Lead(H)er - Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium
“Marketing is like a massive puzzle. Every single company is different, but you can use some of the same skills from one to the next. Even as you add to your marketing toolkit, you still have to learn the best way to put those skills - and your new ones - together. The best marketers never stop trying new and different things, and they never stop learning. That’s a pretty amazing way to spend your day.” Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium, explained.
Michelle has been in marketing for over a decade but it took her some time to figure out her career path. Growing up, she moved around quite a bit, attending three different high schools in four years. When it came time for college, she studied communication and criminal justice at UMass Amherst.
“UMass is a really great school. I met a number of lifelong friends and there was a lot of really great stuff that came out of there. However, I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college and I would honestly say I still didn’t know when I left,” Michelle smiled.
After graduating, Michelle moved in with her mom in upstate New York and got her first job at the Pepsi Arena as an assistant marketing manager.
“It was like TD Garden but in Albany, New York. It was a pretty cool job. Although it didn’t pay very well, I learned a ton and I had an amazing boss who I’m very grateful for. He taught me so many things about life, not just about work. To have a strong mentor like that coming right out of college is really important.”
While at Pepsi Arena, Michelle got her feet wet in marketing for the first time. She helped market events from Bruce Springsteen to minor league hockey, learning how to adapt her messaging and the channels used to reach different audiences.
With two years of experience under her belt, Michelle decided it was time for a move. Looking for a change and feeling landlocked in Albany, she started looking for new positions in Boston.
“I ended up working at the Boston Herald and stayed there for about two years in outbound sales—cold calling. It was a hard job. There weren’t computers and you had to write down your number of calls. I quickly realized that sales was not for me, but as a marketer, I recommend that other marketers get on the phones and dial for at least a year. It really thickened my skin and I now have an appreciation for how hard sales is. Being able to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone who’s never heard of you before is just a skill you never want to lose,” Michelle explained.
From there, Michelle took a development role at a nonprofit called Triangle where she marketed and fundraised for people with disabilities. Although she had a great experience during her year there, she ultimately knew she wanted to go back to the corporate world.
“I ultimately decided to leave Triangle and went into marketing at StrideRite. I worked as a brand marketing specialist there and really got to know the retail business. After about a year and a half, I heard about this little tiny company (at the time) called Constant Contact that was looking to hire marketers. I ended up taking a position there and had my longest stint of about seven years. While there, I built out my marketing “know-how” and operational experience throughout the entire funnel. Being part of such a strong marketing team and a well-run company fueled my curiosity, and I discovered my passion for growth stage tech companies.”
After almost a decade at Constant Contact, Michelle decided it was time to pick her head up and figure out what was next. In order to figure out her next move, she decided to take a break from work and spend some time meeting new people in the Boston area.
“I told my husband that I was going to leave my job and I didn’t have another one lined up. It was totally crazy but I needed to figure out who I wanted to be when I grew up! I ended up setting a goal to meet five people I didn’t know every single week. Sometimes those coffee conversations with complete strangers can be some of the hardest things to do, but each meeting was worth it. I learned about different roles, different size and scale companies, and really had a chance to see what Boston was becoming. There are amazing people in the Boston scene - we’re a top player when it comes to tech and talent, that can’t be underrated.”
Once she felt she’d had enough time to herself, Michelle had a brief stint as the Chief Marketing Officer at Happier but ended up accepting the VP of Marketing position at Salsify several months later.
“Salsify was really my first take at being the head of marketing and having the chance to build and grow a marketing function within an organization. I was excited to partner with the founders and help build the company through early growth. I’m so proud of my time there and what the company is doing today.”
Michelle ran Salsify’s marketing for about two and a half years and then made the decision to move to Buildium.
“I made the decision to leave for Buildium - the opportunity was one I couldn’t turn down, and the chance to work with some of the CTCT mafia again was just too irresistible But every time Salsify gets a win, I’m the person cheering the loudest from the sidelines. They’re a solid company and I had the chance to learn from really great people. Ultimately I landed here at Buildium because I’m a data driven person and like working in small business markets. It’s so rewarding to offer products and services to people who are really trying to support their passion, similar to the market I served at Constant Contact.”
Michelle explained that although no two days are the same at Buildium, her number one focus is building and supporting the marketing team. She also works every day to make sure the marketing organization is tied in as close as possible to the customer and they’re always providing value.
“We’re a mission driven company. We believe in doing business in the way business should be done and that’s true throughout everything that we do. Buildium has the solid foundation of a company that’s been in operation for over a decade, but is innovating and building like a startup. It’s a pretty unique situation - really smart people, fun and complicated problems to solve. We’re also hiring like crazy.”
Rapid Fire Questions:
BS: How do you manage stress?
MB: For me, managing stress is about getting to the core of what the stress is all about. It’s making sure I take the time to take a breath, work through it, and have some alone time to figure out how I can best react to drive to the outcome I think we need. What can I do to solve it? I’m action oriented, I want to find the solution. And if it's something I can’t change, I figure out how to put it in a space where I can manage it appropriately, but not let it take over. It’s about being real with myself, honestly.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
MB: If you couldn’t tell, about 7,000! I have about five... I cut off at three o’clock though.
BS: What do you like to do in your free time?
MB: I have a six year old son so I don’t have a ton of free time. My favorite thing to do is really anything with him -most recently I’m learning how to play Minecraft. He’s obsessed and I can’t figure out to win, but it’s still fun!
BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?
MB: I love going down to the Seaport. There’s this bridge where they sometimes have art hanging and it’s the most beautiful walk. There is such good energy over there, it’s just this addictive vibe.
BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment other than your family?
MB: I’m really proud of the team we have at Buildium. I’m proud of the teams and what they’re able to accomplish. That feels like I’m taking credit for it but I’m not, it’s just amazing to see what people are capable of when they have the space to do stuff.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
MB: Oh god no. Ten years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I don’t know if it was ten years ago or eight years ago but I had set my sights and said I wanted to be a CEO of a company. I don’t know what’s to come but I still aspire to be a small business owner. I love technology and community. I think it would be something to own a small, local business. A place that creates a safe environment for people to relax, get to know each other. I don’t know what that will end up being, but if I do it right, that would be the result.
BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
MB: Don’t worry as much about title, focus on what you can learn. Take that through your entire career, not just the first role but through everything single thing you do. Focus on what you can learn. I don’t think you’ll regret anything if you can look back and can define what you’ve learned and taken with you on your next adventure.