image of david white
Nov 28, 2019

Career Planning – 4 Steps to Transform Your B2B Marketing Career with David White

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer




Fiona Jensen: Welcome to Market Mentors, a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow. I’m Fiona Jensen, a director and co-owner of Market Recruitment. For over a decade I’ve been helping B2B marketeers find the best jobs with great companies. Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reach the top and learn from their experience. Ask career related questions, you can’t get answers to elsewhere. Be tough, be challenged, be mentored.

Fiona Jensen: Do you ever look around and think to yourself, “I want that person’s job.” Or wonder why they got that promotion or opportunity and not you? Was it luck? Almost certainly not. So I’m very excited to share with you a cracking conversation I had with David White, not only a marketer at the top of his game, within the tech sector, thanks to 15 years at Fujitsu, but one so passionate about developing himself and the marketing team around him that he developed a framework following a bit of inspiration to help people do just that. Now with Christmas just around the corner and plans for the New Year ahead, what better time to focus and ask yourself, “So where do I want to be career-wise then?” Nice. I’m here with the fabulous David White, thanks so, so much for joining us today.

David: Thank you.

Fiona Jensen: We’re really excited to have you on Market Mentors and specifically because you’ve agreed to let us tap into a wonderful bucket of knowledge and experience. Let’s just give the audience an opportunity to understand your skills and experience, how you got to where you are today so they know the knowledge pool that we’re about to experience.

Who is David White?

David: Okay. I started my career with my previous employer, Fujitsu back in 2004 when they were an organisation called Fujitsu Siemens Computers. And I joined them as a marketing manager for small business and channel. And then over the period of the next few years, I built my knowledge and experience of marketing and product marketing in that area. And then I took on responsibility for large enterprise marketing as well. So more of the public sector and corporate style activities that Fujitsu Siemens was engaged in. And then towards the end of the 2009, 2010, the joint venture between Fujitsu and Siemens came to an end and Fujitsu purchased the remaining 50% back from Siemens. So it purchased the hardware on the business back into the global company. And at that point I took a role that saw me leading the marketing activity across all the UK in our business units.

David: So this was now not just the product business, but also managed infrastructure services, business and application services and cyber security and network and telco. So it was the broad portfolio in terms of our go to market strategy, demand generation, lead generation activity and market conditioning and content creation. And I continued in that role for the next couple of years, but I became more and more involved in the more global activities that Fujitsu was involved in. So I started to work with colleagues from the Americas, from all over Europe, from the Asia-Pac region, and I eventually took on the role as the vice president for Global Programs and Campaigns, which was my first experience of a global role working with global teams and responsible for such a large and important activity for a company of that size.

David: And just to pitch that Fujitsu is one of the largest technology companies in the world. At that time it was in excess of 173,000 employees globally with tens of billions of dollar turnover. So this was a big organization present in many countries throughout the world. So to be responsible for the global programs and campaigns on that level was quite a responsibility.

Fiona Jensen: And how big was the team that you were directly responsible for it at the time?

David: It wasn’t a particularly big team then actually. So we relied a lot on matrix management. So the team in total probably no bigger than 25 to 30 people, but those people were dotted in all sorts of countries. So it was also my first experience of moving from managing an entirely local team into a global team. And that’s not just the impact of managing a remote team. So not having your team together with you in the office, but also managing a team across multiple cultures, which brings on a whole new set of exciting challenges.

David: And I did that for a year, and then I was asked to pick up responsibility for a role similar to the last role I’d had in the UK. So I took on responsibility for the global marketing activity of all of Fujitsu’s business lines outside of Japan. Which as you can imagine was just huge in terms of its scope, writing global campaigns, thought leadership activity and helping and supporting the go to market activities of each of the regions on a global basis in required us to have very deep understanding of the marketplace, deep understanding of individual market criteria and characteristics in different regions and also deep relationships with both the business units, the sales teams and the other functions that were all supporting go to market activity in each of the regions. And it also meant we had to build quite strong relationships with Japan because that’s where quite a lot of the technical innovation came from at the time.

David: And I did that for a year, and then my last role with Fujitsu was probably the most exciting role I had in the 15 years I was with the organisation actually. And it was basically called a Vice President for Global Offerings Marketing. And this was an initiative that the president initiated. So it was a company wide presidential initiative designed to help the company overcome a challenge that it had had for decades now, which was how do you take technology innovation generated in Japan and sell it into growth markets outside of Japan. And many individuals and groups and teams had tried to achieve this over the years and been unsuccessful in doing so. And so the idea of the Global Offerings Initiative was to understand why that had happened and then to put in place the program, the activities and the processes to overcome that challenge and help to accelerate Fujitsu’s growth on a global basis by exploiting the technology, innovation and leadership that was being developed in Japan.

