237. Alternate MBA ✂️
How friends and mentors and L+D have created my very own business school
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Hi there 👋
This week’s newsletter is about education, and as you’ll read below, my university degree is in journalism. Funny enough, there are two other marketing teammates at Oyster with journalism degrees. Is journalism the most popular non-business degree on marketing teams?
If you’ve got any journalists on your teams — or if you are one yourself! — feel free to drop me a line. It’d be great to hear.
Wishing you a great week,
P.S. For any former journalists out there, one of my very favorite podcasts is Longform, an interview podcast that goes behind-the-scenes with journalists and writers. Highly recommended if you miss the industry.
The best places to learn startup marketing (that aren’t an MBA)
My wife has a Master’s degree.
My brother has three.
I have zero.
Obviously, I have taken to heart the maxim of not being the smartest person in the room, both at home and at work. Oyster is full of brilliant colleagues, Harvard MBAs, entrepreneurs and economists. I am a journalism-major-turned-DIY-marketer.
But don’t get me wrong: I quite enjoy my unique background and uncommon perspective. I wouldn’t be the marketer I am today if I had taken a more traditional path.
That’s why, whenever I’m asked about the value of education for roles like mine, I pause. Well, I’m sure years of academia would be of value in a future job, especially the lessons it would teach you about perseverance and grit. And yet, when I’m going through the hiring process at Oyster, I never look at a candidate’s education. I always look at their experience.
I value empathy, drive, and curiosity. Not an alma mater.
Or, maybe I should say, I believe there are other ways to earn an education in startup marketing that don’t look anything like your standard MBA. (And they’re much cheaper.)
Here are a few that I would highly recommend. I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in several of these and would be happy to share more about my experience if you’re interested in following through with any.
Surround yourself with great people
You’ve probably heard this one before. It’s common advice because it works!
“To become great, you need someone better you can learn from, someone lessor you can teach, & someone equal that can challenge you.” — Ken Shamrock, UFC Legend
(I imagine one of the few quotes from UFC that applies so well to startup marketing.)
When I was growing into my role at Buffer, I had a biweekly mastermind group call with three other marketers in similar roles outside Buffer. Now, with my role at Oyster, I have a regular chat with a fellow VP Marketing at a hypergrowth Series B startup (equals), meetups with a small handful of folks I’m able to share my learnings with (minus), and an advisor who’s several years ahead of me who can advise me on what I don’t know yet (plus).
Read great newsletters
Newsletters are one of the best ways to get inside the brains of incredibly smart people. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Take a masterclass or two
So far, all the learning I’ve mentioned is free. Yay!
But if you have the appetite to spend for some high-value courses (or if your company gives you the learning and development funds), there are a couple I’d recommend. Typically when you’re looking for courses, you want to optimize for ones that get you access to the smart people behind the material via AMAs, office hours, or regular meetups … otherwise, you’re just reading content, which is something you can get from blogs or newsletters.
Price: $1,995 per year
Reforge is a product, growth, and marketing membership with courses and events led by folks behind the most successful brands in tech. I highly, highly recommend it — my first Reforge course blew my mind.
The annual price for Reforge gets you access to all the material, every single course. Plus, you get to attend one live cohort each year. In previous years, I’ve done the Advanced Growth series and the Marketing Strategy series 👍👍👍👍
(There aren’t any new marketing ones this year, but I’m told more are on the way …)
Price: $499 per course
The SuperHi courses are mostly about coding and design, but they have a course on visual design and branding that I found particularly valuable. Typically, branding courses are the hardest to come by. In fact, one of these days I’m going to build a company solely around brand masterclasses. I think the world needs more of ‘em.
Price: most stuff is free; $1,999 for a live course
ProductLed is the best place to learn Product-Led Growth. The team that runs the program has written multiple, amazing books on PLG topics, and a ton of free content on their website and within their community. They have a six-week live course about PLG that you can pay for if you want to go deeper.
Price: $1,100 per teammate
If you remember the famous blog ConversionXL, it is now the CXL learning platform, which has a huge number of courses to take on all types of marketing topics. (Note: one of the courses is taught by me.)
Join a community
I’ve been lucky to learn from a handful of great Slack communities as well. Two that always seem to catch my eye when we’re talking to candidates in the hiring pool are:
Pavilion (formerly Revenue Collective)
This is a private community of high-growth leaders in marketing.
This group of product marketers is 1,000+ strong, and PMA offers its own set of product marketing certification and learning resources.
Over to you
What are some of your top learning destinations?
Do you have an MBA? Would you advise someone to get one?
It’d be great to hear your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to reply to get in touch.
About this newsletter …
Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. If you enjoy what’s in this newsletter, you can share some love by hitting the heart button at the top or bottom.💙
I’m a marketing exec who specializes in startup marketing and brand-building. I currently lead the marketing team at Oyster (we’re hiring!). I previously built brands at Buffer, Polly, and Vox.
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