organizations.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I love that. And I know we only call the first one customers, but it sounds like really all three are customers, right? I mean, in a sense, the customers that buy our product, the customers that, you know, the actual employees that are making it and the rest of the company. So I like that. And you've got a lot of lessons here from your career about how you made things to make that happen.

So let's see what we can learn from you, Sarah. I like to say, you know, I've never been in any other industry. I've never been a podiatrist or an actuary or something. But like as marketers, if one thing is like we get to make things right, that's what makes it fun. So let's see what we can learn from you.

Your first lesson is it is okay to think outside the box, but make sure you don't create surprises. And I'm guessing this is in relation to that kind of third leg of the stool you're talking about.

Sarah Hodges: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Actually, touch. It touches all three, all three of the areas I just describe. But yes, it definitely comes in with that three legged stool, too. So this story is is a lesson that I hold very near and dear to my heart. The story begins where I had the opportunity to, as a marketer, build something and be very innovative in how how we went about that.

And so at the time the team and I brainstormed this was during my time at Autodesk. So there was connection to the industry that I'm in today and we knew that reaching our primary customer, which was in construction, meant being where they were. And so the team and I came up with at the time what we thought was a really innovative idea to basically surround the construction site and find ways to engage our target audience by being there right in person.

And so we came up with this idea to bring food trucks into into the construction site, and we thought to ourselves, okay, this is a new area for the company at the time. So our brand wasn't necessarily very well known. And so and when it was known, it was known for something adjacent to the objective we were seeking, which was we were no more as a design company and less as a construction company during my time there.

So we came up with a campaign, a campaign name campaign objectives that were accomplished by bringing this food truck to the site and demonstrating our technology and having conversations. But the lesson I learned here is as part of this idea, we took innovation. I wouldn't say too far, but we took it to a place that that created some provocative discussions internally where our campaign name meant not using the company's brand at the time and coming up with a campaign name that we believed would resonate with the customers, would start to connect them to the company at large, but didn't leverage the current the current company's brand in a way that it should have done.

And the lesson I learned was that the campaign was very successful in that we met our objectives. We reached the number of sign ups that we wanted at the time. By being on these construction sites, we built new relationships. All of it seemed to go swimmingly well. The lesson I learned, however, was because that campaign was different in many different ways, both in terms of how we were engaging with customers, how we were reaching them, but most importantly, different in that we did not leverage the companies brand in the way all of our other campaigns did.

That I neglected on the team's behalf to get buy in from the three legs of the stool all the way up. And what ended up happening actually was an executive walking into a coffee shop and standing behind someone who was part of our campaign, who had a t shirt on. That very small font, had the company's brand a very big font, had the campaign brand that surprised him.

And I'll be very open environment and say, this is actually the CEO at the time. So not someone you want to you want to surprise. And so the lesson I had was how important it is to be innovative, come up with creative ideas that do accomplish your objectives with this campaign dead. But you have to you have to you have to get buy in.

And it doesn't always mean you have to walk into the CEO's office, right. Or get on a zoom with the CEO and make sure they know what you're doing. But you have to leverage your stakeholders, your network, your levels of management, right. To get there, buying in their support and have them advocate and champion for you and your behalf.

And this lesson for me was I honestly, as I look back, I got so excited and so wrapped up in the idea and the execution of this new idea, and the team was so motivated and it had such an impact and connecting the team to the industry and to the customers and did drive the objectives that that initial excitement made me forget the importance of getting that buy in.

So it was a lesson I hold true today to always remember you cannot do things in a silo, even when they're exciting and they're innovative and they're new, or even when they're impactful. Making sure you get everybody bought in and they understand why you did something and why you might be approaching something that way. They may agree with it, they may disagree with it, but that's another another conversation.

But the lesson is get that buy and get that advocacy, get that support and make sure you don't create surprises for people, particularly senior executives, because we never want to surprise them. It's important that they can advocate and be in the know.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, well, I mean, and I think you want them to understand the context too, Right. So I'm guessing your CEO saw it out of context at a coffee shop. But if he had previously understood the context, he might have felt differently about it.

Sarah Hodges: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So you said another conversation. Let's talk about that other conversation you make up. I and you might not. Right. Because this is a key issue selling internally. I mean, marketers struggle with us. They tell us that. So I wonder, like when you're selling a plan internally, how do you build credibility for it and how much do you share the downside or weakness of the plan, like in this case?

I mean, I was part of it like it wasn't, you know, normally with our brand logo. And I ask because, for example, we've learned in marketing, when you're marketing a message to the customer, like sometimes helping in sharing that downside or weakness, you can even get them bought in more because they understand like the holistic solution for themselves and they trust you more.

So I mean, I've written about before, even like a subject line test I remember we did where a weakness subject line beat a typical incentive subject line, right? As marketers were so focused on incentives but kind of, you know, sometimes talking about weakness. So when you're selling internally, how do you do it? How do you what have you found works well and my way off base here, or is there some element there of just kind of being laying your cards on the table and saying, hey, here are the pros and cons, here are their strengths and weaknesses.

Sarah Hodges: you actually are bringing up something that I really I really value something. I'm going to start there and then I'm going to talk about the process that I take that may not may not be right. Right. It's just it's the one that that I found to be effective for me. But, Dani, what you made me think of as vulnerability, I actually have one of the most powerful things is that you do you can't just do it and be vulnerable, right?

You have to you have to actually be vulnerable. You have to operate that way. You have to communicate that way. But being vulnerable, I believe, is the key to everything, not just getting by in, but it's building trust, right? It's getting teams aligned with you, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But vulnerability came to mind as you as you ask that question, because I do believe really strongly in the best way to get buy in for ponds or get feedback on ponds is to be vulnerable that it probably isn't the right thing and that there's more thinking to do or more idea waiting to do or more championing to do.