David: And so I did that for a year and then early, that brings us up to April this year. And in April this year, I took the decision to leave Fujitsu after 15 years of service, which was a difficult one. But also I can’t say enough about the quality of the time that I had there. I worked with great people, great teams, great leadership. I had some fantastic experiences. I built some incredible teams and really talented teams of individuals, some of which are still there, some of which have now gone into bigger, broader global career path development roles themselves. But for me it was time to go and do something else. And now we find ourselves having this conversation and be on the brink of deciding what it is I’m going to do next.

Fiona Jensen: Indeed, and I’m excited because we’ve agreed to have a conversation specifically around career development. And that’s with thanks to your experience at Fujitsu as being a global mentor for well over three and a half years I think it was that you were in that Global Talent Development team. So with respect to your marketing experience, we could probably spend hours just going through that. But as we haven’t had someone who is able to really give us that sort of career development conversation, that’s what we’re going to focus on. Because I’m so excited. So yeah, we’re really keen to get your advice around career development. So I understand that you have a fabulous framework that you’re willing to share. So I am all ears and we’ll pass it back to you David to talk to us a bit more detail around, how do you plan your marketing career?

How do you plan your marketing career?

David: So it’s probably worth saying up front that I was very fortunate in my time with Fujitsu to have the benefit of access to an executive coach. And that was game changing for me inside the organisation. I learned a tremendous amount of the gentleman coached me and he’s also the same person that coached the former CEO there as well. So it was a very good relationship for him to be able to guide me in my career development, but also him to be able to guide me on how to manage and improve stakeholder relations and my understanding of what was happening in Fujitsu globally as well. And what I’m going to go through now is really a similar model to the one he took me through at the time. And all I’ve done is take that and tried to understand it more deeply and adapted it over time for my use.

David: And then I’ve reused that framework to help and support and guide other individuals inside and outside the organisation. But inside the organisation, it was in the context of the Global Mentoring Program that my former employer operated and I participated in and I saw some real success stories come out of it. So I’ve seen it work for me and I’ve seen it work for many other individuals inside my former organisation. And I think it’s something that you can easily adopt in any industry, in any discipline, in any function. But I think it’s very, very useful for those starting out their career, in their mid career and even planning how they’re going to win their career in the marketing discipline. So it’s a very useful framework to understand. It centers on the concept of career management and you need to think about career management as an ongoing process of structured planning and active management that helps you achieve your career ambitions.

David: So it forces you to start to think beyond your current position and to think about what role would I like to be in, or what circumstances, especially would I like to be in at a given point in the future. And typically that given point in the future should be at least three to five years hence, or two to three positions further on than the one you’re currently holding. It’s best started as early as possible in your career. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that you start at the beginning of your career, the middle or the end. You can start to add to any point. And for me, I didn’t actually start with this process until I turned 40. But what it did at that point was really accelerate my career path progression from a local role into the global role and into the executive team and then several roles within that time period.

David: So what it can do is if you take career management seriously at the early, middle or end of your career, it can definitely accelerate your performance without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve seen that work for me and for the people I’ve coached or mentored over the years. And that’s good because it helps improve your financial security. It helps to improve your work life balance. If you’re seeing your career goals being achieved, it makes everything far better from a work life balance perspective. Similarly, on the opposite side, if you’re not career managing or career planning, that can inhibit your performance or it can hold that performance back. And sometimes you can see where individuals suffer an increase in financial insecurity because they want to earn more money because their circumstances have changed. For example, they’ve got married, they’ve had a family now they need to earn more money, but they’re not quite sure how they’re going to increase their income.

David: And that can lead to stress and anxiety. So having a framework that you can lean back on that’s flexible with the circumstances as they change in your life and flexible with your career goals as they change in your life is highly valuable. I cannot recommend it enough. But it does require you to allow some head space and some time and probably some guidance to establish what that plan is and how you’re going to make it work for you and what your own personal career goals are. So it’s probably worth talking about then. What is career planning? Career planning is a subset of career management. So career management is the whole process. Career planning is the subset of that, which is where you use what should be for marketers very familiar disciplines is marketing discipline is a strategic planning discipline. But it’s basically a project planning exercise.

