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, 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! 🍸


3 Things I Did To Overcome Sadness

Last night, I received an email from Buffer, informing me that they would not move forward with my application. I’m not going to lie. I was really sad.

However, I know that it is pointless to keep feeling sad. Recently, I had told a few friends a line of motivation, which I found applicable to me in this situation:

Shit happens. What matters is how we deal with it after it happens.

Being rejected by a company that I really want to work with does not feel nice at all. It’s terrible. However, what matters is how I deal with it and what I do from now on!


In this post, I would like to share the three things that I did to overcome the sadness.

1. Give myself a limited amount of time to feel sad

5 years ago, when I was competing for my Junior College’s canoeing team, I had a team mate who was so good at running that our school’s cross country coach got him to represent our school at the Cross Country National Championship. He was leading the race all the way, until he collapsed 100m before the finishing line. Was he sad? You bet. What was worse was that the Canoeing National Championship was taking place a few days after that. He was so upset that he was not in the mood to even think about the canoeing races.

Our canoeing coach found out about the incident and went to speak to him. I thought that what he said was brilliant. Our coach said something along the lines of:

Take the whole of today to brood over the incident. Tomorrow, I want to see you back to your normal self again.

I believe that it is very hard to immediately not feel sad about something, especially when the thing matters a lot to us. We need time to get over it. And so, that was what I did. I gave myself some time to get over the sadness.

I gave myself the whole of last night to brood over the rejection. I played more FIFA games with my house mates than I ever had (it’s only about 6 games actually), showered and meditated before going to bed. All these while, I could not stop thinking about the rejection. However, I told myself that I want to be back to my normal self by the time I wake up the next day.

I’m glad that I did ☺

2. Talk to friends

Another thing I did was to talk to some of my close friends. One of them was Thomas Dunn from Buffer, whom I got to know a few weeks ago.

He is a really awesome friend who is always encouraging and supporting me. When he found out about the result of my application, he came to console me. He told me that my application was amazing but perhaps the circumstances might not be right for now (I’m still studying so I cannot work full-time). He also told me that it’s incredible that I made it to the interview stage as a student. (On hindsight, I feel really happy about it.) Thanks to his support, I felt much better.

(Thomas, if you are reading this, I’m really grateful. Thanks! ☺)

3. Look on the bright side

The other thing I did was to be positive. There is a mantra that I firmly believe in:

Everything happens for a reason.

While it is sad that I did not get the job I wanted, there are many things that I got out from this experience.

  • I learnt a lot about myself.
  • I learnt a lot about the application process, which would be helpful when I apply again in the future.
  • I made a really good friend, Thomas and got to know a few other really nice people like Nicole.
  • Nicole gave me very useful feedforward (Buffer’s way of saying feedback) to work on and improve myself.
  • I became even more motivated to improve myself.
  • Finally, I believe that this experience has helped to build my character.

Looking back now, the rejection does not feel as horrible as it seemed☺

These three things have helped me get over the incident and come out stronger. I hope they could be useful for you too when you face similar situations.


(This is my 1st blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. I hope to feel comfortable, more confident and become better with writing through this challenge.

Buffer is still hiring. Check out their open positions!)


From I’m Joel Gascoigne, and This Is the Story Behind Buffer, interview with Joel Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Buffer, by Tessa Miller.

If you’re trying to build your own startup and truly want to succeed, you want to ask yourself what your priorities are. For me, building my own product and company and reaching a point where I could work solely on my own product was my highest goal. That trumped everything else, so I decided to work on Buffer as my first activity of the day.

Start your day with the most important thing you want to do. There will be a higher chance of you completing it.