We'd like to present this story from Career Contessa, an online platform guiding career-driven women to success. The site features stories from business-savvy and entrepreneurial-minded women who recount how they got their big breaks. Read Asha's story below and get the scoop on how she found her calling at Porch.com!
Asha Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer for Porch.com, undeniably is a ball of energy, drive, and hunger. Despite a self-professed and still-lingering indecision over what she wants to do when she "grows up," our team here at Career Contessa can't help but think that she's found her calling with Porch.com.
For those of you new to the site, it's a free home improvement network that connects homeowners and renters with home service professionals. As for how Asha came into the picture, she has been with the company from the start when it operated out of the CEO's basement, to its present day 17,000-square-foot office.
As CMO, Asha continues to add fuel to the fire by constantly recruiting new talent. "It's one of the most rewarding things I get to do," she said. And today, Asha dishes even more on what goes on behind-the-scenes of a now successful once start-up. "It's about getting your hands dirty, finding your freak flag and letting it rise!" And trust us, with a schedule and drive like Asha's, that flag isn't coming down anytime soon! Read the full story below.
Her Starting Point
Many people find the transition between college and 'real life' a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job post-college?
It's terrifying! My first job post-college was my own venture — a 501 (c)3 that I raised over $1 million to fund. At that point, I had accrued about six years of experience in the 'business' work force, so it wasn't jarring. But what was jarring was the idea of no societally imposed timelines. I was so used to the education system creating arbitrary timelines for my life. When I stepped out of college, it was liberating yet frightful to live presently, with no x-year plan. Despite my best efforts, I realized I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I still don't.
When did your passion for marketing first begin, and what first steps did you take in order to establish yourself as a pro?
At age 17, when I had the opportunity to get an education from the best marketing school you can find — consumer packaged goods company, SC Johnson & Son. In a world of commodities, marketing (pricing, R&D, brand, promotions) is your differentiation. I had the opportunity to work in several different marketing rotations for three years as part of an initiative of then-executive, William Perez, who went on to become the CEO of Wrigley and Nike.
Can you tell us about the most beneficial class you ever took? Are there any you wish you had taken? Any you wish you hadn't?
Hands down, the Consulting Enterprise Program at the Carlson School of Management. You have to apply to get in, and since it was an MBA class, there were only a few spots for undergraduates like myself. Our instructor, Phil Miller, has been one of the best mentors I've ever had.
What do you love most about working at Porch? What is the company culture like?
I work — a lot — by choice, because it gives me energy and it's such a privilege. I love spending every minute of my productive week solving real pain felt by real people that we can pervasively solve with the smartest colleagues I've ever encountered.
Her Big Break
How do you stay organized? What tools/resources do you utilize (i.e. iPhone, apps, etc.)? What skills are essential to do your job well?
Everyone has good ideas, but not everyone can execute them. I have no option but to get things done! So I'm a list person — I use Todoist hourly.
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like?
I wake up at 4:45 a.m. or, if I'm lucky enough to catch a few extra zzz's, I make it 5:30 a.m. First thing I do religiously is check on my phone for daily dashboard, catch up on quick industry reading, and tee up key preps for my meetings/emails.
Coffee is a necessary evil that makes it in to an office arrival ritual. In the early days of Porch, there were a few of us crammed into our CEO's basement and it was bring-your-own coffee. Ten months later, we're 140 people in a 17,000-square-foot office space, and we made the big step of purchasing a coffee machine — my favorite office luxury and first stop of the day! From there I do fly bys. My team is growing daily and it's important that I hear what's going on firsthand and know everyone personally.
Then I start my day — inclusive of design reviews, executive meetings, writing blog posts, launching split tests, building models, finding more office space, doing a PR interview, lunch with a mentee, determining resources for scale, customer meetings, and sometimes even cold calling! Porch has a culture of 'dirty hand' so it's important for me to make time to be in the trenches with my team so that I can push the pace, bring informed learnings, and be empathetic to the hard work it takes to do their job.
One of the most rewarding things I get to do is recruit talent. Porch is growing like crazy, so every Friday I'm stacked with interviews from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a break only for our all staff — Around the Porch — where we gather weekly to share priorities, shout outs, and challenges.
Depending on the day, I head out of the office between 6:00 p.m. and the wee hours of the morning. While en route to my evening, I text my little sister — she's 12, and lives in Chicago. Our conversation centers on school, Taylor Swift, and my three other siblings. On the early nights, I head to meet up with friends at my favorite whisky bar or meet really incredible mentors and industry leaders over a winding dinner and a bottle of Pinot Noir.
I end my day with Porch every day, being responsive to team members and setting the pace for tomorrow.
How do you manage to stay current in your ever-changing industry?
It's certainly hard. Right now, Porch is in an interesting phase where we are continually testing everything. This combined with reading and meetings with industry experts helps me stay ahead of the curve. We can always do better though!
Being in charge of a team of people can be hard. What are your tips for managing others and interacting while still maintaining a leadership role?
Get your hands dirty. Understand your business, set appropriate priorities and aggressive (yet achievable goals), and solve the tough problems together.
Be data-driven and decisive. Business is emotional — it's what my team spends the majority of their lives on, apart from their family and friends — so when a decision needs to get made, it's your job to be decisive and clear on next steps and the best way to do that is with data.
Build a great team. Find the right mix of generalists and specialists and don't be afraid to boot out the jerks. Hiring and firing is perhaps the most critical job of a leader.
Be clear on roles and responsibilities. This is something that's hard for start-ups in particular since you're so focused on moving fast and breaking things. But it's so critical to scale. Be clear on what success is and what each person is, including you. Understand and set the right expectations for yourself.
Keep it real. Be honest and authentic with feedback, wins, disappointments, and when you don't know the answer. This will breed a transparent culture that avoids dysfunction.
Have fun! Those who play together, stay together. Get out of the office, build trust, rapport, but keep it professional.
What skills are essential to working as a marketing officer? Do you think having an industry niche is important?
Gosh, great question. Chief Marketing Officer means something different at every company. For Porch, my role spans marketing, brand communications, growth, sales, and customer delight.
Regardless of company, there are a few things that come to mind that make a great CMO. First, you have to be obsessed with the customer. They are your center of truth, whether it's for driving organic growth, retention, or customer service — creating the right type of experiences that truly delight customers will always win.
Next, you have to be data-driven. More and more CMO's are owning the P&L's, which means budget allocation across channels, technology investments, and actual operational execution. Data is the objective truth for how to make decisions not just for the short-term but decisions that scale whether it's for out of home marketing, PR, or online marketing.
Third, you need to have a creative appetite to invest in big bets. In a world of noise, you have to think smart and think big. And think outside the octagon.
Lastly, great CMO's need to be able to build great teams. It's your goal to find arbitrage and, by nature, that means you can scale your team around this. Therefore recruiting and retaining great talent is key to the company's success!
Translating passion into a career is tough. What advice would you give to women trying to figure this out?
In my experience, I've rarely found that people don't enjoy the things they are great at. So, embrace your superpower and let your freak flag fly high.
If you could pin your success down to one thing or one moment, what would that be?
I'm the luckiest CMO in the world — truly! Luck is preparation meets opportunity. I spend every day trying to be the best in the world at my superpower, relentlessly willing it into existence and have made myself available to every opportunity I can by meeting everyone I can and following my gut.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What's next for your career?
I wake up every day and run up the stairs to Porch, literally! I look forward to the generation to come — of ideas, of products, of breakthroughs, of people, of our customers. Next for my career? Porch could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm all in.
Source: Jasmine Pulley