2017: A Year of Personal Growth

2017 was a great year for my personal growth. And I’m grateful to the people who have helped and supported me throughout the year.

Here are a few areas that I felt I’ve grown in:

Content marketing

I switched my role as a community champion to a content crafter in 2016. For the last few months of 2016, I was learning the basics of content marketing and writing more. In 2017, I lean in to content marketing. Being the main writer for the Buffer blog, I was able to focus on writing for most of the year. I published 54 blog posts on the Buffer blog in the past year.

Now as I look to grow in other areas of marketing, such as email and copywriting, having a good foundation in writing has been immensely helpful.

Speaking engagements

I set a goal to give a talk on my experience at Buffer or remote working in 2017. One talk led to another, and I gave two talks on content marketing and was on three discussion panels (two on content marketing and one on remote working).

The experiences were all terrifying at first but eventually, I found them enjoyable. I was also glad that I was able to help others with what I know and would love to give more talks in 2018.

Speaking engagement in 2017

Reading books

When I was setting my annual goals for 2017, I decided that my main goal for the year would be to read more books. In 2016, I read 11 books, the most I’ve ever read in a year. In 2017, I aimed to read 26 books, one every two weeks.

I read 28 books. Most importantly, I fell in love with reading.

Here’s the list of books I read in the past year:

  1. 80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good
  2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
  3. Elements of Style
  4. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  5. The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)
  6. How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times
  7. Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping Our Future
  8. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success
  9. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
  10. Headway
  11. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  12. Winning with Data: Transform Your Culture, Empower Your People, and Shape the Future
  13. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Enhanced Edition: A Leadership Fable
  14. Ego Is the Enemy
  15. Gone Ahead
  16. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
  17. The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time
  18. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  19. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  20. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
  21. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
  22. Personal History
  23. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
  24. The Long Earth (The Long Earth, #1)
  25. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  26. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
  27. The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)
  28. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)

My top three favorite non-fiction books are Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. MungerThinking, Fast and Slow, and Personal History.

My favorite books of 2017: Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Personal History

Trying new things

2017 was also a year of trying new things.

After taking a Treehouse WordPress development course, I created my own WordPress blog theme, which you’re looking at now. I started a newsletter of curated articles on content marketing and slowly grew it into my personal marketing newsletter. My team lead gave me the opportunity to lead our marketing squad at Buffer for six-weeks to drive mobile app downloads.

Also, I had the chance to visit places I’ve never been to — Madrid, Scotland, the Faroe Islands, and Denver. I count myself lucky to be able to travel to these places in just a year.

Buffer Madrid retreat

Hello, 2018

In 2018, I aim to continue growing in these few areas, with an additional focus on writing on this blog. If there’s anything you would love for me to write about, let me know in the comments section below.

Happy 2018, and wishing you the very best for the year ahead!


My DIY Growth Marketing Manager Job Description

Inspired by my team lead’s DIY VP Marketing job description, I decided to come up with a job description for the role I want to get into in the next one to two years.

Managers are paid to drive results with some support. They have experience in the function, can take responsibility, but are still learning the job and will have questions and need support. They can execute the tactical plan for a project, but typically can’t make it.

I’m not talking about how many people you manage. In call centers, a director might manage 500 people. In startups, a VP might manage 0.

— Dave Kellogg, Career Development: What It Really Means to be a Manager, Director, or VP 

The idea of creating our own future job description came up during a recent discussion of our marketing career framework. That’s because the eight of us all focus on different areas of marketing (e.g. content, PR, community, etc.). So it’s tricky to define a single career framework for everyone.

Besides that, I like having goals. They help me know what to work on to get to the next level. A case in point: having clear expectations was a major factor for my growth as a content crafter at Buffer. A job description for my ideal future role can serve as a great target.

So I created a job description for the role I hope to get into in the next one to two years.

Here it is:

Growth Marketing Manager Job Description

The growth marketing manager is responsible for the growth of Buffer through marketing means.

The growth marketing manager works closely with the VP of Marketing. While the VP of Marketing strategizes and creates tactical plans, the manager executes the plans, monitors the progress, and reports the results. A strong manager also contributes to the strategy and tactical plans.

The growth marketing manager must be comfortable with working with ambiguous goals, running experiments, learning from failures, analyzing data, and reporting results.

The growth marketing manager should have a reasonable amount of experience with a wide range of marketing channels and a strong focus on a particular channel. In this role, you should oversee and drive results throughout the entire funnel and work closely with relevant teams such as Product and Data.

Finally, the growth marketing manager assists the VP of Marketing in areas such as go-to-market strategy, hiring, and team collaboration.

Responsibilities

Market – Grow – Lead

Market

  • Create high-quality content that grows our reach (awareness) and drives signups (acquisition)
  • Execute and oversee plans for multiple marketing channels, such as content marketing, email marketing, product marketing, advertising, and CRO
  • Help improve Buffer’s go-to-market strategies and validate new ones

Grow

  • Identify and validate new growth opportunities by running, tracking, and optimizing experiments
  • Develop a robust testing process to grow key metrics, such as reach, signups, and paying customers
  • Extract and analyze relevant data to share key learnings with the team

Lead

  • Lead growth projects and work with various teams such as Marketing, Product, Data, Design, Engineering, and Advocacy
  • Help with team development, such as hiring, coaching, and supporting team members

Goals

  • Reach
  • Signups and trial starts
  • Paying customers and monthly recurring revenue

Requirements

  • T-shaped with a focus on content marketing
  • Strong experimental, growth, and learning mindset
  • Comfortable with the unknowns and failures
  • Highly resourceful and creative
  • Track record of driving results through multiple marketing channels
  • Reasonable knowledge of SQL, Looker, Sketch, HTML, and CSS
  • Collaborate well with other teams and across time zones
  • 2-3 years of experience in marketing

As Buffer and the marketing team grow, I imagine this job description would change slightly over the next few years. And I think it should. Buffer’s business needs are frequently changing, and it’ll be great to adapt accordingly. I aim to discuss this with my team lead, Kevan Lee, every quarter to adjust it accordingly.

