Feature interview: Joanna Lord

Joanna Lord is the VP of Growth Marketing at SEOmoz.org, a leading SEO software company out of Seattle, WA. While she currently heads up SEOmoz’s lifecycle marketing efforts for Moz’s 15,000 member customer base, she is also a well-known social media enthusiast and frequent conference speaker. Her diverse experience in data analysis, performance marketing, inbound marketing and retention programs enables her to provide tactical strategies that work.

1.      How did you get started in the tech field?

That’s a tough one. I would say I was hooked by the time I graduated high school. I had a family member pass away from cancer which had me spending a great deal of time in the GROWW (http://groww.org/) forum/community, which at the time was a very early form of a social network for those dealing with grief. I was able to participate in support groups online, have a daily diary about how I was feeling, and get advice on how to cope better. I became obsessed with the ability to connect with people all over the world, and hold conversations, share stories, and be there for each other. I was *hooked* from then on. I went on to study online journalism, get an MA in Online Persuasion and eventually landed in my first tech startup,  which has now led me to four other tech startups. I think the way I started in tech is a constant reminding that technology [for me] serves this grander purpose — it connects us, it can save us in so many ways if we use it correctly.

 2.      Tell me about your current projects you are working on and about what you do at SEOmoz.

I’m the VP of Growth Marketing at SEOmoz, which is a newer role for me. The  Growth team focuses on how we can best grow our customer base, engagement, and the SEOmoz brand.  We get to work on really exciting projects like launches, new projects in less common arenas for SEOmoz (like mobile for example) and stretch our brains on how we can keep the company moving forward. I get to work on a super passionate marketing team that is tasked with some challenging goals. We work closely with the inbound team to help grow SEOmoz and expose new marketers to inbound marketing and our software.

3.      What do you do in a typical day?

It varies a lot day to day. Right now we are very focused on projects that are in the pipeline for SEOmoz (expect some fun stuff coming your way!) so I’ve been working a great deal on that. This includes thinking through new marketing campaigns, new customer experiences, and thinking through new ways to operationalize our lofty goals. I spend a lot of my time meeting with people on my team to brainstorm new strategies, put in place tests/projects to consider, and then work on how best I can support them in getting new experiences/campaigns/etc. launched. I also spend a good amount of my day in meetings with other teams at SEOmoz, so I can help our where I can there as well.

4.      I am a recent journalism and online media graduate and I’m curious to know how your journalism degree has played into your current career.

I think it has been super valuable. It’s helped me take complicated information and digest it into consumable sound bites which has helped me communicate to larger audiences and coworkers better. I also think the research skills I learned have helped me a great deal. I know where to look for information, and I am quick to validate, expand on, and go deeper. These are great skills when you are in marketing. Probably, the most  obvious win are the skills around storytelling. Persuasive writing is so powerful, especially today. People want to connect online, and stories connect us. The medium and technologies might change, but there needs to be a great story behind them.

5.      What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are today?

I founded my own startup almost 5 years ago now and, while it served us well for a while, it didn’t ultimately succeed how we had hoped. That was a blow to my confidence, but over the years I’ve recognized just how much that experience taught me. I think putting your whole heart into something is a risky thing, but I’m really excited that I know what that feels like, and I am excited about doing something again someday. I’ll be more prepared for what that road looks like, and those lessons are so invaluable.

6.      Have you experienced any challenges as a woman in the field?

This is a hard question for me. I get asked it a great deal. While I am sure I have, I can honestly say I haven’t viewed them as such in the moment. I think being a woman in this field has served me just as much as it may have challenged me. I have found amazing female mentors and they have offered me their experiences and advice so willingly, I see that as a huge advantage. I also think the “challenges” have made me stronger, and no matter your gender I believe the more resilient someone is the bigger advantage they have.

7.      What is most rewarding about your job? Can I list my top ten things?!

I am so lucky to be working at SEOmoz, and working with the team I do. There has been so much growth and change over my two and half year tenure. I think my favorite thing, if I have to nail it down, is the impact we are having on this industry I love so much. Seeing the community respond the way they do, or the customers respond the way they do…literally makes my day. I think there are a lot of great agencies and companies in the online marketing space, and I love how we all have this common goal — to evangelize the value of online marketing and to expose the world to it. We truly believe there is a better way to do marketing, and SEOmoz is dead set on make software to help marketers do just that. The most rewarding job for me is actually working with such a great team toward such a lofty goal. Its very “Eye of the Tiger” in the office these days and I love it.

8.      What advice do you have for aspiring women in tech and business?

My best advice would be to surround yourself with amazing women. Take them out to coffee, hear their stories, and share your challenges with them. Find women entrepreneurs that are up for pushing you past your comfort zone. Having a great group of women in tech and business has single-handedly been the biggest advantage in my career. That support system holds you together when you are struggling, stretches you when they should, and smacks some sense into you when needed. My advice would be to seek out that support circle early in your career.

9.      What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Wow, I love this question. I get out of the bed in the morning to build something epic with people I care about. I very much look at SEOmoz like some serendipitous place 90 or so big thinkers can call home for a while and build something that the world of marketing needs. This won’t last forever, and people will come and go, but right now there is something really special happening at SEOmoz. I get out of bed in the morning because I don’t want to miss this ride, not a minute of it.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years…I’ll have just turned 40. I will, hopefully, have had a few more successes in tech by then. I will hopefully have spent a great deal of the last ten years mentoring women in tech, playing around in fashion and  tech, and smiling. Maybe I’ll have a child or two by then, maybe I won’t. I’ll likely be doing very much of what I do today – asking lots of questions, wandering the web, and trying to help people continue to connect around the world to help each other live better lives.

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