What do you do for a living?
I am the Vice President of Digital Strategy for W.L. Snook & Associates, Inc.
How would you describe what you do?
I’m responsible for managing all the digital marketing efforts in addition to making technology decisions on how to increase the value of our digital asset portfolio.
What does your work entail?
Data analysis, creative thinking, and a lot of testing. I track user engagement across a portfolio of websites, including eCommerce, informational, consumer reviews, and some others.
I’m on the look-out for trends and anomalies; both the good and the bad. If something is working really well I want to know how we can expand it, and conversely if something is tanking – the sooner I can explore possible solutions to correct the problem, the better.
What’s a typical work week like?
We have operations across a wide variety of markets and are entering new ones almost every quarter. Some days consist of checking in with our content and development teams where others may include meeting with venture partners or domain experts to get council and guidance on how to steer a particular set of projects.
We also have an active investment division that is constantly making new acquisitions and divestitures of digital assets, including but not limited to: websites, software, serialization technology, domains, materials production, and design patents.
How did you get started?
Early in my life I became fascinated with computers and the idea of the internet. I remember being in middle school and thinking that HotBot was the greatest thing since sliced bread (that was an early meta search engine for those of you too young to remember).
At the start of college I really thought I was going to be doing something in the finance world; either with mutual funds or real estate. So I took an internship at Morgan Stanley and found out pretty quickly that I really wasn’t that interested in office politics and selling my soul to make a living… lucky enough I was given an opportunity to work on one of the first email campaigns at MSDW and the spark grew from there.
I got the entrepreneur bug my sophomore year in school and started my own consulting firm, after about 18 months I had more work than I could handle and started looking for partners. A few months later my first start-up was born, called atomni, and the rest of the story can be read here
What do you like about what you do?
I work with brilliant people who care more about our customers than themselves. My job is exciting and I get to be creative and solve problems on a daily basis.
What do you dislike?
Sometimes the hours can be a bear, not really to me but to my girlfriend and family… they are always telling me I work too much.
I feel like this balancing act is only complicated when you really love what you do. I’ll work from 7am to 10pm some nights and will have a hard time winding down because ideas are still coming at 100 miles per hour. Learning to write things down for later and grab a beer has been one of the most helpful ways of aiding this issue.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I draw a base salary from the company and then am entitled to profit-sharing based on my equity ownership in each venture.
How much money do you make?
I don’t think anyone really likes to talk about this, but my base is mid-six figures and then I’m paid out of the equity shares I own if I do not re-invest them into the business (which I do.)
How much money do you make starting out?
My first real job out of college was as Marketing Manager for a start-up compliance software firm. My starting salary was 55k plus a nice sign-on bonus and variable-compensation package based on sales. I was bumped to 70k within 8 months.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
I’m a bit bias, but I’ve found that most of the finance people I know that choose to go into strategy seem to do it with more ease than others. Having a grip on what the numbers need to look like and paying close attention sales is a big driver of early success in my opinion.
Skills are more characteristic-related than learned, attributes like determination, creativity, and a burning desire to succeed will put you on a good path.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Having to make decisions with large dollar amount attached directly to them.
It’s a double-edged sword. If I make a large investment decision and it goes well than it always seems like an obvious choice after the fact, however, if I commit tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to a project and the return doesn’t work out, it’s my fault, and it’s my responsibility to make the business whole for the outcome of my decisions.
What is most rewarding?
1. For our projects that have customers, like Traffic Safety Store, hearing what a great job we’re doing and how appreciative they are that we genuinely care about their business is the best feeling in the world.
2. Seeing your ideas come to life. If we identify that we need a piece of tech to help us make decisions or provide research data, we can just build it. Having dedicated teams that are talented enough to take abstract ideas and turn them into tools to solve problems used to be reserved for the giants of the tech industry like Microsoft and Apple.
Nowadays with the right resources and culture we are able to build teams of tier-one talent to help build the tools we need.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Find a mentor, participate in local events, and read every scrap of information you can get your hands on.
How much time off do you get/take?
That’s an interesting question to ask in 2013, as outside of big businesses the old model of 2 weeks PTO is changing rapidly. With de-centralized work forces, longer hours, and quicker development cycles, someone in my position could realistically take off for a week every couple of months and not adversely effect their roles productivity.
I generally take off around 4-5 weeks a year, spread out over a lot of the major holidays so I can cram in as much beach/snowboard time as possible.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That it’s all marketing. A LOT of it is strategy related to marketing, but an equal if not larger piece of it is strategy for the business and our investment portfolio.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
To ramp up our new technology division to have our very own suite of products. We have some serious talent and some big ideas, it’s going to be a blast to start putting them out there and see how they do.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Don’t be afraid to create your own job. Before I came on at W.L. there was no one in my role.. I took initiative to carve out a set of responsibilities and strategic milestones that would move the whole business forward, from there it was aligning my interests with the business and starting on a mutual path toward a more successful business.
Above all else, JFDI.