So what I have found to be effective is collaborating and not collaborating for the sake of collaboration, but collaborating with the three legs of the stool, making sure they they see the idea, they hear the idea, they see the plan as upon being built. And that they are given an opportunity to give feedback and that they're also given the opportunity to give feedback that either validates or invalidates how you might be feeling about the plan.

So that's where the vulnerability piece comes in. So if I look back on that campaign idea I was just sharing with that camp, it was more than ideal. We executed it. But if I think back to that campaign, I had buy in from my my primary stakeholders, including my team and a few of the supporting teams. But I didn't have buy in across a bigger constitution of stakeholders, whether they were up in the org or further across in the Oregon had adjacency to it.

And if I was to do it all over again, I would apply other lessons that I've learned, which is you have to get everybody exposed to it. You have to give people your point of view and your context for why you're doing something. You have to be open and vulnerable about the things that maybe you're not sure about.

Like if I look back on that campaign, I had no idea if it was going to work or if we were going to get told to actually, you know, leave the construction site and never come back. It could have gone really, really badly. But I think being open about that and saying, I don't know if this is right, I don't know if this is going to work.

What do you think? And giving people the opportunity to weigh in and being open and honest about the fact that something might fail, but that you're going to get a learning from, that you're going to get something from it that's going to help you iterate and evolve in the future is really important. So. So for me, the best way to move forward is always be open and vulnerable, give the contact, bring people in to become aware of what you're trying to do.

Open the door for feedback and you have to be clear about when you have to stop the feedback, because at some point, if you want to disagree and commit and you have to move forwards. But giving that opportunity to people to weigh in, being open and vulnerable about the things that you don't have figured out or that you're not sure about, I think actually creates more buy in naturally because people realize, they don't have it all figured out, but they're asking me for my opinion and they're being open and honest about what it is that they're trying to accomplish.

And I understand why they're doing it. So for me, vulnerability, collaboration, transparency about what you do know, when you don't know and why you're doing it, that's the key to getting by in and driving something, whether it's going to be successful or not. That's why you define the metrics and you're always going to have a learning from it.

But it comes back to those patterns for me.

Daniel Burstein: Well, speaking of, we talked about trying something radically new for a brand. Let's talk about trying something radically new for a career. And it seems like vulnerability played a key role in this as well. You said to grow as a marketing leader, make the leap to a new, unfamiliar, even uncomfortable role. And I would imagine you'd have to allow yourself to be pretty vulnerable to do that.

So how do you learn that lesson?

Sarah Hodges: my goodness. As you said it back to me then. I felt I felt my body tense. I can say that this was. Yeah, this was the most uncomfortable I've ever been. As I talk about I talk about this role and I credit the people that trusted me to put me in the role at the time. You know, my, my, my boss did.

And she she took a chance on me and she knew it was important for me to go try something different. But I was extremely, extremely uncomfortable. So just to set a bit of context, most of my career has always been business strategy, going to market marketing. That is what I live and breathe. It's my passion. It's why I'm in the role that I'm in today.

But I knew that in order to be the best marketer and maybe even one day you become a CEO, it's always been a desire of mine. I knew I had to have an understanding and empathy for other functions and other aspects outside of ones I'd worked within and had managed directly. So the role that we're referencing was to run product and development.

And so the product side of that from sort of a product management perspective didn't didn't scare me as much because obviously there's a big sort of connection between marketing and product in terms of thinking about the market analysis, thinking about the personas, thinking about how you bring your product to market. But development was something I never had any any connection to directly, right?

I didn't come from a from a development background. Definitely didn't understand the terminology and the lingo definitely couldn't say, Hey, I've done that before you. Here's what I've learned. Let me let me share with you my experiences. So I was immediately uncomfortable. That level of discomfort only increased. Daniel As I got further and further in within the team because I realized very quickly that the levers I had used previously outside of pure leadership lovers, lovers of experience, libraries of I've done that role or I've seen that role or I've, I've been in a team that had to do part of that role.

There was no examples of that. I'd never been an engineer, I'd never been a developer, I'd never had to take something right and then move it into production. I never had to respond to an engineering crisis. I had nothing to say. I know how you're feeling. And I also didn't always understand the terminology being used because it wasn't a domain I had expertise on.

And so I realized that very quickly. And then I realized very quickly that this was a moment where I had to lean on all the other things that I knew I had learned. And I it's begun to hone which way is what makes a strong leader. And one of the things that I remember, someone, you know, teaching me was to always be curious, always make sure your asking questions and always lead on the people in the room that do things that you don't have experience.

And so I very quickly had to pivot and focus on, okay, who are my leaders, what expertise do they have, How does that complement me and how do I position them to go deep into the areas that I can't go into because I wouldn't know left or right or right or wrong. I need their technical expertise and then how do I help coach and guide them to make sure that they're directing the questions in the right way?

In areas where I may have what I call Spidey senses about things, but I don't have the knowledge and expertise to actually validate or invalidate. So I was very uncomfortable because I sit in meetings and I'll be honest, and the team knew this. I could see right through it. I didn't know what they were talking about most of the time, but I knew what we had to do as an organization to meet the objectives.

And so I just had to lean back on. Okay, be curious, ask questions, activate the people that I do know, have this knowledge and expertise to go find me the answers that I think we need as a business. Lean on them and stay in this area of I mean, it's more than discomfort. I've never been in someone comfortable in my life.

Stay in this area of complete discomfort knowing that the way I felt was my hands were tied because I could only ask questions and I could only activate the team and I could only lead us towards where we knew we were going and trust trust the team to surface the right information and the right the right next steps to get us to where we need to go.

But I say with complete conviction. I grew more in that time than I think I ever have as a leader because I had to be a leader. I had to not get into the disciplines and I couldn't do the work. I couldn't I couldn't solve things on my own. It forced me to to fill my segment gaps and fill my knowledge gaps with people that had that technical knowledge and expertise and empower them to to go to go help us move forward.

