Lead(H)er: Joanna Lin, Head of Marketing at Simon Data
“It’s so much more than that,” Lin said. “You’re looking at it all from A to Z and supporting everything in the business.”
While Lin admits it took some time for her to learn that lesson herself, she credits her curiosity and an outstanding mentor for her success in the field.
Lin began her career at Time, Inc. in subscription marketing, working on retention, acquisition, data modeling, and everything in between. She enjoyed the job and excelled in it, but the position eventually left her feeling burned out. Her next role brought her to public relations at interclick (later acquired by Yahoo), where she wrote press releases and created messaging strategy. Lin soon realized that she preferred other marketing work to PR, but wanted to stick with the technology-focused work she had been doing there.
That’s when her manager stepped in and became a mentor. With her guidance, Lin tried out roles in product marketing, brand marketing, demand gen, and marketing ops before landing at Simon Data.
“It was a combination of me being really curious and wanting to step into something I had never tried before, but also just her saying that that was okay,” Lin said. “She’d bring me on special projects so that I could learn, and I’m really lucky to have had a boss who really encouraged me to develop myself and my skills.”
Lin spent the next four years at various advertising tech companies and spent nearly three at Integral Ad Science, a global tech company providing ad verification solutions for brands.
The opportunity with Simon Data moved Lin away from advertising and into marketing tech. When Lin got the chance to interview for her current role there, she was immediately hooked. The technology they built was driving value not only in simply solving for unifying the insane amount of customer data that marketers have to deal with, but also let marketers act on that data to build exceptional customer experiences.
The company is in the midst of building out their brand with a special focus on a stronger marketing message to drive awareness, and Lin is looking forward to working with her team to make it happen. To her, working at a startup carries a level of personal involvement and investment that can’t be found in a larger company, creating a special kind of workplace.
“I love having the ability to understand everything about the organization and be a part of what the business is trying to accomplish every day,” Lin said. “Everyone is working so hard to get to the same place, because we know that we’re all building it together and have a part in it. At the end of the day, if we’re successful, it’s a group win.”
For many marketers with Lin’s experience, moving to a Chief Marketing Officer position is the natural next step. For Lin herself, though, that job holds little interest. Being part of the day-to-day operational team allows her to more fully use her skillset, and she plans to continue standing up marketing organizations in the years to come.
She also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of founding her own company someday.
“I do want to come up with something that I think would be useful to other people,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be out here building a billion-dollar business, but I do want to do something that has impact.”
Quick Q(uestions) & A(dvice)
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m probably unusual for a New Yorker because I live in Manhattan, and I have a backyard. I have a little dog, and I love puttering around my yard and doing gardening work. It's very soothing to be out in nature when you're in an office all day, so I'm always in the backyard doing something. It's not big, but there's enough greenery for me.
How do you typically manage stress?
I went through a lot of stressful periods in my life and kind of came out of them realizing that at the end of the day, no one died, and I’m not curing cancer. Everything can be handled. I definitely try to decompress and get away, because having that time to step away is often gives you a better perspective on a stressful situation.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Usually I'll have a cup not because I'm going to fall asleep otherwise, but just because I like the taste of coffee.
What’s one of your favorite places in the New York area?
This is a hard question! One of my favorites is Otto. It's a pizza and pasta place, but there's a large open bar in the front. It’s a great place to go on the weekends, have a plate of pasta and a glass of wine and maybe find a spot to read a book. The bartender, Dennis, is amazing—he's incredibly friendly. There's a lot of locals that go sit at the bar. I really like the vibe.
What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments so far?
I'm really proud of the fact that I've been through and supported three acquisitions in my career with start-ups and the sale amount has gotten progressively higher. I'm glad that's part of my story. There's not one single thing that I'd otherwise say is my biggest accomplishment. It's really the cumulative experience I've had.
On a more personal level, I went from being the person who didn't really know what I was doing, and now I'm really comfortable with myself. I finally grew up. Professionally, there are so many things that I’ve been excited and proud about, but I also feel really good about who I am today, and I’m really happy about that. That, to me, is a huge accomplishment.
Is this where you thought you’d end up 10 years ago?
I cannot even remember what I was like 10 years ago, honestly. I was probably young and stupid! When I look back at myself from 10 years ago, I think I just wanted to get through it. It had nothing to do with what career I wanted, it was just about getting through each period. I've actually kind of done what I wanted—I don't like to have regrets, and I don't think I have many. I'm happy with where I've ended up.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Talk to a lot of people. What one person tells you may not be the truth. The reality is that everyone has a different opinion or viewpoint about it, so it never hurts to get more ideas about what could work for you. Then, try a little bit of everything. Opportunity has to show itself to you, but if you have the ability to try a little bit of everything, you should. Take an internship that might be unpaid for a little bit just to get the experience. Shadow someone that has a job you may not know too much about. I worked at this company a couple of years ago where a high schooler asked if we had internships. She asked about what we did and said, “I don't know anything about that, can I come intern?” So she did, and that’s amazing to me, for a high schooler to do that. So I would just say, try. And don't always do what your parents tell you to do—figure out what you want.