Now that you’ve seen my future job description, do you have any advice for me? Is there anyone you can connect me with to help me reach my goal faster?

Thank you!

P.S. Thanks, Kevan Lee and Justin Lee, for sharing their thoughts on my job description draft.


Second year at Buffer

Last year, after my first Bufferversary (my first year at Buffer), I wrote about the top 10 things I learned while working at Buffer.

Last week, I crossed my two-year mark at Buffer. I thought I would keep up with the practice of writing about the past year to record and reflect upon some of my experiences.

Writing

I started writing for the Buffer blog slightly more than a year ago. (If you are interested, you can read my first post on the Buffer blog here.) At that time, I needed a lot of guidance from Kevan Lee, my team lead, and Ash Read, our blog editor. Kevan would often edit my drafts several times and suggest ways I could improve my draft. And I took about a week to write one long-form blog post while juggling a few other tasks.

Looking back, I was quite a terrible content writer and I’m very thankful for my team’s grace and patience with me.

I’m far from being a content marketing expert but I felt that I’ve grown a lot since then. Besides coming up with my own content ideas, getting fewer edits, and writing faster (two 2,000 to 3,000-word blog posts per week), I have been able to write blog posts that bring in signups and paying customers, rank well on Google, and get shared widely on social media.

Ranking on Google for `instagram algorithm`

I think what helped me to improve over the year is setting the right expectations and raising the bar as I progress. Kevan, who used to be a content crafter at Buffer himself, helped set the steps for progression.

  1. Output: Working on being able to write one to two long-form blog posts per week
  2. Blog post performance: Being responsible for the performance of individual blog posts
  3. Blog performance: Helping with the overall performance of the blog (such as strategy, SEO, and partnerships)

Every few months, we’ll talk about my progress and set higher expectations accordingly. I’m somewhere between stage two and three at the moment.

I’m at an interesting juncture of my career now. The next step for me, according to our career framework, is to level up into a blog editor. But it isn’t useful having two blog editors at the moment when the content team is just two people. While I continue to improve my content marketing skills, I’m also looking to learn more about growth marketing.

Oh, and I have a newsletter of my favorite content marketing articles. You can join it here.

Speaking

One of the highlights of the past year was speaking about my experience as a marketer at Buffer. I’m honored to have been invited to be on two discussion panels and to give two talks.

My content marketing talks in 2017

It’s amazing how one thing led to another. First, my friend, Justin Lee, introduced me to David Fallarme, who invited me to join a content marketing panel he was organizing. A few people from Shopback, including their COO, attended the event. Then, my friend at Shopback, Hou Shun, suggested to their COO about having me talk about content marketing at their company. That led to a talk and another discussion panel. Then, because I gave the talk at Shopback, Justin, who was on the same panel as me at Shopback, invited me to give a similar talk at his General Assembly digital marketing bootcamp.

I was nervous before the talks because I felt that I wasn’t an expert in content marketing and what I say might not be useful. I shared that with Kevan, who gave me a great advice:

While you might not be a content marketing expert, you are an expert in the Buffer blog. 

He’s right! I know more about the Buffer blog than anyone else present. That gave me the confidence I needed. (And in the end, the people did find what I said to be useful.)

I loved all the talks not only because it was an excellent way to reinforce what I’ve learned but also because I enjoyed helping the attendees through my talk and answering their questions after the talk. I’m excited to give more talks on content marketing and social media marketing. If you would like having me speak about those topics, let me know. I’ll be honored!

If you’re curious, here’s my slide deck for one of the talks. Sorry that it isn’t self-explanatory. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section below.

Coding

I’ve been learning intermittently to code over the last few years. While I’m not at the level I hope to be at yet, I’m glad to have made some progress this year. And you’re looking at it!

I shipped my first WordPress theme last month. It’s broken in many places, and I’ll continue to work on it slowly.

My first WordPress theme

One thing that gave me the motivation to learn how to develop a WordPress theme is that we are redesigning the Buffer blogs. As we had originally planned to code the new theme ourselves, I was hoping to level up fast enough to help with the project. While I don’t think I’m skilled enough yet, I’m grateful for the push.

Through this, I learned that having a project at work is a great way to motivate myself to pick up new skills, which are required for the project.

Design

Along the way, I also picked up a Sketch license and tried creating a few designs. I believe that it’s helpful for a marketer to have a little design skill to design marketing materials such as graphics, landing pages, and email templates.

Here are my two favorites out of all my terrible designs:

Social media news blog post design

Instagram search blog post design

I started with creating graphics for the Buffer blog and eventually used what I learned to create a few design ideas for my personal blog.

Blog design ideas

(You can click to see a bigger image of this screenshot.)

To an even better year ahead

My second year at Buffer has been incredible, and I’m excited for my third year at Buffer. Things have improved greatly since our cashflow crisis last year. And I feel that there are many opportunities as the Buffer ship sails smoothly forward.

Here’s to greater growth, closer friendships, and more fun times with the team! ?