So I learned more than I can ever, ever tell you. And then what I learned to outside of the leadership pieces I took away, which definitely helped me to get to where I am today. The other thing I learned was an incredible amount of empathy for what it takes to be in the product team, in a development team, in a SAS business.

I learned so much that has made me a far more empathetic CMO today because I have that view. I understand what the product team is going through when requirements are coming in. I understand the pressure on the engineering team when we have staff issues, etc. So it's made me not only a stronger leader but a far more empathetic marketing leader and deeply respecting and understanding what the stakeholders around my, my three legs of the stool are going through.

So I learned a lot, but absolutely incredibly uncomfortable and I'm not sure I could do it again. Singly disciplined, focused.

Daniel Burstein: Well, when you're not sure, we could do it again. When you talk about uncomfortability, it gets me thinking of something that we all went through as a global society, which was COVID 19 and I wonder if there are any similarities or if there's anything you learned from that situation, that unfamiliar situation. Because, for example, when I've written about we've written about the hidden upsides of COVID 19, before you know it, marketers would tell us that got out of a creative rod.

They developed a new way of working. No one would want to go into that uncomfortable situation, but they came out differently and often in better ways for you. I believe you were working in the manufacturing industry, which, you know, supply chain issues, factory shutdowns. You can't work from home, you know, building things in the manufacturing industry. So for you, like what what did you learn?

Were there similarities in that uncomfortable situation? Were there other things you learned that changed you and made you a better marketer or a better business leader today?

Sarah Hodges: Yeah, during during during COVID 19.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely right. Because you were in manufacturing, right?

Sarah Hodges: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, actually, it's so interesting. So I was over over in the manufacturing industry at PGC right before COVID and then had come back to order task, right. As COVID sort of was really accelerating. So I but I was in this role that we're talking about during COVID, which was so it was doubly hard. Daniel It was doubly hard.

And what I say is I wouldn't do it again. What I mean by that is I would absolutely do it again in context of of having a team where you I had the right leaders in place, right. But I couldn't do it again in terms of standing up and saying, I can run I can successfully run a development organization.

And that's a lesson I learned, which is that's not for me and that's okay. But I would hire the right people to do it on my behalf. And so when I was yes, when COVID 19 hit, I was in this role. So I had like the double whammy. I had the double whammy of I'm super uncomfortable and in a role that's completely out of anything I've ever known before.

And I know we don't understand the lingo and I don't understand the discipline. and I can't even get together in person with the leaders on my team to gain trust and seek to understand them outside of of work in a way that you just have more abilities to do when you're not sitting across Zoom. So yeah, that was sort of a double whammy.

But I also say that that that did accelerate in the same way, being uncomfortable Then in the role, it also accelerated some of my my leadership skills, my ability to build empathy because all of us were were in that same boat and were all trying to build trust with each other at the same time when you could only do it over a little, a little screen.

So that was equally hard. Equally as hard, for sure, Yes.

Daniel Burstein: All right. So talking about building empathy, I mean, that's a great way to build empathy. You talk about I know you know, in my career, too, sometimes you're like, I just want the software built. There's this idea why? Why is it taking so long? I think there's great empathy there, but empathy for the customer, that's something we talk about.

And just I mentioned this in the opening. I love this. Your lesson is you have to walk in your customers shoes literally, and you did this literally. So you want to take us through like how you got the idea to do this and how it all worked out.

Sarah Hodges: yes. So, I mean, anyone that knows me, I think would say, yes, this is Sarah, meaning I think about the customer all the time and you're something we haven't talked about yet, but it's important context to that. I am in this role mainly because I care so much about the construction industry. I mean, of course I was I have to have experience and knowledge and a team sector that make that possible.

But I care so much about the construction industry. It's it's why I was in many of the roles I had for so long. And I'm fascinated by how how things are designed and built. And I think the built process is incredibly complex. And so anyone that has worked with me or works for me or with me, I think would say the same thing.

I'm incredibly passionate about this industry and I'm incredibly passionate about what that means as a marketer or as a go to market strategist or a business strategist on what that means in terms of how you resonate with customers. And I truly believe, as you articulated really well, Daniel, that you have to walk in their shoes, literally, you have to put on the steel toed boots.

If you're in an industry like construction and you have to go out and you and it cannot be a day where temperature is perfect, the sun is at the right angle, everything's great. You're not freezing cold. You cannot do it on those days. And if you do, you need to augment them with days that are the complete opposite of that, because it's the only way to experience what customers experience and to really deeply understand the obstacles they have to overcome.

Like, such as? Like when you're in construction and it's freezing out, you number one, you have to wear safety gloves as part of your your your personal protective equipment. So that in and of itself is a challenge to use things like phones or etc., etc.. But imagine when you're on a construction site and it's freezing cold and you need to take a sip of coffee and you can barely even pick up the coffee cup with your gloves on.

And you take them all for a second and your hands freeze. I mean, it is no joke to be out there and see what your customers go through, build a high degree of empathy for it. And then I truly believe that is the only way as marketers to then be able to translate the business problems your customers face into how solutions can help help them.

So real world problems and I think you can't do it from afar. I think COVID really made that challenging for for all of us as marketers because it was very difficult to get out into actual construction sites if you're in construction or factories. If you're in manufacturing, you had to do everything virtually, which gives you some degree of empathy because you can ask the right questions and you can dive deep into particular areas 1 to 1 on the few.

But when you actually go and see how a customer does the work that they have to do, it's eye opening. And we have an initiative right now where we're making sure any time we travel as a team if we can and we have permission to do so, we will go to a customer job site and it's eye opening for the team to watch them.

Their eyes are like saucepans because it's things you can never you can never appreciate it until you till you're there. And I happen to be in an industry that is incredibly complex and you're talking multi-story skyscrapers sometimes, right? Or high rise commercial buildings and the level of complexity that goes into that just in terms of safely transmitting materials, making sure people are safe on the site is very difficult to imagine it until you're there.

