Bias and race

I’ve been following the online conversations about race (particularly in the US) via AJ+ on facebook. This morning I saw this video shared by AJ+ about a white guy opening up about his prejudice and asking for advice on how to get over it.

Now the other day I was going through the train station and saw this ad from Calvin Klein;

calvin klein ad, group of mostly black guys all in demin

It was placed slightly above my eye level it almost felt like they were looking down at me and I actually felt a little intimidated/scared by this group of people. I know Calvin is trying to make their products seem cool but this was the first time I was consciously aware of a group of black people making me feel intimidated.

This realization surprised me, I often have a curiosity for other people and love hearing their stories. Sometimes I make up my own stories about them in my head. When was the last time you became aware of your own prejudice? What did you do to counter it?

Growth of the value adding marketer

I’m pretty new to the marketing industry, whenever I start a new job I do a full on deep dive into the industry. This helps me understand what matters to our users and helps me advocate for quality products on their behalf. I’ve recently started a new job in an email marketing company called Campaign Monitor as a Quality Coach. Before starting this job I knew nothing about marketing. I feel like I’ve gotten myself up to speed now. One thing I’ve noticed that is growing in marketing is people talking about value adding marketing.

Now fundamentally marketing is about selling more product, it’s just part of the capitalistic world we live in. However the decent marketers are talking about value adding, they might not be calling it that but it’s amazing how well “being a decent person” can be for marketing.

Unfortunately Marketers and Sales People have a bit of a reputation for being a bit “fake”, non genuine and money oriented. I guess you kind of have to be inclined that way to survive in this industry. Good marketers seem to be focusing on keeping leads warm, generating content that connects with users and monitoring engagement. If a lead is showing potential it might be a good time to call. There are a lot of tools out there that help support this, especially around the monitoring/measuring.

My future predictor for marketing; in light of the data breach with facebook and Cambridge Analytics (article) I think ethics in marketing is going to be a big conversation soon. In stead of “how can I monitor engagement around X campaign”, I think marketers should be asking themselves “should I monitor this?”.

To anyone who is thinking about big data in their marketing, have a read of “weapons of math destruction, how big data increases inequality“.

Marketing seems to be an industry full of lots of change but I think the marketers who continue to add value will be the ones who continue to survive. The tools will change but the goal will remain the same.

Feed a Starving Crowd – marketing training overview

Last week on Friday I attended a 1 day workshop run by Robert Coorey author of Feed a Starving Crowd. Rob’s book is full of marketing tactics, 147 of them require no advertising budget. This course was run by Zambesi; a learning platform targeting entrepreneurs learning from people with skin in the game. Each workshop is limited to 12 people and you learn just as much from the group discussions as you do from the instructor. I quite enjoy this learning style. This blog post is an overview of my key take aways from this course. I attended this course with some interesting people who had some cool business ideas.

Why did I want to attend this course?

Since I’ve started working at Campaign Monitor, I feel like I haven’t learnt much about marketing. I’m meant to be working in email marketing but I don’t understand the people I am helping build products for. What makes a marketers mind tick? What language do they use? What are their biggest challenges? I wanted to learn about marketing to help me build up user empathy, how can I advocate on behalf of quality if I don’t know what is a quality product in the eyes of the people who matter? I want to learn about marketing tactics and put those learnings into practice by using my personal brand as an experiment bed for it.

Who is your ideal client?

After some introductions; the first exercise was “Who is your ideal client?”. As this was early on in the day I was thinking from a Campaign Monitor point of view and I came up with Gertrude; she works as a travel agent, mostly helping Australian retirees book cruise ship holidays. She’ll often email her clients with updates about upcoming cruises, travel tips and special offers. It’s a small company of a dozen people and she wears a lot of different hats. Sales, marketing and travel agent. She’s approaching retirement age herself which gives her good empathy with her clients. She lives on the Gold Coast, she’s on Facebook to keep in touch with her family, she enjoys watching my kitchen rules on the evening.

What are their pain points?

The next exercise involved brain storming their pain points. We often came back to the pain points when it came to generating content ideas later. One way to brainstorm pain points was to look at all of the 3 star reviews about books your target audience would read on Amazon. As the day progressed I started thinking about these exercises from a software testing consultant point of view and how I could sell my services. I’ve done this activity from a software testing point of view and have discovered that a lot of the good content feels a little dated and people feel like it hasn’t been adapted for more agile practices. So publishing content around software testing in Agile practices seems to be an unfulfilled market segment and an area worth experimenting more in.

Industry Leadership

Being seen as a industry leader is a good thing. My involvement with tech conferences and meetup events is a good starting point in growing this perception. There’s a lot more work I can do from this point of view and I’m excited to grow in this area.