David: But it means that you take charge of your future, you become responsible for your future, you take charge of your future, and you do so by establishing what your career goals and objectives are and then continuously reassessing your development needs, knowledge, skills, and experience over time to ensure that you’re going to achieve those career goals. So it’s very outcome focused, which again should be quite familiar to most marketers because we’re always thinking, what’s the return on this investment? What’s the outcome that we’re focused on? And what it helps you to do is it helps to make better decisions when the time comes to consider a role that’s available to you. And the better decisions come about by thinking, “Does taking this role get me closer towards my career achievements and ambitions or further away from?” So having a career plan is a very, very important tool indeed to help you.

So how do you define your career plan?

David: The process is, I’ve broken it down into roughly four steps. So there’s a visualisation step, a short listing step, a plotting step, and the pursuing step. We can call these whatever you like in here, but it’s basically four steps. So in the visualisation step, what I encourage people to do is to start to think about the circumstances that they want to be in at a given time in the future. Some people find it really difficult to identify a specific role and when they can’t identify a role, it’s often quite useful to be able to identify the circumstances that you find yourself in. So for example, I want to be working in an international role in a big technology company, leading a multicultural team responsible for whatever it is X, Y, Z. And then when you have that visualisation, you can start to think about the roles in your company or the roles in another company.

David: Because career planning should always take into account the company you’re with and other organisations. It starts to help you understand, which roles in which companies satisfy that criteria. And that will help you to visualise not just the time frames, so this is let’s say for example, that you wanted to be in that senior international position in five years time. You’d be able to say, “Is that achievable inside my company? Yes or no? Or is it achievable in a company outside, yes or no?” And you can start to then understand what are the steps from the role that you’re in now to that role. And there might be two or three steps ideally there could be two or three steps. And you can start to map out what’s the knowledge, the skills, and the experience that I need in order to go through those steps to achieve that role and compete effectively for that role in five years time and be in that role in five years time.

David: So when you visualised the potential roles that you want to achieve or the roles that you want to be in, you need to start to bring that down to something to focus on. So if you’re able to identify a handful, let’s say you then want to be able to figure out which ones are the one that I’m going to go after. Where’s my plan going to be? And this is an easy decision because it should always be the one that plays to your strengths. So always go after roles that play to your strengths. It’s not necessarily a disaster to go after roles that don’t, but you’re more likely to be successful if you pursue roles that play to your strengths because they enable you to take advantage of your strengths. They enable to you to exploit your strengths and they genuinely going to mean that you’ll be most successful in the role than a role that you’ve got to pick up.

David: You’re less likely to compete successfully for a role where you don’t have strong knowledge, skills and experience. So shortlisting those roles is very simple then bring it down to the ones where you play to your strengths. And when you’ve got the ones that played to your strengths, you can … Or the one that plays your strengths. Now you can say, “Right, in order to get to that role in five years time, I will need to have acquired this knowledge, acquired these skills, acquired this experience and I will need to influence certain people because those people are going to be responsible for making the decisions about who gets that role in a future timeframe.” And so you need to be thinking about how you build that knowledge, that skill and that experience and how you influence those people. And sometimes that can be through training and development through coaching and mentoring, through stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management and building relationships.

David: Sometimes it will also be taking a job that gets you closer to, so if you want to be in a leadership role at some point in the future, but you’re in an individual contributor role now, you’re going to have to take on some roles at some point that expose you to managing teams. So it’s important to think about knowledge, skills and experience. What roles, what people, what training, what development, what learning needs do I have to address in order to put me in a position to compete for that role in five years time when it comes up. And the stakeholder management piece is exceptionally important, and in my experience, most people overlook it because they haven’t necessarily thought about how did they start to warm up the people that are going to be making decisions about who gets those roles in the future but it can make a really big difference.

David: And then once you’ve identified, you’ve got your plan, you’ve got your visualisation, you’ve shortlisted your role, you understand what the knowledge, skills and experiences are now and the relationships that you need to build to achieve those goals. Now you need to start pursuing that role you need to execute your plan in order to make sure that you are getting close to that goal and tracking over time to make sure that you’re going to achieve that goal. And so you need to be thinking about how you use your time most effectively. And that time should always be used to focus on tasks, activities, new roles, building relationships with people that get you closer towards achieving that role, not on tasks, people, time, initiatives and projects that move you further away from it. So it’s about actively managing how you focus your time and effort to help you achieve your goal and pushing out all the stuff that’s going to pull you away or distract you.

Fiona Jensen: I’m sold. So how do you do that? Because in CV all sounds great and makes sense. But the tricky week is there’s lots of people, there’s lots of different ideas and there’s lots of different pressures, anxieties, issues that arise that you can and can’t control.