And I had I had the real pleasure recently of going out to a site, an oil refinery, which is completely different than a building construction project. And you're in hazmat suits and you have little alarms on you in case you enter into an area that has your dust particles that you shouldn't be around. And you realize, gosh, people do this day in, day out, and they're stepping over obstacles that are there because they're at a certain phase of a project.

And it makes you think differently about if that is the customer that I'm trying to reach. First of all, how do I reach them when they're on a construction site all day? You have to think creatively about that. And then how do you show that you have a deep empathy for what they do and that you're there to position something to them that can be helpful to them?

So I'm a huge believer in it. Huge. And it doesn't matter if you're not in construction, whatever industry you're in. Be to see b b I truly believe you have to experience things through the eyes of your customer and you have to do it regularly and frequently because once isn't enough and you have to be them, you have to, in my world, right where the boots wear, the hazmat suits, put on the hard hat before freezing to death because you're out in the wintertime in the in the open air and you have to watch and see how things get done so that you can intimately understand how to appeal to them and truly connect with

them based on who they are, the business challenges that they face and what they're looking to solve, to do their work more effectively or more productively. So it's something I take really seriously. I try to do it as much as I can. Like I mentioned in the beginning, one of my threads of my time every single day is something focused on external customers.

I push my team really hard to get out there on construction sites to or even listen in on phone calls if we can't be there physically in person. But it is something that I truly believe to be a good marketer, you have to have to. In fact, you're not even good to market anything. I truly believe you have to intimately understand the customer that you're trying to reach, and that takes walking literally in their shoes.

Daniel Burstein: So I hear you saying I want to learn about the customer and I hear you saying this and it sounds good. But I also got to admit, I am incredibly introverted. It sounds so awkward, and I wonder if you had any tips on how you actually physically like executing on this, because I've heard this you know, people have talked about this on on the podcast.

I remember interviewing Radhika Duggal, chief marketing officer of Super on how I made it, marketing. She talked about she shared a story when she was at Chase. She spent hours outside of Western unions and telematics to understand underbanked customers. And again, boy, that sounds my gosh, you learn so much. And then I think of like, my gosh, that sounds so awkward.

Like, how would I actually do that? So I think there's probably a lot of people listening. They're nodding. They're like, Yeah, that's great, getting the customer shoes, but then thinking of like, my gosh, actually doing this with my customers, giving me advice on how you actually execute on this and actually make it happen.

Sarah Hodges: Yeah, I mean, it's back to the is back to the tripod, right? All the three legs of the stool. So any time that the let's just say like any time I wanted to go go on a construction, I say I wanted to go on one next week it would start with me leaning on my tripod like leaning on sales, who usually has a relationship or customer success and saying, Hey, you know, I'm going to be and just make it up.

I'm going to be in Texas next week. I know we have a customer there. I would love to go see their construction site. And so it's activating your internal network who probably have relationships to help you get there, which, by the way, is also super important because it shows your stakeholders that you're curious. You're asking them to collaborate with you, you're showing them that you're doing things to get close to the customer, which always, as a result, will help them drive revenue goals or retention goals.

So leaning on that internal network is is number one way to give it to do it. If you don't have direct access to the customer yourself. And then the second thing I would say is even if you're integrating by the way, I'm an incredibly integrated person, I just get super passionate about things, which makes me appear more I actually.

Daniel Burstein: Don't seem introverted at all. I think you are introverted too.

Sarah Hodges: I am introverted. I am introverted in activities I like. If I get passionate about something, I. I can go for hours. Okay. But I would say my advice there is all you have to do. And it sounds so simple, but I promise you it works. All you have to do is ask a few questions and customers. It doesn't matter who they are, they will go.

They will go because just like I am introverted and I'm being extroverted now, I'm extroverted because I'm passionate about this topic. I'm passionate about what I do. I'm passionate about the customers and the industry that I serve. It's no different when I engage or anyone engages with the customer. You just need to 3 to 3 questions. They will go and then from there you can take it in any direction you want, but it can be as simple as Tell me about your day.

They'll go, What's your biggest challenge? They'll tell you, and then they'll probably tell you three more. How do you overcome that? How do you drink coffee when you have these gloves on and you can barely pick up the coffee cup and it's freezing cold out? They'll tell you. So I lean very much on curiosity and it can just be as simple as two, three, two, three questions, and it will naturally, naturally flow naturally.

So people love telling you about what they do and why they do it because they're passionate about it. I've never had a situation where it's sort of then ask a question they've answered. It's gone quiet. Never is anything. We've gone past the time we're supposed to be engaging together. We've entered into new parts of the project in my world.

Right. Which could be the same. If you're on the phone call, you just go into different areas of conversation. People love to share what they do because generally they're passionate about it. And so even if you're introverted, I think it's just find the one or two things that you want to ask. Be curious. The rest will happen naturally.

Daniel Burstein: Well, that's great. That's great. And that level of collaboration, I mean, that is something now that we will talk about and the second half of the episode of how I made it a marketing. But before we get there, I should mention that the how I made It in Marketing podcast is underwritten by McLeod's Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa.

You can get 10,000 marketing experiments working for you with a free trial of the Mech Labs API guild at Mech Labs, AECOM, slash A.I. that's NCC Lab, Eskom slash A.I. to get artificial intelligence working for you are marketing campaigns. All right, so as I mentioned, you talked about some great collaboration there. I mean, you've talked about that throughout the episode, but also like in, you know, reaching out and to get to know these customers, to find these customers you could work with.

Let's talk about the first person you mentioned that you collaborated with, Karen Dos Becker. You said from Karen you learned to set and declare your expectations. So how did you learn this from Karen?

