Courtney Cunnane may have fallen into demand generation by accident, but staying in the field for the past eight years of her career was anything but. Cunnane began in B2B marketing for technology companies like Exchange Solutions and Allurent, then began to stretch her role for nearly 10 years at Experian.
While Cunnane was a marketing programs director for Experian’s data quality software division, she focused heavily on using marketing as a driver of growth, particularly through generating leads. Without intending to make it her specialty, Cunnane was becoming an expert in demand generation.
“The longer I did it, the more I really liked that area of marketing,” said Cunnane, now the Vice President of Demand Generation at SmartBear. “I love figuring out who is our target audience and why they need our product. What problems do they have? How can we help?”
Cunnane had previously spent a few years at each of her employers, so remaining at Experian for almost a decade came as a surprise. When she was ready to embark on the next phase of her career, she knew she wanted to continue in demand generation and work at a company that still had plenty of room to grow. She found the perfect role at SmartBear, where she leads a team of 20, including six current open roles.
The demand generation team pursues the same questions Cunnane did at Experian: Who needs what we have, and how can we make sure they know we have it? They work to increase awareness of SmartBear’s software testing, developing, and monitoring tools using feedback from sales and marketing teams to determine how well strategies are working and how new potential customers can be reached each day.
Rather than go back to the drawing board and create an entire demand generation department, Cunnane counted herself lucky that SmartBear had a massive level of engagement with its target market when she joined five months ago. The awareness was there, and it became Cunnane’s job to go through leads with a fine-tooth comb to find the highest quality picks and generate more.
“There’s enough to build on that you’re not completely starting from scratch, but there’s a lot of work to do in terms of developing the processes and strategies that will help us get from where we are today to be the massive organization we want to be,” Cunnane said.
Cunnane is supporting this growth by helping implement systems that will allow SmartBear to replicate processes on a larger scale as efficiently as possible. She’s also structuring her team differently, giving each person a more specific role and hiring for brand new positions when necessary. This level of detail helps create a high-performing, motivated, and engaged team in which each member can take ownership of clear goals.
“I want to be in a position where I feel really proud of having built a team that understands how each person contributes to the overall results and feels really good about the impact we have on the business,” Cunnane said.
Quick (Q)uestions and A(dvice)
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I have two little guys at home, a four-year-old and a one-year-old, in addition to a pretty busy job here. I don’t get free time as often as I used to, but I do like being outside, so I’m usually at the beach with my boys, letting them run around.
How do you manage stress?
For me, it’s mostly about maintaining perspective. It definitely helps to remember what really is important at the end of the day in terms of both how you’re thinking of your own accomplishments and also in terms of the company and the results that we’re looking for. I try to take a step back and remind myself that we can’t necessarily make everything perfect all at once, and we really need to have perspective about what we need to do and when we can do it. It’s about balancing, having strong expectations of myself and my team but also giving us all a break if things don’t go as planned.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Only one, but a pretty strong one -- I usually have a double cappuccino first thing in the morning.
What’s one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
Castle Island is one of my favorites. I spent seven years living in South Boston, and for me, Castle Island is always an awesome spot. You can walk half a mile from where you are in the city and be surrounded by water. I like being out there in the evenings or on the weekend when there are lots of people out and about. It’s pretty easy to get to and very unique in the city.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
I’m really proud of the fact that over my career, I've been able to stretch in a bunch of different directions and have had different responsibilities across different areas of marketing and product lines. I've even moved across different businesses and of course, have recently shifted into an entirely new space. I’ve spent a lot of time building up my marketing expertise and consider myself a marketing expert and can bring that over to other businesses and product lines, so that feels really good at this point.
I’m also proud of having helped people on my team develop their own careers in the direction they want. I’ve been able to help people identify where they want to get to, develop the plans that will get them there, and then be able to see them achieve those goals.
How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
I think 10 years ago, I would have said marketing is the area of the business that I like being in, so that feels pretty consistent. I think it’s different in terms of how I'm just starting something new. Earlier on in my career, I had been at a couple of different companies for two to three years and would not have predicted that I would have stayed at my last company for almost 10 years. Now I'm starting in a totally new space with a new company and building from there. I also didn’t expect to be doing this much advocating for my team and telling the story of what we do, because I'm someone who hated public speaking and getting up in front of crowds. Now I do that a lot, and it’s something I really enjoy because I feel strongly about the value of the work that the team does. That's something I don't think I would have predicted.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Try lots of different things, but spend time identifying the things that you like. I don't think that you have to have a path defined or need to be moving in any specific direction, but I think it's really important to take the time to consider, as you’re in a role, what feels good and what satisfies your professional goals. For me, I always liked when I got to focus on storytelling and getting a message out to an audience, especially when it was connected to marketing or sales. It’s important to give yourself a break and not expect that you have everything figured out all at once, but start to develop the list of things that are important to you both in a current role and then in the career path that you eventually decide on.
Images courtesy of Courtney Cunnane