David: Yeah. So how do you do it? The first and most important thing is to make decision in your own mind that you want to pursue some sort of career management, career planning activity. Once you’ve done that, it’s now a case of figuring out who can help me on that journey. And in the majority of cases, it’s a conversation you should be having with your line manager straight off the bat. Some people are anxious about having that conversation with line managers because they don’t necessarily want to have a conversation that says, “I’m also considering roles outside the organisation or outside the team. Or I might want your job.” But if you’ve got a good supportive and responsible line manager I should say, then they should be helping you have that conversation and make those decisions. Good line managers will be investing that time in their people and good line managers will also understand that some people will career path progress and stay with the organisation and some will leave.

David: But you’re not doing the best by your team if you’re not having open conversations with them and figuring out what’s best for them as individuals. Because if you’ve got people who work for you that want to put in 120% because they want to, you’re going to get far better team performance than people that are putting in 110% because they have to or they’re going to put in a lot less. So good line managers will always support this type of career planning, career management conversation. So how do you make the time to do this? How do you create time in your day to be able to start to think about and put headspace into a career plan? So there are some things that are necessary in order to be able to create that space. The first thing is really you need to be able to find some space in the data, disappear off with a pad and go for a walk. You just need a pencil, a piece of paper, go for a walk.

David: It doesn’t matter where it is, but generally going for a walk is one of the best ways to start to free up your mind. And it’s all about freeing up space in your mind because you’ve got certain capacity in your mind for creative thinking and certain capacity for longterm thinking. And the more you want to be able to create space in the creative thinking part for you to be able to flood with ideas and then unpack it all and jumble it all and turn into something structured. And you need to do that in an environment that’s stress free. So one of the ways to do that, go in the fresh air, go find some water and go for a walk and then just post the questions.

David: Another thing that’s a good thing to do is to put some questions in your mind before you go to sleep. So when you get into bed at night, five minutes or so before you start to close your eyes, just start to think about some of the questions like what is it that I want to be doing next? How would I visualise that job? How would I visualise that role? What are the timeframes? What circumstances do I find myself in? Not looking for answers at this point because as soon as you pop those questions into your mind, your subconscious will start working on them and although it might not pop into your head first thing in the morning, next time you find yourself out on a walk, those memories, subconscious memories will start flooding back into your head.

David: The other thing is for a lot of people, it’s also about allocating time in their day and you very quickly get onto a productivity conversation here of how do I find time in my day? How do I get my head out of my email and out of endless pointless meetings and create time to do this. If you’re in a managerial position, one of the ways that you can do that is to delegate some of your responsibility. Now, that might sound as if you’re just trying to offload work and not fulfill your role, but that’s not a good way to look at it. A good way to look at it is if you’ve got people in your team who are looking to progress by you delegating some of your responsibility to them, it helps them build on skills and experience, but it also gives you a window to concentrate on other stuff. Some of that stuff could be helping you to build knowledge, skills, and experience somewhere, but some of it will be this creative thinking time because all managers struggle for that.

David: And if you’re in an individual contributor role, it’s not so easy to delegate stuff, but you need to figure out how do you create time in your day to be able to do this thinking. And the productivity conversation for most people centers around how much time am I in my inbox? And how much time am I important to this meetings? So here, there are plenty of tools online that will help you start to understand how do I manage my time more effectively? But for most people, I find that it’s about trying to get your head into what I used to call the safe brain mode. A lot of people spend their time in threat brain mode and in threat brain mode, they’re under stress. There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s adrenaline running through your body, which is not a particular useful chemical when you’re under a lot of stress, it was very useful when we needed to run away from saber-toothed tigers.

David: But it can add to your stress and it can make your thinking very narrow and so when your head is in that sort of threat brain mode and you’re constantly under stress constantly in an anxious state of mind, that is not the time for creative thinking. And what you’re trying to do is move away from that threat brain mode into safe brain mode where you’re more relaxed, there’s endorphins running through your body, you got less stress, less anxiety and it completely throws open your creative mind. You’re open to anything open to everything. And so that’s the sort of feeling that you’re looking for in creating space. And you can do this by managing your inbox more effectively. And again, people can look online and look up Inbox Zero, but Inbox Zero is not about having no emails in your inbox.