Sarah Hodges: so this this goes back in the time machine, and I do hope she she hears this and listens to this because she had she had a huge impact on me. And I don't know if she if she quite knows how much, but this was a long time ago now, I mean, several years ago, eight, nine years ago, if I'm not mistaken.

And Karen at the time was working in brand marketing, and I was over in industry marketing, business strategy, industry marketing. So again, same industry. So I was dpn what the contract is, contract is care about what is happening in the construction industry. And Karen was coming in more as how do we build brands, how do we establish brand awareness?

And so we were coming from two different worlds. But when we came together and she was she was my boss at the time, it felt like two halves of the world making a home. So she was very good at thinking about, well, how do we want to be perceived, what is the sentiment, what is our share of voice?

And I was sort of a little bit down further and, okay, well, how do we how do we speak to these customers? We know their business problems. How do we connect with them? And so it's this very defining moment where it was very synergistic, the two of the two of us coming together. And I would watch Karen because she didn't know at the time anything about the industry because she'd been focused, as I was mentioning, sort of bigger, bolder brand awareness, not so singular industry focused.

And so I was watching Karen because she was positioned in this role now on the industry side, but didn't know anything about the industry. And I would watch her and I would think to myself, Wow, I want to be like Karen. She would walk into a room and she would be curious. She would ask questions, she would communicate back her understanding, and then she would declare.

And by declare, I mean she would declare what she was going to go do. As a result of what she'd heard, she would declare what her expectations were in a good way, constructive way of her stakeholders. And then she would declare to the team what she expected of the team. And it was so clear, so concise. And she and she taught me, and I think of her all the time.

She taught me to take sometimes a different position than jumping straight to how to solve something. She use that beginning part of how she showed up to be curious, communicate back what she heard, and then often people would be like, That's not what I said or That's not what I hoped you would take away from that. So then it'll be iteration along the way, but it would get to the point at some point, right where there was there was alignment.

So she would declare back, which excuse me, she would communicate back what she heard. And then she was very directly and getting by. And as she did it, sort of declaring what the expectations were of herself, her team, and then what she was going to need from her stakeholders to move it forward. And she did all of this in an environment that was new to her in terms of the team she was managing, the stakeholders.

She was working with an environment in which she didn't understand the industry, so she wasn't as familiar with what the customers needed or who they were or how they operated. But she had this confidence and she set clarity. She provided clarity to everybody around her of what was going to happen next. And then she leaned on people like myself and others on the team to then go fill it in.

So if our expectation was X, then we would help her, you know, say, okay, if that's X based on the industry and what we know about it and the customers, here's what we can do, Here's how we're going to go to market or here's what we propose we do next. And so what I learned from her was the importance of gaining that clarity, of gaining that alignment.

Excuse me. Right. Say back what you heard. Make sure you continue that conversation until there is alignment. Then declare declare what it is that you're going to do. Go do and then work with the team to to help you make sure what you declared is viable and possible. And so she brought to me this whole sense of clarity, making sure that I was curious, not seeking straight to solve, making sure I had buy in with my stakeholders by saying back, you know what I'd heard and making sure there was that alignment.

And then she empowered me and others on the team to say, This is what I'm going to go do about it. And declaring that meant there was buy in. People knew how to hold each other accountable. People knew what others were going to go do, and it brought clarity to two at a time that felt chaotic. I mean, keep her in mind all the time.

When I think about projects being complex and teams undergo changes all the time, I think back to those days of working for Karen and Karen saying, be curious, communicate back for alignment and then declare declare what you expect of yourself, what you expect of your team and what you expect of your stakeholders. And it's a recipe that I've looked for.

It works and I credit it to her because before then I was the first in the room to listen because I am, I am introverted, listen over process in my head, and then come back with a solution versus making sure. And sometimes that solution would be wrong because I didn't take the moment to make sure we were all on the same page.

And I hear things the way that they were intended to be heard. Did I perceive things in the way that the person was asking for the support or asking for the help expecting me to perceive them? So she taught me to slow down. She taught me not to jump straight to solving. She taught me to be curious, ask the right questions, gain alignment, and then declare declare what you expect, declare what you expect of others, and declare what you expect as an outcome.

So I think of her often.

Daniel Burstein: So when you first talked about Karen was great, you're talking about how you like to have some of the of a whole or I forget exactly how you talk about this great this great match made. And I wonder now as a marketing business leader, you know we mentioned you have a team of about 300. Is there anything you intentionally do to try to fit people together or teams that you know will will fit together in that way?

Yes, I know. Like in our careers when we've had that, I just it always feels that kind of like serendipity or kismet or you just happen to team up with the right person. But I mean, that is great leadership. At the end of the day, right? Fitting the right parts together. So you seem like you're ready to jump into this.

What have you been doing to make that happen?

Sarah Hodges: I think about this all the time. And it's funny, Daniel, because I actually I hadn't thought about it connected to what I just shared with the Karen story in that framework that she installed in my mind. But now that I think about it, what with Karen and I and that that those two halves coming, coming as a whole, that is the philosophy I use with my team.

Absolutely. So we actually do we open and we've just gone through a bit of a change in my team, so I'm still relatively new here. So so we've changed a lot in terms of my my organizational structure, my leadership team and I have intentionally put people in roles where they're forced in combination with each other to make a hole.

So that have very deep brand experience are coupled with people that have very deep industry experience or coupled with people that have very deep analytics experience with people that have very deep experience of how to run sort of for customer journey programs, etc.. So yes, I think about that a lot all the time. How do we have intentional both in terms of discipline skills, so brand complemented with industry to make that whole like Karen and I were at the time, I take that to heart when I'm building teams, hiring for teams, and even when I look down at my leaders teams too, I think that is it's so important.

It's so important. You have to have you have to have people that have the discipline, specific skills in certain areas but are able to work with others. And that comes to you driving the trust, creating the trust, creating the collaboration opportunities, because they have to then bring that together and work as a whole. But yes, thank you very much.

