Ask and It Shall be Given

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Ask, and it shall be given. That was Steve Blank’s experience:

Our small training department had been without a manager for months and finding a replacement didn’t seem to be high on the VP of Sales list. We four instructors would grumble and complain to one another about our lack of leadership.

Then it hit me — no one else wanted to be manager — what was the worst that could happen? I walked into the VP of Sales’ office and with my knees trembling, I politely asked for the job. I still remember him chuckling as I nervously babbled on what I good job I would do, what I would change for the better in the department, why I was qualified, etc.

He said, “you know I figured it would be you to come in here and ask for the job. I was wondering how long it would take you.” I was now manager of Training and Education at Zilog.

All I had to do was ask.

He learned to keep asking:

One day I heard there was an opening in the marketing department for a product marketing manager for the Z-8000 peripheral chips. The department had hired a recruiter and was interviewing candidates from other chip companies. I looked at the job spec and under “candidate requirements” it listed everything I didn’t have: MBA, 5–10 years product marketing experience, blah, blah.

I asked for the job.

The response was at first less than enthusiastic. I certainly didn’t fit their profile. However, I pointed out that while I didn’t have any of the traditional qualifications I knew the product as well as anyone. I had been teaching Z8000 design to customers for the last year and a half. I also knew our customers. I understand how our products were being used and why we won design-in’s over Intel or Motorola. And finally, I had a great working relationship with our engineers who designed the chips. I pointed out it that it would take someone else 6 months to a year to learn what I already knew — and I was already in the building.

A week later Zilog had a new product marketing manager, and I had my first job in marketing.

Now all I needed to do was to learn what a marketeer was supposed to do.

He came up with a heuristic:

In a technology company it’s usually better to train a domain expert to become a marketer than to train an MBA to become a domain expert. While MBA’s have a ton of useful skills, what they don’t have is what most marketing departments lack — customer insight. I found that having a senior marketer responsible for business strategy surrounded by ex-engineers and domain experts makes one heck of a powerful marketing department.

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