David: It’s about spending no time in your head inside your inbox. So it’s having a system that enables you to systematically go through your inbox very, very quickly. Either deal with something very fast if it only takes two minutes or create a task for it if it takes longer. Then when you’re creating tasks, have those tasks span as projects and plan the time in your diary to manage those projects. So you need an email tool, which must be worth. You need a good calendar and you need a good task manager and you also need a way to capture creative thinking. You can use digital tools for that or you can use a piece of pen and paper. So if you have these three tools, something that managers remotely can do, something that manages your projects and your tasks, and something where you capture creative thinking.

David: If you use those tools effectively, you’ll find that use your time more productively. Especially if you’re planning out time to do things so you won’t suddenly get caught by a deadline that says, “I’ve got this project due in a week’s time, I’ve now got to work all week and all my creative thinking time has gone.” You’ll have structured the time in your diary that’s going to take you to complete that project and you’ll be making sure that your declining meetings or not got your head in your inbox so that you can be doing those project tasks and this is the most important bit. You have got to plan time in your diary for that creative thinking, but whether it’s, I’ve got an hour at lunch to go for a walk. I’ve got half an hour in the morning to go for a walk. When I go home at night, I’m going to take the dog out for a walk. You’ve got to plan in that time and that’s got to be sacred. Literally sacred.

David: If it isn’t sacred, you will always prioritise something else over it and it will always be the first thing that goes. But if you can get into the habit of being more productive, being more structured in the way you deliver your work and consciously creating time in your diary, inside and outside work for creative thinking, that’s when you do this planning. And if you do that, this planning will be so much more valuable as a result.

Fiona Jensen: Perfect. Very good advice. Thanks David.

David: But you can also look for coaching and mentoring inside the organisation and outside of the organisation. So there are lots of resources online, you can go and look for external coaches and mentors in organisations that provide that service. But I would always encourage people to start to look for a coach or a mentor who has already surpassed and been successful in achieving the career ambitions that you have as an individual. So let’s think about that as an example. So I had a lady that used to work for me in one of my teams that knew at some point she wanted to leave her role to build a family and then she wanted to come back into the role and continue building her career. And we were having a conversation, started to have a conversation about how you plan and you map that out.

David: And that may have meant that she no longer stayed with the organisation. It may have meant she came back part-time or flexible time or she might’ve might’ve come back to the organisation full time. But that’s not really something you want to worry about at this stage worrying … The thing is you’re supporting your team member. So here we were having a conversation and she said to me, “I’ve been considering mentors and coaches and I’ve identified this person, I think she’s a really good person. She’d be really able to help me. She’s ambitious, she’s been really successful inside the organisation. I get on well with her, et cetera, et cetera.” And I thought about it for a minute and I said, “Does this lady have a family?” And the answer was no. I said, “Has she left the business and come back to it at any point?”

David: And the answer was no. I said, “Does that person have a role similar to the one that you’ve got now?” And the answer was no. I said, “Well, you’d have to ask yourself the question and about how useful that advice is going to be to helping you on your specific journey. Because if they haven’t experienced what you’re going to experience, how useful is the advice that they’re going to give you? So perhaps think of another mentor who has experienced what you want to experience.” It has been on the journey you want to go on and look for individuals who fill that criteria. And so we went through and a bunch of names and eventually we brought it down to two ladies who had started their career inside the organisation for one of them outside the organisation for another.

David: They built a successful career, they then taken a decision to put that on pause, go back, go away, have a family, came back, continued on their careers and went on to be successful and I suggested to this a team member at the time that she should have a conversation with the two of those people and she did and they became really good role model mentors for her because now she was able to share everything, all the anxieties, all the worries, all the stresses, all the strains, all the optimism and the ambition and bring it all into a planning process where that mentor could say, “I know exactly how you feel, I know exactly what you’re going through and I can help you navigate that and I can help you navigate the challenges, the hurdles, all the things that you’re going to experience in order to make sure that you are successful on that journey.”

David: And this lady ultimately left, left my team, went away, had a family, came back, rejoined my team, grew with me in the roles that I had with Fujitsu and then subsequently left to go onto a big senior it may have filled marketing role herself in liberal organisation. So again, it works. You just have to think about the important thing here is thinking about, “Who’s going to be able to help me on my journey? Who’s going to be able to help me on the way? And how do I select those people?” Knowing that those people, some of them might be with you throughout the journey, especially those who’ve already achieved your career ambitions.

David: But you don’t just need one mentor quite often you can have mentors that can help you with specific knowledge or skills as well, but they will change throughout your journey on your career path as you go through each of the steps of achieving your career ambition. It’s likely that some of the mentors will change, but if you can find one initially that’s done and been successful at doing what you want to do and matches your circumstances, then those are the people to focus on.

