Women in Marketing: Q&A with Marketing Leader Jen McAdams

ViB continues our commemoration of International Women’s Day with a series of informative Q&As with successful female marketing leaders. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. How will you help create a gender-equal world?

Learn strategies for women navigating a marketing career from Jen McAdams, VP of Demand Generation and Field Marketing at Progress. She also shares advice on how to help women thrive in your business.

This Q&A includes expanded answers to questions posed in the ViB “Art & Science” panel discussion: “Women in Marketing: Career Advancement Strategies & Advice.”

Q&A WITH JEN McADAMS

Q: What best practices have you employed to grow your career?

McADAMS: When I’ve been most successful in advancing my career, it’s when I had a manager who believed in me and had my back. There were times I would say, “I think my boss cares more about my career than I do.” She had it plotted out for me, which was great.

But on the flip side of that –, you have to also be your own best advocate. Because while hopefully others are lucky enough to have managers who are looking out for them, you might not always. And if you’re not looking out for your own career — who is going to do that for you? 

Look for the gaps that need to be filled. What are the pain points? And do I have the skill set to fix them and if not, can I acquire those skills?

Q: I would love to learn about your thoughts about working and raising a family. How do we talk about this with management who might not have had the primary responsibility to care for their family? With COVID and severe weather, a normal full day can instantly turn into a partial workday if the babysitter cancels last minute.

McADAMS: First off, I feel for you, applaud you, and want to let you know that even just by asking the question you are a great parent! 

This is really hard, and my boss (who runs a 400+ person organization) and I have had this conversation — how do we give people the flexibility to get their work commitments and home commitments both met?  

If you are thinking about it, though — so are others. Don’t be too shy about taking it to your manager, HR, or maybe even your manager’s manager.

My boss has said, “Maybe we just tell people, put in your 8 hours but we don’t care which 8 hours those are, if you need 3 hours off to get your kids fed after school, oversee their homework, and get them situated before bed, and if you and your co-worker are in the same boat and able to meet at 9 pm after your kids are in bed, that’s OK.” But then, how do you stop people from working non-stop? 

My advice is just be honest, ask the questions of HR and your management — because I’m 100% certain you’re not the only one with these issues on their mind.

Q: How do you advocate and mentor for other women in your company and industry?

McADAMS: Some women aren’t comfortable tooting their own horn, or are more introverted or more… I don’t want to say more humble, but, in essence, yes. So, look out for those folks on the team that are stars and talk them up. 

If you’re doing a great job, that should rise up. But I think as female leaders, we should also be looking out for the folks who may be just starting out or are maybe at a middle level of their career and are providing exceptional performance — and speaking out and calling that out purposefully. We have a role to play as leaders in doing that. 

Informally within your network, within your organization, I don’t think that you should feel shy about reaching out to other women and saying, “I’d like to get to this next step, but how can I get there? Can you help me? What do you see that I should be doing in order to get there?”

Q: How do you all include diversity, equity and inclusion principles or efforts to make sure that you’re advocating for all women, especially women of color?

McADAMS: Such a good question, and I hope my answer does not come across as cliche. Sometimes I have found myself guilty of not even recognizing the lack of diversity on a team. Likewise, I have been in meetings and not even realized until it was pointed out to me that I was the only woman in the room. We may all need a reminder to be constant, active advocates for diversity. I recently learned of an organization called Inroads which I hope we can start to work within our organization. 

Q: Sales teams are often male-driven. What are some of the best practices to build bridges between the sales and marketing functions?

McADAMS: We had a reorganization where we broke up some of the marketing functions and put them in the business unit. So, I actually report to the head of sales. And I like to say that in my career, I’ve always considered sales and marketing alignment a strength of mine. 

Being part of the process with my peers who are running sales organizations and sales leaders globally, being part of their forecasting process and being part of their planning process, I’m seeing how the sausage is made.

We recently had an issue with lead flow. There was a problem with a webform passing to marketing automation passing to Salesforce, and some leads got dropped. And the team that’s responsible for that, they were like, “Oh, sorry.” And I had to back them up and say, “You guys have to understand the salesperson’s compensation is probably not like yours and mine. They’re 50-50.” So, their base salary is probably half of what yours is. And if they’re not making their number, they’re not feeding their family.” 

That’s something that I think was kind of eye-opening to some of the marketers — that the compensation for sales teams is so different and they rely on us so much for the leads and really, to take that responsibility, but also: realize how critical your success is for their success

Q: Do you feel that you were being more considered or respected after a certain age? How did you overcome youthism and sexism at the beginning of your career?

McADAMS: I don’t think it’s age or number specific — but results specific. Once you prove yourself and deliver, you will be respected, in my experience. I know millennials have a mixed reputation, but I think most teams will not appreciate someone with little-to-no actual experience trying to school a team that does have that under their belt. 

Q: How do you know when it’s time to move on to a new role or company?

McADAMS: When you stop learning and stop enjoying what you’re working on.

Q: I currently work for two horrible people. I have been gaslighted, given horrible reviews, and belittled. But I have had other bosses in my company that know I do good work and am actually an outperformer. I have spoken to HR as well who is working on trying to remove me from the team. My question is, how do I get my confidence back and learn to trust my future bosses so this doesn’t happen again?

McADAMS: I am so sorry this is your experience but hopeful for you that HR is looking out for you. If you do secure a new role — and I’m not joking here, 100% serious — take a week off between roles and give yourself a hard reset to start fresh. I would also say, from my experience as a manager, when I have had to have performance conversations with employees: 90% of the time they will even start the conversation with “I feel like I’m not meeting expectations.” So if you feel confident that you are delivering and delivering with quality, and you have other colleagues telling you so, don’t let two horrible people have more control over your happiness than they deserve.

HELP WOMEN THRIVE

Create a culture where professional women can thrive and #ChooseToChallenge. Learn more by watching the entire episode, “Women in Marketing: Career Advancement Strategies & Advice.” 

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