Daniel Burstein: Let's talk about someone else you collaborated with and learn from. You mentioned Scott Reese, the CEO of GE Digital, and you said you learned to coach and simply ask questions don't dictate. And so I see some similarity in themes there in terms of asking questions. But talk to us how is declaring different than dictating and why should you do one and not the other?

And how do you learn this from Scott?

Sarah Hodges: Yeah, let me offer a sort of take that declaring versus dictating. So I use the word declaring when I think about about Karen, because it was sort of a declaration. It was not a dictation by any sense. She was, she would always declare, Right here is what I expect or here is what I am going to do as a result of being aligned with this.

Or here is what I want us as an organization to to live by in terms of values or norms. So I use the word declare in my mind. It sort of defines the articulation of how I how I saw Karen operating that way, very, very clear and pointed about what she expected and what she was going to do.

Scott And Scott said before he was the CEO, he was a senior executive at Autodesk. I worked with Scott for a long time from afar and then had the real pleasure of working for him before he right before he left actually to go over to G two. And the word dictate there is, is what I have seen sometimes in many, many different roles.

You come across people, sometimes that tend to dictate meaning, I'm going to tell you what to do and I just want you to go do it. And there's not much room, right, for for innovation or for challenging that or collaborating on perhaps a different outcome. I don't see that very often, by the way, but I think sometimes that is a little bit of a stereotypical overgeneralization.

But you do see some people who are just I know we need to do I just need you to go do it. What Scott brought to the table and I saw it from afar and then saw an even more intimately when I worked for him was he would always take this approach no matter what the situation was, whether it was a brainstorming situation, and we're trying to go to a different outcome or there was a real business challenge and we were trying to think through how to solve it.

Scott always took the approach of Where can I help you? What can I do that that might that might help you get to your next step? Or he would ask things such as, How is your team doing? What do you think your team could could learn from you? Or what could you share with your team that would help them get to the next level?

And it sounds so simple, but it's honestly one of the most effective approaches I've seen because I know and I'm sure knowing Scott, because he's an extremely, extremely smart person, I'm sure he knew what he was intending to do here. But but what I experienced, what he would ask this was a couple of things. One, it made me stop like it made me move my brain stop for a moment and go, that's a different that's a different question.

What can I do? What do what do I need help with? Are there things I'm not thinking about that maybe I'm not seeing clearly? So it almost it almost forced the hamster motion, right. Of the hamster in the wheel. You're trying to solve something. You're going super, super fast. It caused me if I'm the hamster in that case, to stop the wheel and go,

that's interesting. What do I need? Where am I? Stuck? And so it forced a different conversation, conversations. It slowed things down, forced a different conversation. And then the third thing that it did for me personally was it made me realize me being vulnerable. It made me realize that no matter what the situation was, whether it was a team situation or we were trying to problem solve something, or we were working on a plan for a report that whatever it was, it made me realize I wasn't alone.

And I think that's really, really, really important. And that's important to me because I do being introverted tend to process and overthink. I have very high expectations of myself and I can swirl. I can get lost in my okay, I have to solve this. I have to solve this before I go back to the team. I have to solve this.

And what Scott made me do is not only slow down, but also recognize I'm not in it alone. There's there's there's Scott, there's my other leaders in my peer group. There's my entire organization that's here, too. And he taught me a very important skill there in terms of recognizing that you don't have to have all the answers. Don't be afraid to ask for help because people actually want to help you.

And I also found that in going through the process of slowing down and thinking about the questions he was asking me, I realized I didn't know what to do or I knew how to get to the next step, but I wasn't activating it because I was trying to get all the way, all the way to the end. And so I just found his approach incredibly effective.

It really made me think, and I watched him do this with countless of other people, too. And I'm pretty sure from the read I saw in the rooms virtual and in-person, it caused the same reaction for them. So people down, it made them think through maybe where they didn't need to be asking for more help or where they were really stuck and maybe needed someone else to come in and guide them or seek a different perspective.

And it also made people recognize that we're all in it together. And I really like that and truly believe that that kind of questioning leads to a different outcome that I guarantee has a has a bigger and broader impact at the end, because it wasn't one person sitting there swirling, trying to solve something. And it was an approach that allowed for ideation and greater collaboration.

So I credit that to him because I try and do that in my role too. Being introverted and being someone that processes and being someone that wants to get to the answer, I can have a tendency I wouldn't say to dictate, but I can have a tendency to say, okay, this is a challenge, but I know how we're going to solve it.

So he's taught me to, even if I might know the answer, gosh, I hardly ever do. But even if I do, I've taught myself through the frameworks that he's shown me and the way that he's approach things to not share the answer, let's get there together. That that's the best way people get buy in from it. Use the whole team.

You become a coach with your team versus someone that's maybe dictating how to do something or telling them the answer. So I credit that approach a lot to him. It was the first time I saw him do it. It was starkly different than I've seen other people do before. Just a simple question of how can I help you think?

Daniel Burstein: So I just want to go on the record. I'm still skeptical that you're introverted, by the way. Let's just be clear about that. But I also know this sounds like a great approach to when you're coming in new to an organization. And you mentioned a lot of questions. I wonder if there was any specific questions you asked coming in New to an organization that really helped you as well, because as we mentioned, you've been here about a year.

It's a large public company. It's you have a team of 300. It looks like you're working at home. I imagine it's pretty geographically distributed, so it can be hard to kind of build that type of rapport that we're talking about when it's very remote. Different time zones, different countries, different cultures or new. So have you taken this same approach or are there specific questions that have helped you coming in new to a role?

Sarah Hodges: I have taken the same approach and again, it's interesting because I'm having this moment now where I look back on myself even over the past year and I've evolved a lot and I love that evolution. A great, great mentor is great bosses and great peers. And you know, we've mentioned a few of them here today. But yes, I have spent about nine months on what I call a listening tour.