Fiona Jensen: Very interesting. I love that and I’m a great believer in mentors, as you can imagine with the podcast as well. I think if you see someone who’s doing what you want to be able to do, then just ask them, “How do you do it? Why do you do it?” And normally people always take a bit of time to share some advice as long as you treat it and actively engage with that relationship, both parties normally win. So we’ve talked a lot about successful situations I think Fujitsu as a culture and how much they’ve embraced this Global Mentoring Program demonstrates what a good positive culture they are. But unfortunately not all companies have a similar culture. So my question is around if you have line managers who maybe aren’t so open to this type of conversation, but you want to actively manage your career now, what advice do you have for people in that type of situation?

Managing your career without internal support

David: So let’s break that down into a few component parts. So if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable with having that type of open conversation with your line manager, you just find somebody else to have that conversation with.

Fiona Jensen: Within the company or externally?

David: It can be within, inside or outside of the organisation. If it’s inside the organisation, the benefit is that if you’re looking to pursue roles inside the organisation, then this person will be able to help navigate you through that jungle far better than someone externally will be able to. But the principles of how you manage career management and career planning are the same whether you’re talking to someone inside or outside the organisation. And the executive coach that I had was not part of our organisation. This was an external coach and he helped me an awful lot. Now he had a work, a deep working knowledge and understanding of the organisation because of the way he was networked across it, but nonetheless, he wasn’t inside and as I say, the principles were appropriate in all sorts of organisations. So it’s not necessary to have a person inside your organisation.

David: You can find someone outside who will be as equally valuable to you if those circumstances happen. But when you’re thinking in your career plan, “Who are the people who can help me on my journey, who can influence me? Who do I need to influence in future roles?” It’s entirely appropriate for you to perhaps approach some of those people, build a relationship with them, understand what their responsibilities and priorities and critical success factors are, and then start to shape how you are going to help them achieve their goals and priorities and critical success factors so that you’re in a position to be able to influence their decision when one of the roles comes up that you want to have in the future. But you can also have an open conversation with those people to say, “Well, one of the reasons I want to talk to you is because I’ve got an ambition to be in this Chief Marketing Officer position. For example at some point in the future, and I want to get exposed to numerous new opportunities, get exposed to new responsibilities and I want to build my knowledge, my skills, and my experience.”

David: And you may well find that that person will be open to supporting you as well. So let me give you an example. Let’s say that the head of sales is also one of the people who’s going to make a decision about who’s going to become the next chief marketing officer. So building a relationship with the head of sales now on the basis that you want to be in that CMO role in three to five years time is a good thing to do because you can then build up a track record of working with that head of sales teams to help them be successful in achieving their targets so you can help them target customers better, engage with customers better push sales opportunities along the sales funnel, make sure that you’re supporting them with good quality market conditioning, demand generation, pipeline, et cetera, et cetera.

David: And if you’re building that success story with the head of sales, account teams, ultimately that’s going to make it onto the radar, the head of sale, particularly if you have a regular engagement with them. If you want to be open to also saying you’ve got an ambition to get into that CMO role, you may well find that, that head of sales will start to include you in other conversations that enable you to start to build and understanding of the knowledge, skills and experience you’ll need to acquire, and the success you need to demonstrate for that person to be able to recommend you into the CMO role when it comes up.

David: Clearly they’re not going to do anything that breaks a confidence or detracts from their responsibility to the existing role holder it doesn’t mean they can’t help you in pursuing your career goals. So if your line manager is not the type of person that’s going to help you, don’t panic is the first thing because there are many other people who can help support and guide you, whether it’s your friends, your family, supplier relationships that you have really good longstanding relationships with where you’ve got good levels of people that you’ve got confidence with so you can have an open conversation with whether it’s someone inside the organisation or outside the organisation there are always people to talk to.

Fiona Jensen: Good, really good advice I think. When you’re imagining the role, most B2B marketers can be quite general earlier on in their career, but then others do start to specialise. What’s your advice around specialist or generalist? What do you think is good, bad, or …

Is it better to be a generalist or specialist B2B marketer?

David: In the end it comes back to what are your career ambitions? If you want to be considered subject matter expert in a particular topic, then at some point you’re going to need to make decision to specialise in that topic. But if you want to get into more leadership style activities, my advice is generally to broaden your experience as much as possible. If you’re starting out on your career, so for those starting out and they’re perhaps leaving university or joining apprenticeship schemes or just joining a new organisation, I would strongly encourage people to get as broad an experience as possible before thinking about, “Do I generalise or do I specialise?” But if you’ve got a plan that says, “This is where I want to be in the next three to five years time.” And that role is a specialist role, you need to make decision quickly to start building the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to put you in that specialist role.