Building a sales funnel

There was a large section on building the sales funnel with a focus on paid advertising vs free advertising and using quality content in your advertising. E.G. coming up with a quiz to generate leads (for software testing I could generate a quiz like; what type of tester are you? How mature is your agile testing approach?). You then follow up with quiz participants with some email content e.g. if some took the agile testing quiz maybe send them an email on agile testing and best practices, you can then retarget this audience with facebook/linkedIn advertising. Basically people need to see your brand at least 7-10 times before it becomes memorable. Rob also went over how to structure a sales team based on the most common model used in silicone valley.

Conclusion

Email marketing is still a useful tool for anyone working in Sales/Marketing but businesses should diversify their tactics. I was able to get a good basic understanding of sales/marketing and the main idea out there is people should combine paid and unpaid advertising tactics in creative ways to get the best of both worlds. My commitment out of this training is; putting aside 10 minutes of my time a week to do LinkedIn networking with purpose. I will have a process for engaging people on social media around my personal brand. I have a few other ideas for growing my engagement that I’d like to test out too and I’ll keep you posted on how they go.

goal setting for 2018

I’m generally not one to set new year resolutions but it’s a time of year for reflection. At the beginning of this year I set myself 3 main goals;

  1. Beat obesity (have a BMI of less than 30)
  2. Cut my credit card debt in half
  3. Maintain an average daily step count of above 10,000 for the year

I realistically only achieved the first one which I managed to do by June. I made progress towards the other two but I didn’t fully achieve them. As a career goal later on in the year I told myself that I wanted to speak at 1 international conference and I got to 2 which I’m happy with achieving. For 2018 maintaining a healthy lifestyle and looking after my debt should remain my focuses. Recovering from a broken ankle is going to introduce it’s own challenges. So I need to come up with ways to make these measurable.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle; failure here for me would be falling back into an obese category so at least that will be easy to measure and monitor for when I might be coming off track. Success is pretty flexible though. I would like to get back into weight training and I’ll need to experiment with finding exercise that works for me while I recover. Maybe my goal should be to find a new exercise activity and stick to it for 3 months?

Managing my debt; I’m already managing this a lot better than I have been historically and even if I do nothing progress will be made. I think the goal I’ll give myself is; make an extra payment towards my debt for 10 out of 12 months. I have automatic payments that cover my minimum contributions but I’d like to make extra payments to get this debt paid off quicker. I won’t completely clear out my debt in 2018, that’s too unrealistic of a goal but making extra contributions is achievable. Maybe reducing my debt by half.

Should I set any career goals? I’ve already been invited to speak at 1 international conference and I don’t want to overload myself with too much travel this year. How about community goals? How do I want my involvement with Sydney Testers to grow/develop? How about mental health goals? Maybe actually finish an online tutorial or read a particular technical book? I was thinking of starting a masters in Data Science but probably not for 2018, my recovery from a broken ankle and maintaining my health are more important for now. There’s also an interesting TED post on creative New Year resolutions which is good for inspiration. How do you make your goals measurable and accountable?

Cheats ricotta/paneer

You can make fresh ricotta* (or paneer) cheese from powdered milk. It’s pretty amazing and very easy. You can have fresh cheese in 5 minutes.

You will need:

Milk powder

Boiling water

Acid (up to a few tablespoons depending on strength) (e.g. citric acid, lemon juice, vinegar)

Cheese cloth/fabric cloth for straining cheese (I reckon a blue chux cloth would also work)

Optional:

Food thermometer

Use a 1:2 ratio of milk powder to boiling water. Boiling water helps quicken the process. E.g. if a recipe calls for 5 cups of milk to make Chena for a rasgulla recipe, I used 2 and 1/2 cups of powdered milk to 5 cups of boiling water. I also used 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid dissolved in 2 tablespoons of boiling water for this recipe.

Combine water and milk powder on a stove top set to medium heat. If it’s a little lumpy that’s ok, the stirring in the next step should help smooth it out.

stir the mixture until it gets to 95 degrees Celsius, or until it’s just boiling if you don’t have a thermometer

Add the acid

Stir and watch the milk seperate into curds and whey, you are now just like little miss Muffet

Poor mixture into your cloth over a bowl/container

Squeeze the cloth to get out extra fluid (this will be hot, be careful. You can cool it down by running it under cold water)

Optional: let it hang for 30 minutes

Voilà, you now have cheese and it took about 5 minutes to make.

*Technically it’s not ricotta as ricotta means twice cooked and it’s actually made from the left over whey from making other cheeses but I won’t tell if you don’t.

If the thought of making cheese is still a little daunting, I actually started with a mad Millie italian cheese making kit. This kit comes with all you need to start making cheese in your own kitchen, the ricotta/Mascarpone recipes are pretty similar. One uses milk and the other uses cream and Mascarpone takes a little longer to seperate.

You can reuse the left over whey as well, I usually don’t but a quick Google search will turn up many results from beauty therapy to gardening.