And it really has been, Daniel, a listening tour. I have just simply asked a couple of questions to individuals and to teams both within my organization and outside my organization, to get a pulse for how do they do their work, how do they feel about their work, how do they feel about who they have to collaborate with and how does that how does that work?

What are they worried about? What's not working? I've changed the questions depending on the team that I'm speaking to. Sometimes I have more context than other, but that's the general tone. Yes. So yes, yes, yes. I have spent nine months asking questions, not solving, really trying not to solve. I mean, I will admit there's a few things that have moved into solve mode, but collectively with with stakeholders.

But yes, I have really tried hard over the past nine months to seek to understand, to listen intently, and then communicate back, leaning on what I learned from Karen, communicate back what I've heard, to make sure that what I've heard is accurate, of what people intended me to to take away and hear from them. But yes, nine months asking just a handful of questions to get a good pulse of what is working, what's not working, where there are opportunities for greater collaboration, where are things that work so well that are aligned to the culture that we have to maintain and continue forwards?

Daniel Burstein: But I want to mention for anyone listening to that communicate it back is so good for any relationship, not just business. I mean, I've used it with my wife, with my children, and it's so really helpful to make sure you actually understand what's going on, especially in emotionally charged situations. I love that. That speaking of family, actually, let's talk about one last lesson here from someone you collaborate with.

It is actually your family. It's your father, Mark Hodges, who is a former Cisco, and is now a retiree. And you said you learned from him to believe in yourself. So how did you learn this from your father?

Sarah Hodges: this one, you can't help but get slightly emotional, I think, when you're talking about people that are close to you. But I think I'm so lucky. My dad is a huge part of my life. Always has been. You know, I'm grateful for that. But he's also been a huge part of my professional life. So my dad was a mechanical engineer by profession and moved into into tech really after after university.

And so I grew up I grew up just outside of London in the UK, and had a sister or have a sister, I should say. And I grew up listening to my dad come home because he would travel a lot and talk about how technology was changing at the time. The manufacturing industry that he was working in product design.

So he would travel and meet with car manufacturers and watch watch designers and many factories. And, you know, he would just he would talk about how what they did using pen and paper was was changing through technology. I never really understood what Murthy was talking about, but thought it was so cool that he would travel to the States and travel to Asia and come back with these stories.

And of course, my sister and I would always, always get little, little choices and takeaways from the places that he'd visited. And so it wasn't until I was much older. Then I got my introduction into tech. I realized what he was talking about and I realized, my goodness, technology change the way things are done. And frankly, it's part of my obsession with the construction industry, seeing the massive transformation, the industries under and and the role in which technology can play there.

So I give that as contacts, because I was lucky in that growing up in an environment like that where my dad had a disciplined, specific area of focus and mechanical engineering and then making his way into tech, there were lots of parallels when I when I entered into the tech space as well. And so I've been really lucky because I can share chair things.

I'm challenge with my dad and he's been in that he was in the software tech world for so long that there are a lot of parallels. So he could often help me problem solve and coach but he's taught me many many important things. But I honestly think the most important one is to believe in yourself. And I know he's said this to my sister and I probably the entirety of our lives, but I've heard it and listened to it more, I think, in recent years, where I think all of us suffer sometimes from a little bit of imposter syndrome and, you know, I always have in any role, have ever had I've always sort of

been, wow, how am I going to do this? And felt overcome with the thought of being responsible for a very important project or then being responsible for a small team. And then there's teams getting bigger and bigger. And my dad constantly reminds me, you just have to believe in yourself. You just have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you're capable.

You have to have the confidence to make hard decisions. But at the end of the day, you control it. And if you believe in yourself, that comes across to other people to who see that. And if you believe in others, they're going to help you get there. And so he's always been always been a mentor, always been at my side, always been able to give coaching advice.

But even in my my most vulnerable moments, he always reminds me of that you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe in yourself. And he's right. I think the more you believe in yourself, the more confident you become, the more open to overcoming problems and sharing your problems and working collectively with others. It just becomes easier and you get out of your head and get out of your head of, I can't do this.

There's no way I can do this. It's not possible for me to do this. You start positive. You remind yourself you can do anything if you put your mind to it. And it changes the behavior. It changes your internal behavior, for me at least, and it changes my external behavior too, and how I work with others. So very lucky to have had him in my life.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I mean, what a treasure to have your father in a similar industry to what you're doing and seeing that up close. And I wonder. Seeing that up close, what did you learn? What did your dad teach you about finding a good work life balance? Because, you know, a lot of times we talk about this. I mean, it is a marketing podcast.

We talk about things like influencer marketing, right? We forget we're human beings to who we influence, those who are closest to us. Your dad influenced you. You influence your kids. And I wanted to mention that. So this is going to be about episode 81, somewhere around there. I looked with your application. We've had 3116 applications so far, and I mention because you did something in your application that none of those other 3116 people did.

A lot of people mentioned work life balance. You mentioned specific games you play with your family and friends. You mentioned you had a list here, Junior Monopoly, sleeping queens, taco and goat cheese, pizza, leggings. I didn't I didn't even hear of that goat cheese thing. And so to me, it seemed like, you know, a lot like I mentioned in the in the opening about buzzwords and how we use these buzzwords, work life balance has become a buzzword.

And I'm sure that other people have believed it. But the way you went into detail makes me feel like this is something you've really thought through. So I guess you saw your dad up close. It's so great. Now your kids are seeing you up close. What have you learned from your dad that you're trying to pass down your kids about work life balance?

You know, they're in a totally different industry from you.

Sarah Hodges: Yeah. that's so. I laughed when you asked me about the work life balance. And now I'm laughing because forgot that I put those in my application. But it's true. And I want to talk more about in a second. You know, I mean, my dad worked really hard. I mean, he's one of the hardest working people I've I've ever I've ever met.

