How I became an engineer-turned-marketer + tips and resources to be a 10x marketer

A mediocre product can be passed off as interesting with the right marketing techniques.

I can tell this from my experience of watching 10 seasons of Shark Tank. (Someone sold a pimple popping simulation to the sharks, FGS.)

But this wasn’t what I always thought of marketing. What follows is a familiar story for many engineers…at least in India. 

I studied to be an engineer but moved into business and marketing functions slowly. 

Before I became one, I thought that marketing in all forms and shapes was dishonest and awesome products didn’t need any marketing. 

The product will sell itself, I thought.

When I joined the marketing department of a company in the capacity of a content marketer, I thought it to be a writing job. Oh sure, I could write. I always prided myself on being a good writer. One fine day, my manager told me that I needed to focus a bit on the marketing bit of content marketing too.  

(I wasn’t even adding CTA at that point, which now makes me go pink in the face. Hindsight is always 20/20.)

So what is marketing?

If you’re reading this post, then you are interested in marketing and are inclined to grow your knowledge in this field. But here are some pointers I wish someone had told me when I was in the thick of a career change. 

  • Career does not have to take a linear path. I’m so glad mine didn’t turn out how I expected it to when I was 20.
  • Done is better than perfect.
  • Update yourself constantly. Don’t draw your knowledge from one place or source.
  • Despite the infamous backlash, engineers make good marketers, especially tech marketers, because they are trained to develop an analytical and process-oriented mindset.

How I became a marketer

Disclaimer: I did all these in addition to parenting and working full-time, which is to say that this list by no means is exhaustive. 

  1. Find and emulate

Find out who you want to become like and follow their work. For me, I wanted to be a good marketing writer. I dug deeper, going so far as the 2nd page on Google. 

Copyhackers has a ton of resources for new marketers. Their work is not just limited to copywriting, but they also cover techniques that go behind good copy like the psychology of selling, CRO, etc. Copyhackers’ Tutorial Tuesdays seemed to have answers for every single question of mine. I took notes diligently by hand. I found myself implementing the tips I took notes of. It’s true what they say-  writing anything down makes you recall it better. 

I created a Twitter list of famous people in marketing and read the resources they shared. Other places to stop by are CXL, The Copywriter Club, Hubspot, MarketingProfs, Growth Hackers, etc.

2. Create a swipe file

Every email, article, headline, ad copy that I liked and wanted to reference later, I stowed in a swipe file. I wasn’t sure about the viability of the pen and paper model for this, so while I wrote in a book, I took pictures and stuck them in Google Drive.

My swipe file is where I go for inspiration. It has works of my peers and some of the best brands. A repository like this helps when you’re stuck with writer’s block or are hung out to dry for inspiration.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel— take a great idea someone has already created and put your creative spin on it. Now don’t just swipe the whole thing, that’s clearly plagiarizing. 

3. Learn Google Analytics

Because data= moolah. Any good marketer worth her salt will tell you the importance of measuring things to improve them. Luckily, my coworkers in the team were more than happy to answer any questions about Google Analytics metrics. If you’re thinking why a content or social media marketer needs to learn about numbers, here’s why:

  • There’s no guesswork— your content strategy is backed by data.
  • Your visitors’ behavior becomes apparent. Are they even spending time to read the landing page you painstakingly created?
  • SEO won’t be a stab in the dark anymore. You can optimize pages that are doing well already.
  • It’s easy to understand which social channel works for your business and focus resources on that. 

I can go on, but you get my drift. Once you understand what data matters to you and how to track it to take advantage of the data and improve the performance.

4. Be a T-shaped marketer

A T shaped marketer has the knowledge of the entire marketing spectrum like branding, copywriting, data & analytics, design & UX, customer experience, etc. with vested specialization in one of these areas. Buffer’s T shaped marketing framework got me intrigued. I figured that if I loved marketing, it wouldn’t hurt to dabble a little more in the field. 

How to Become a T-Shaped Marketer

I also had to understand what my teammates worked on to perform better myself. The thing is, I worked with a bunch of smart folks in their early 20s, who were up-to-date with app recommendations and marketing know-how. I started to Google marketing terms that came up in meetings. I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, but I had the curiosity to learn new things and Google was my best friend. 

5. Learn to write

Marketing leaders are increasingly emphasizing the importance of writing good copy as a top skill in marketing.

A marketer must be able to write, at least to market themselves. Many companies are forced to work remotely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Team dynamics change when you’re no longer in the same room. You’ve to put in the extra effort to market yourself within the team— judiciously picked words and communication become key. 

Pick any or all of the following and get started

  • Seth Godin

If not anything, I admire the man for his consistency. He’s shipped a marketing newsletter/ blog post every day for years. His book ‘This is Marketing’ is a good starting point. Seth Godin also offers online courses.

Hubspot invented the term inbound marketing. They have ground-level information and certification courses in the ambit of inbound marketing.

For starter or refresher courses on digital marketing and SEO. 

  • And of course, there are Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, Upgrad where you can choose to dive deep into a specific topic within marketing. 

There are enough and then some more free courses online. Unless it’s a deep specialization, I don’t see the need to buy a course. Here’s a hot tip: follow marketers you admire on Twitter and ask for help when you feel like you could use some real-world advice during the jump.

The marketing community on Twitter is pretty active and quick to help but kindly refrain from ‘asks’ until you’ve contributed to or struck up a conversation.

Wrapping up

It is never easy to move away completely from something you’ve spent significant time on. But I can assure you that it will not go to waste. The experience counts, right? 

I wrote this blog post to make the transition easy for anyone who’s looking to change gears and make a career in marketing. 

Do you feel like you could do with some direction in your career shift? You can tweet to me or comment below for help!