David: If you’ve got a more leadership style ambition in mind, build the general level knowledge. Is there a right or wrong? Not really. It depends entirely on your career ambitions. But the one thing to think about though is that if you find you’re developing into the specialist arena and you want to make the change into leadership style roles there is a possibility that you will have been pigeonholed into that specialist area at some point by the people who are making decisions about who’s going to get those leadership roles in future. So think about your plan very, very carefully, go back and reassess your plan on a regular basis to decide whether the specialist route is still for you or whether you’ve suddenly decided you want to flip and go in a different direction. And if you decide you want to flip and go in a different, make the necessary changes so that you don’t become pigeonholed.

David: Because I’ve seen individuals in organisations I’ve worked with and worked for become very, very highly valuable and therefore they’ve got quite a lot of security around them if you like job security around them because they are the subject matter expert. But I’ve also seen some of those people really want to change into broader leadership roles. And they found that very, very difficult because they have been so specialist and they’re competing against people who have got much more broader knowledge, skills, experience on management experience. And it’s very, very difficult to be successful in that environment.

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, absolutely. I think I’ve spoken to people who are very successful individual contributors, but who are finding it very challenging to move into more generalist leadership roles because for exactly what you say, they don’t tickle the skill sets and experience required or necessary, and there’s quite a lot of competition for that. But so I always say, talk to people who are very passionate about their subject matter and can talk about it all day, every day and they’re in totally the right job for them.

David: I think these organisations need all those people genuinely. So not everybody’s career ambition is going to be, to be a leader and not everybody’s strengths lend themselves toward being a leader. You need a broad range of people to fill different roles in different organisations. So all of these skills are needed, all these positions need to be filled. But on an individual basis, the plan will help you avoid a situation where you become pigeonholed in one space and you find it difficult to go into another.

A 90 day plan for your new B2B marketing job

Fiona Jensen: What happens when you start a new role? What tips or things do you do when you’ve got a new role to ensure success? Because that’s half, that’s the other half really that we’re not talking about is how do you succeed once you’ve got these roles?

David: If you’ve done your planning well, you’ll already have an idea of what is going to be required to make you successful in that role before you get the job. And the chances are you’ll have already had the opportunity to experience some of the responsibilities. So if you’ve had a good conversation with your line manager, for example, and it’s your line manager’s job you’re going to go after at some point when you find yourself in the position of competing for that role, hopefully you’ll have had a conversation with your line manager where they’ve delegated some of their responsibilities to you at some point in the past, when they were on holiday, when they were at business for a day or some of the responsibilities where they’re not so critical to the success of that person that they can hand them off to you. So these could be things like sitting in a business review for them, any number of things ready, but how have that conversation with that person.

David: If you built an understanding and you’ve got some experience of what are the key responsibilities in the role, now you’re trying to think, “Right now I’m going to leave it, what do I do?” The first thing to do is make a mental separation from your previous role. You’ve got to make the mental stop to say that, “I’m no longer delivering that role now, I’m now going to deliver a new role.” And it might be closely linked to the one that you had before, but it could easily be in a different organisation, or it could be a step up the management ladder, et cetera. So you have to make a mental break from the old role into the new one. And the reason you have to do that is because what made you successful in your previous role may not be the same things that make you successful in your new role.

David: And there’s a 90 Day Planning book that’s a really good book to read that will guide you through this in more detail. But what it talks about is the value of holistic planning, about how you’re going to enter the first 90 days of a new role. And what it talks about is making the mental break from your previous position, making the mental break to prepare for the new position. And then to taking a structured plan of learning in order to understand what do I need to learn to make myself successful in this job? What are the key goals and objectives I need to put in place to make myself successful in this job? What are the key relationships I need to have in order to make me successful? And what are those people’s priorities? So you’ve got to spend a lot of time investing in your learning agenda.

David: So what do I need to learn now in the first 90 days to be successful? Building relationships with all your stakeholders, those people who you’re now responsible to, clearly understanding what it is they need from you, what value you’re going to add to them, and what value they’re going to want to you. And having a very structured plan that you’re able to share with them and with your line management at some point that says, “Over the period of the next 90 days, we’re going to look at, what do I need to have learned by 90 days? Therefore, what do I need to have done by 60? What do I need to have done by 30?” And break that down into weeks. And you can now look at what meetings do I need to have? Who do I need to see? Where do I need to be? What am I going to talk about? And draw all that back together into a plan that you then execute and monitor in conjunction with those stakeholders and with that line manager.