But having said that, when my dad, when I was growing up, would come home from work and this is before the time of Blackberries and cell phones. So I was, I will say probably a little bit easier. But when he came home from work, he was home from work and he was dad weekends. He was vacations, he was dad.

He very rarely spoke about work other than if he was coming home from a trip. And we were curious about it. But my dad didn't bring his work home. When he was home, he was involved in sports with us. Games were a huge part of our life too. My my grandparents always played games with us as well as that's sort of been a thread.

So my dad did a very good job of when he was home, he was not Mark Hodges at work. He was he was my dad. And I think he's he's is he's definitely left an impression and installed that in me. My job is very demanding. I love my job. I work very hard. I find it very difficult to turn off because I am so passionate.

And so if you're passionate about something, you can't just I don't believe you can just turn a switch. But I am very intentional about when my day is done or it's a weekend or we're away. It is all about my daughter and my husband and we play games because if you're playing games or you're playing with Lego, which is another thing I love to do, you cannot be on your phone.

You cannot be outside glancing at clock like you have to be present and you have to be in that moment. And so that's very important to me. I take it very seriously. We do play a lot of card games. Sleeping queens, taco, goat cheese pizza is a great one if anyone's thought, you know, younger children out there. But I think it's incredibly important.

But I will be the first to say again, back to being vulnerable because I think that's super, super important to me as a person. It is hard. It's hard to put things in balance. I mean, I travel a lot too, and I wouldn't change any of that for the world because I love what I do. And I believe in this company and I believe in what we're we're trying to accomplish.

But I also am a mum and a wife and a friend and a sister and a daughter. And those things are very important to me too. So you have to prioritize it. You have to prioritize it. And my dad always prioritized us and still that's just sometimes you have to get creative around it. Sometimes you have to be away.

But when I'm home, I'm home and I try my best to make up for that. And I play every game I put on that list that I send, you.

Daniel Burstein: Know, I love that. And, you know, it's something I learned early in my career from a marketing leader. This is back on Blackberries or bags. She always said, like, wherever you are, be there, like be fully there. And she was talking and this is very true at home, too, when she was talking, actually, you know, you go to conferences, a lot of people work remotely.

You didn't see them even back then. It's just because it's a geographically distributed international organization. Right. Just work in different offices. And then she said, you see to people at conferences catching up and they're like, like half talking. And half looking at a BlackBerry. It's like, Put the damn thing down and just be there with someone. And so I love that, that you're not only hopefully doing that work, you're doing that at home with your family.

Yeah, I love.

Sarah Hodges: That. You have to be present. I that's really well said. I really believe that if you are at the gym, be at the gym. Don't be on your phone. Yeah, If you are at work, be at work, or if you're at a conference, you be networking. If you're at home, be home and be home doing whatever it is that you enjoy.

My family and I happen to enjoy games and it keeps us engaged and entertained. And I love how you say that and be present wherever you are.

Daniel Burstein: You want. A lot of these lessons. We've talked about the qualities of marketers we've talked about are not just qualities of good marketers, of good humans. Like I like your story about putting yourself to customers shoes, actually wearing the boots. If we weren't marketers talking about KPIs and quarterly numbers and customer intelligence or whatever, just be like, Well, that's a pretty good human being, right?

That's a good human characteristic to have to put yourself in other shoes of other people that you pass through in different walks of life. Right? But because of marketers, it's like, well, this is good customer intelligence, so let's do that. Right? This is this is a good way to look at an organization. Which brings up my final question is we've talked about a lot of different things about what it means to be a marketer.

What are the key qualities of an effective marketer now?

Sarah Hodges: Yeah, okay. So, so might I actually think the ones that I'm going to share and maybe indicative of. Yeah, I think they are. They're not marketing specific, but I think for me they absolutely apply it to my world. And what I look for in number one is curious. We've said that word a lot today, but I think that's so important.

I think you have to be curious. You have to ask questions. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable. You have to be willing to challenge status quo. You have to be curious. And I think that makes a wonderful wonderful marketer. The second one for me is you do have to be collaborative. I mentioned it earlier. I see if I visualize if I visualize functions in an organization, I just did it with my hand here, right?

You tend to have vertical functions. You have a sales organization, you have a product organization. I see marketing horizontal because everything marketing has to do, as I said, across all those functions in order to enable us to go to market in the right way. And so to do that, you have to be collaborative, you have to be able to collaborate within your own team and your own organization, but you have to be able to collaborate with other stakeholders that sit adjacent to you as well.

So my second one would be you have to be you have to be collaborative. The third one I would say is I think you have to be you have to be empathetic. We've talked about that a lot today, too. I think you have to be willing to dispel any biases that you have. You have to be willing to put yourself in the shoes of not just the customer, but you have to be willing to put your shoes in the the shoes of the product team like I was sharing earlier.

That was the most uncomfortable I've ever been in my entire career running a development team. But I was in their shoes. I realized, you know, my feet are maybe not the right size for those shoes, but I was in their shoes. And I think you have to build the empathy. You have to be willing to be empathetic. And the only way to be empathetic is to go and do those things.

So for me, curious, you got to go ask the right questions. You got to be open and adaptable. You have to be collaborative because the only way to do marketing go to market is to collaborate with people around you. And then, yeah, the last one is you have to be empathetic. You have to be empathetic to your stakeholders, to your customers, to your team.

That's a very important value.

Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you so much, sir. I learned so much from you today. It was a very comfortable conversation. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for your time.

Sarah Hodges: Same here. I thank you very much for having me.

Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone for listening.

Ourtro: Thank you for joining us for how I made it in marketing with Daniel Bernstein. Now that you've gotten inspiration for transforming yourself as a marketer, get some ideas for your next marketing campaign. From Marketing Sherpas, extensive library of free case at marketing Sherpa dot com That's marketing s h e rpa Paycom and.


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