July 11, 2018

Lead(H)er: Dana Córdova, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Janeiro Digital

How does an art history and graphic design major end up becoming a digital marketing pro? If you ask Dana Córdova, she’ll tell you her answer is calculated risks. Córdova, the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Janeiro Digital, has based her career on seeking out new experiences and working hard to make each one successful.

Dana Córdova, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Janeiro Digital

“Listen to yourself and watch for what lights you up,” Córdova said. “That’s what you should follow, and that’s what I did. Once I realized that marketing was what truly excited me, I orchestrated my pivot very carefully.”

Córdova’s favorite projects have been the ones in which she was able to help a company scale to the next level, and she’s scaled her career in the same manner.

After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Córdova began working at New American Paintings, a now-prestigious magazine that highlights promising, emerging artists for collectors. It was in startup mode at the time Córdova joined as the circulation manager, and she was responsible for both direct marketing and the layout of the magazine.

When Córdova’s boss caught wind of a new technique called “digital marketing” in the early 2000s, Córdova was asked to learn as much as possible about it. In the process, she realized that marketing might just be the perfect career choice for her.

“It really appealed to everything I’m good at,” she said. “It’s writing, it’s strategy, it’s understanding what makes people tick, and what makes people make the choices they make and interact with a brand.” Those factors, combined with the project-driven nature of the work, made staying in marketing an easy decision.

The pivot eventually took her to Hult International Business School (part of Education First) not as a student, but as the leader of its North American marketing department for the school’s one-year MBA, Masters, and Undergraduate programs. She was eventually promoted to director of both the North and Latin American markets.

Córdova says that her true education, aptly enough, happened while she worked for Hult.

“That was sort-of my MBA in acquisition marketing, lead nurturing, and sales enablement marketing,” Córdova said. “That’s where I really cut my teeth.”

After a few years at Startup Institute and several different startups themselves, Córdova landed at Janeiro Digital. About to accept a different job offer, she had heard from a friend that Janeiro was preparing to enter an exciting time that would perfectly match Córdova’s skills. Thanks to the launch of a proprietary development accelerator software, the company was about to scale up.

Dana hanging out at the Janeiro Digital holiday party.

“They were at this point where there was still an entrepreneurial spirit, but they had the resources where I knew I could do what needed to be done,” Córdova said.

She was able to build the company’s marketing department, from its website and analytics to its tech stack and marketing automation, from scratch–something she had done for three other companies before. “Now that the company has the infrastructure it needs to take it into the next five years of growth, we’re focused on building out the sales pipeline—it’s fun to see a project come to life and start driving real results, I thrive on that.” 

Despite feeling like an underdog for most of her career as a result of her education, Córdova said that the untraditional experience prepared her for the marketing and tech worlds more than she had realized. Writing art history papers honed her research and writing skills, which have in turn allowed her to create logical and effective marketing messages. Complementary to that, her background in design and digital media helped fuel her branding work and ability to communicate effectively with creative teams.

“It’s nice that I’m not helpless,” Córdova said “I can roll up my sleeves and fix something in Adobe if I have to! Although, I’m fortunate to work with people who are more talented than I in that arena now. I don’t think there’s a single aspect of my career that has not benefited from my art, design, writing, and research background.”

The mentoring she received from Diane Hessan, while working under her at Startup Institute, was another significant benefit to Córdova’s career.

“She was the first person that said, ‘You’re extraordinarily talented, and this is where you shine, and–tough love–this is where you don’t, so maybe don’t do that,’” Córdova said. “I think younger people often think they need to spend all their time fixing their weaknesses when they’d be better served becoming experts at things that come naturally to them.”

In the future, Córdova sees herself working on a bigger team that she can lead and help grow. “World domination? No,” she said. She isn’t particular about what role she’d like to hold in the next five years – Córdova wants to continue scaling her career, as she has done for so many businesses before.

Rapid Fire Questions

SC: What do you like to do in your free time?

DC: I like to go hiking with my dog.

SC: How do you manage stress?

DC: I meditate to an app on the train to work and back. I try to arrive at work with a clear head, and arrive home with as little baggage as possible.

SC: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

DC: Two in the morning, and then one matcha latte in the afternoon.

SC: What is your favorite spot in the Boston area?

DC: This might sound a little cliché, but I love a good stroll up Newbury Street.

SC: What is your greatest accomplishment, aside from family?

DC: My career, honestly. I made the decision long ago–and I’m not implying that these two things are mutually exclusive –I chose not to have children, and to put all of my energy in my career. I have many friends who have two, three kids who are managing it all and God bless them, but I knew that wasn’t for me. It has been my baby in many ways, and every single job I’ve had has been just another layer of education… But, I wouldn’t be giving myself enough credit if I didn’t say I worked really hard at it.  I have set some very difficult goals for myself and I’ve been ticking them off as I go.

SC: Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

DC: Not in a million years! I think gumption, hustle, and naivete made me think that I was always going to end up somewhere at this level, but I never really imagined what it would look like. If I told you I was going to end up in deep tech building out massive enterprise systems for Fortune 1000 companies, I never would have come up with that idea. But I have always been a person who imagined success for myself. At the risk of sounding too New Age-y, I think imagining the possibility is half of what gets you there.

SC: What is your advice for recent college graduates?

DC: I think my advice would be to worry less about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and more about just figuring out how you can become a linchpin for that company and how you can make yourself indispensable. Make yourself invaluable to your employers, and opportunity will find you. I always have younger people come to me asking, do you think I should take this role, do you think I should take that role, how do I find a mentor? I really do mean it when I say that those choices matter to a certain extent, but I believe becoming indispensable and working hard matters more.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

Images courtesy of Dana Cordova and Janeiro Digital