David: So that you’ve got clear buy-in from your stakeholders, and your front in line manager that you’re going to execute against that plan, that you’re focused on the right priorities, focused on achieving the right goals, and then you’re now consistently measuring yourself around how close you are to staying on that plan, achieving that plan over the next 90 days. But the key is, have a good 90-day plan.

Fiona Jensen: So with all of this career planning, et cetera, as we know, things change, life happens as we go. If you end up in a job and it’s not what you expected, what advice have you got for people in that situation?

David: So the first thing is that happened, it does happen, but is it avoidable? So in the majority of cases its avoidable if you’ve done your planning effectively. Because if you’ve been honest with yourself and you’ve said, “This is what, this is how I visualise my career goals, my career ambition and said these are the types of positions or companies or circumstances I want to be in.” What you’ve been aiming for then is to get yourself through the steps necessary to compete for that role and hopefully get that role at the end before you restart the whole plan again. Sometimes you may find yourself in a position where you made a mistake and you went for a role because you thought it was one thing and it turned out to be another. And the thing to do at that point is to come back to your plan. Come back to your plan to go through the process again and understand what is it that’s wrong with that role and then you can figure out whether that’s something you can fix within the role.

David: So can you turn it around and make it into a good move or do you need to change role? But you should never do that without coming back to your plan first. Because if you made a mistake, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your plan was wrong, so you don’t just wipe the whole thing blank and start again. Planning is flexible like days, but it’s never a fixed plan, its always meant to be flexible. It’s always meant to be something that you can shake because your aspirations may change over the years as your circumstances change. If you’re, let’s say you start this process off as a younger person, as you get into having a relationship, perhaps get into building a family, those circumstances might change if you haven’t allowed for those in your current plan and they will mean you need to go back and revisit that plan, shift it a little bit.

David: And that might because you want to drive more income or you want to drive a better home work balance where you want to travel less for example. So the plan is always flexible but come back to the plan, understand what it is that is not working about that role, figure out whether those things can be fixed within that role. And again, it’s a conversation with your line manager, have that open conversation with them because they’ll often be able to help you. And if in the end you come to the decision that it’s not fixable, then you need to plop the positions in your plan again that you now need to be trying to move to and take the steps necessary to move to the role that gets you back on target to achieve your career ambitions. Hopefully that’s going to be within your organisation that you’re in, but it could easily be in a different organisation as well.

Bigger company versus smaller company, what’s best?

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, really good. I suppose just another question that occurred was what do you think is more important with regards to careers? Is it getting to the next level for an okay company or working for an awesome company, but maybe a similar level? What would you say is better scenario?

David: But you could use both routes to get to your career, to achieve your career ambitions. Again, it comes back to the plan of saying, “If this is my career ambition in the next five to 10 years.” Let’s say for example, what you’re looking for are the knowledge, the skills, the experience, the people in the roles that are going to get you there the quickest. And so you’ll be able to make your decision about whether one of those steps is with an okay company or a superstar company. But you get different things from different organisations. So what on the outside looks like a superstar company sometimes, and you could argue that these tend to be for the majority of people, the big in the technology space, the big technology companies, you can also find that unless you’re in a global capacity there, some of the more local roles have very little autonomy about them.

David: And so if you’re trying to build knowledge, skills and experience in an organisation, when you’re in the earlier stages of things, you’re probably looking for high levels of autonomy, the opportunity to get as broad an experience as possible. And so you can often get that through less superstar organisations if that’s the right way to describe them and build towards getting into a role that you’re in that’s in one of those big target organisations that you want to work for. But the reality is people work for all top, all sorts of organisations all over the globe. And some people want to work for big corporates, some people want to work for mid-sized organisations, some people want to work in the startup world. It all depends on where do you want your plan to take you? What circumstances do you want to find yourselves in or stuff under the different paths along your plan.

David: And then you figure out where you’re going to be able to achieve that quickest. And that may take you into an okay company, it may take you into a superstar company, it could take you any other places, but your plan will help you decide, which is the better one. And it’s all about what gets me there closer to that plan the quickest? Which ones distract me or take me away from achieving that goal.

Fiona Jensen: Brilliant. Well, that’s been a fascinating and inspiring conversation around career planning and development. Thank you so much for sharing your skills and experience with us, much appreciated.

David: Thank you for the opportunity. [inaudible 00:52:53].

Fiona Jensen: So there you have it, career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then please leave us a review in iTunes. We’d love to hear your feedback.