Today is my last day at VMware. I’m not ready just yet to share where I’m headed, but I do want to reflect on the journey I’ve been on for the last decade.

Origin story

This journey started when I left my life as a training developer (and trainer) at EMC and went to Dell. For a year or so before I left EMC, I was also managing EMC’s Proven Professional Community. I loved connecting our most enthusiastic customers to our internal stakeholders. I had some pretty cool firsts in that job…I hosted one of the first live tweet streams at any enterprise conference event. I sat in the back with the AV crew, making sure no one made any rude comments. The worst that happened was the Star Trek jokes at the Proven shirt color that year (red!).

Flexing my Community Muscles

The Dell Storage team gave me the opportunity to merge the Compellent user community with the EqualLogic user community, to create a Dell Storage Community. That was such a great vision, actually connecting the entire online community – customers, internal stakeholders, executives, partners, and analysts in order to make product development and messaging better.

The tweetup we did at the 1st Dell Storage Forum will always be at the top of my list as one of the coolest things I’ve done in my career. We did a live podcast, interviewing the leaders of every product line. We even interviewed Michael Dell himself. He worked the crowd at that tweetup, talking to every single customer there. Having that level of support for the community work we were doing was just amazing.

I sure am glad camera phones got better!

It came to an abrupt end when they moved the function to PR. I didn’t want to be that far from the product, and I could see that what marketing and PR wanted to do was pretty far from the real community work we had started.

The move to Product Marketing

So I became a product marketer. I love this role, and have done it for 4 different companies. I got to stay close to the product, and guide messaging, sales enablement, and customer engagement.

I always used my instructional design skills as I designed product marketing programs, which is great since my master’s degree is in instructional systems. As a PMM, I had to figure out what I wanted different audiences to do (buy, sell, etc.), and design the tactics necessary to help them get there. Sounds a lot like training doesn’t it?

I believe that good PMMs are good community leaders. It takes a village to bring a product from concept to market, and getting past the finish line takes lots of collaboration from sometimes warring teams. Battle lines are drawn over familiar turf: what should the message to sales be? How should it be sold? What does the pricing and packaging look like? What is the best messaging for our customers? Will customers like that messaging? Will they laugh at it? What will competitors do with it? And can we get everyone to agree on what should be done far enough in front of the launch date so we can create content (and translate it!)?

Most importantly to me personally, being a PMM allowed me to keep up my technical skills. I joke around the that the programming language I use the most right now is PowerPoint, and that’s true. But I’m able to have deep technical conversations with internal and external stakeholders, and I have really appreciated that.

Each PMM role I’ve chosen over the years has allowed me to hone a different product marketing skill. If you want a job where you truly do everything, try to become a product marketing manager.

The end of an era

The time has come for me to close the curtain on this era. I still plan to work with product strategy. I think its time to get back to real community strategy, and I’m not talking about the community marketing we see companies (and governments!!!) doing with social media marketing tools. I’m talking about bringing all stakeholders in a product’s ecosystem together to make it the best product possible.

But while I’m on the topic, why can’t we do something about the misuse of social media marketing tools? I think a little digital literacy would go a long way to solving this problem.

I’ve made so many good friends during this journey. I’ll be sharing specifics of my next move very soon. It’s going to be a crazy ride, and you know I’ll be sharing it all with y’all.

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