What happens after you turn your tassel? We asked former MBA Student Association president Jason Perocho (MBA ’15), a product marketing manager for Salesforce.com’s Community Cloud, to share his insights about post-grad life.
Tell us a little about your job.
Product marketing managers (PMMs) create and tell inspirational stories with cutting-edge technical demonstrations to people around the world. I develop product messaging and positioning, go to market programs, campaigns, events and sales enablement with success measured by my ability to develop creative and innovative marketing strategies and ability to gain C-level and key buyers’ mind share both internally and externally to Salesforce.com.
What were some of the challenges you had to navigate during the transition back to full-time employment?
The hardest part of my transition back to full-time employment was adjusting to the speed of business that tech operates at. My two greatest challenges were understanding how my product fits into Salesforce.com’s ecosystem and the positioning of my product in the market. I attacked these problems by first gaining a fundamental understanding of the company, then my product and finally our customers.
After learning the basics, I flipped my priorities and starting taking deep dives into the needs of my customers, then the features of my product, then the company. In order to maintain customer-centricity and stay at the forefront of innovation at Salesforce, listening to customers is paramount. Successful marketing only comes by being able to accurately articulate your customers’ needs in their industry or company’s language and jargon to show we truly understand their pain points.
What was the most valuable leadership development tool or tactic that you learned at UNC Kenan-Flagler? How has this helped you in your post-grad career?
The most valuable leadership development tool I learned at UNC Kenan-Flagler was the ability to reflect on both my strengths and shortcomings through the Leadership Immersion capstone course. The capstone got us comfortable with not only taking a critical eye to our work, but also with asking the right questions for meaningful and actionable feedback. The book “FYI – For Your Improvement,” which was introduced during class, has proven to be an invaluable tool to develop both my strengths and weaknesses by providing a roadmap around several core competencies of being a leader.
What classes have been most helpful to you in your post-grad career?
The core marketing class was most important to me because I was transitioning careers. It taught me the fundamentals of everything I needed to know to do my job effectively.
In my opinion, the most important class for any marketer to take at UNC Kenan-Flagler is Dave Roberts’ sales class. At Salesforce, P&L responsibility for each product falls under the Product Marketing group. Sales leaders have their targets, but it is often spread out among a plethora of different offerings the company has in its ecosystem. It is a PMM’s job to fight for mindshare among the sales teams. This requires having an intimate understanding of the codependences in the sales and marketing processes. Dave’s class not only lays the foundation of how to maximize your sales teams, but also teaches the soft skills of packaging and selling your ideas that are applicable to any career field.
The one class I wish I could have taken was Retail and Channel Management. Whether you are B2B, B2C or B2B2C in the tech space, you are most likely going to require knowledge on effective channel management. Having a deep level of understanding is especially crucial if you are considering going into the burgeoning CRM or SAAS markets in tech. Effective channel and partner management has an exponential effect on a company’s bottom line which makes knowledge of this subject so invaluable.
What advice do you have for MBAs on how to start out strong in their new role?
Break your onboarding into manageable pieces and do everything you can to learn over your first 90 days. A newly minted MBA does not trump decades of experience most have in the levels of industry you are about to enter. The most valuable piece of information you can contribute during your onboarding is your outsider’s perspective. Question everything with the intent of learning, not with the intent of fixing something you perceive as broken. Finally, understand frameworks are great tools, but they are not complete solutions. Frameworks give you starting points and checkpoints to measure, but should not be taken as a definitive cure all.
How do you balance work-life commitments?
Balancing work-life commitments in a startup unit in a large company feels strangely like my time at B-School. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, I felt like it was a constant struggle to balance academics, networking/social opportunities and career aspirations. I realized by my second year that you can only do two effectively and had to be comfortable with not giving your full effort into one of these areas. This required the ability to prioritize what is most important at any given time and make adjustments as opportunities arose since there was limited time in the day.
Similarly, in the tech space, there is just not enough time to do everything that would make your product the most successful. You need to prioritize initiatives and be fine with not being able to do everything some of your counterparts in other companies with more resources are able to do. The best way to prioritize in either b-school or a tech company is by learning from those with experience and prioritizing activities that play to your strengths.
What advice do you have for MBA students?
Save digital copies of your notes and slides. You would be surprised how useful it is referring back to your notes from school. I have heard time and again from my classmates that they wish they had a copy of their slide decks from classes within their field. I recommend downloading all your slides to Evernote on a tablet for safe storage.
What do you miss most about UNC Kenan-Flagler and Chapel Hill?
The part I miss most about UNC Kenan-Flagler and Chapel Hill is the camaraderie of my classmates that comes from attending business school in a tight-knit community such as Chapel Hill. I hear time and again how impressed my friends and co-workers are with how much we time we spent together as a class, and how dedicated we all are to the greater UNC-Chapel Hill community.
By Jason Perocho (MBA ’15), Community Cloud product marketing manager at Salesforce.com