Laura Gerendová: The only effective way to win over the right people is to be authentic
Laura has been a part of Sudolabs since it was founded in 2017. She has seen the company grow from a 10-member team to over 80 members... and it’s been quite a journey! In this blog we talk about the company's growth, the way she perceives marketing, and employer branding, but also things that motivate her and keep her going.
You have been a part of Sudolabs since it was founded in 2017, how did you join them in the first place?
During my university studies, I worked for multinational companies with typical corporate cultures and a 9 to 5 jobs. Generally, I didn’t find this environment to be very inspiring for me and I was open to new opportunities. Sudolabs was in its infancy when I first met Pavol and Jozef. Their passion for new technologies and constant drive to improve immediately brought me on board. In their eyes, it wasn't just a job; it was something exciting they enjoyed every day. At the beginning, they didn't have a position for me (it was a team of 10 people). But I was ready to do whatever they needed - sales, marketing, office management, events... you name it. That's how much I wanted to be a part of it and it paid off!
How did your marketing journey start?
Based on my previous work experience, I first started as a sales representative looking for new clients and networking opportunities. Just between us, I have never liked a sales job. In order for the company to grow, we needed to make sales at a much larger scale. We managed to hire an amazing head of sales Jozef Maruščák and other talented sales representatives. And so my time has come! As it has always fascinated me how different brands communicate.
Now there are more than 80 members at Sudolabs. How have the company and your life changed throughout the years?
It is growing so fast! Our thinking needs to be much more complex and strategic now than when only a few of us were part of the team. Yet, the company’s mindset, or culture per se, hasn’t changed at all. At least that's how I see it.
As the company grows, you need to be open to changes. Sure, processes, tools, and structures will change. Some may consider this a disadvantage, but I enjoy seeing our team grow. Now we have much more resources to do bigger and better things and we have a broader talent pool. More people mean more ideas and improvements. And more friends!
What is Sudolabs' marketing focused on?
While our marketing team engages in a variety of activities, employer branding is our primary focus - how to address our future team members and give them a sense of what it feels like to be a part of Sudolabs. And that we are cool! And that you should not hesitate to join! (laugh) But we don't stop there. We care about our internal culture and take part in creating an engaging work environment. We are responsible for internal events, team-building, Sudo Merch, office improvements, external events, and collaboration with local communities.
What was crucial for you when building a marketing team in Sudolabs?
(Finding easygoing talented hard-working people, so I can lay back and you know, just be a visionaire haha. Now seriously). I place mindset and a way of thinking above hard skills when hiring. Considering we are the voice of our organization, we must reflect our values 100%. And hard skills are much easier to learn than to change somebody’s mindset.
Just to mention a few major characteristics I look for - communication skills, as we need to hype others for our marketing efforts :D Eagerness to learn & improve, strategic thinking and the ability to see things from different angles.
How do you see and approach employer branding?
Be real and be humble - both outside and inside the company. As we all know, the IT market is really competitive when it comes to attracting qualified talents using all sorts of tactics. I strongly believe that transparency and authenticity are the only effective ways to win the right people for your company. The same applies to clients.
In many cases, we ask our internal people for feedback on our marketing ideas or outputs. We deeply care about their opinions. If they don't like our content, who else will? Another aspect of our approach is that we try to incorporate our team members into marketing efforts by involving them in videos, blog writing, interviews, content ideation, etc. People out there don't want to read empty words. They want to see the real faces of the company with whom they can relate.
And the result? It's not unusual that after a few months of cooperation our newcomers say we delivered what we promised. And we love hearing that!
What are your tips to ensure the effectiveness of your marketing team?
My philosophy is to always question what we do - team processes, priorities, as well as outcomes. How can we make it better? How will it benefit our audience? Review, outline improvements, implement, test... When it comes to team processes I try to get inspiration from our engineering lab. We have a board with epics and tasks that help us keep organized. We have weekly planning meetings and regular stand-ups for quick updates.
Monthly 1:1s help me to keep the team engaged and happy. 99% of problems can be solved. You just need to talk about them and actively work on solutions. What I try to embrace more is asynchronous communication. I believe that's the key to real productivity.
Speaking of tools, for scheduling content we use Kontentino. As we are not native speakers, another helpful tool we use regularly is Wordtune. I definitely have to mention Frame.io. This was a game changer for gathering feedback on videos.
Oh and don't forget “Creative people need time to be bored.” That's when the magic happens.
What things in marketing do you find the most annoying/exciting?
What annoys me? Meta, for obvious reasons. And explaining to people that marketing is much more than just posting pictures. And what excites me? Marketing as an industry has been changing over the years and there are new trends to follow, e.g. now video content is on the rise. I see a lot of opportunities for the Sudolabs marketing team in terms of content, ads, analytics, and communities. At Sudolabs, we have freedom in what we do so we can try new things without any limitations. When we receive positive feedback on a new video or when our blog post inspires someone to join our team, that is the ultimate reward. As long as I see what and how to improve, I am happy. Although, sometimes it is hard to balance it all out and I can get overwhelmed easily.
Where do you get inspiration? What would you advise people when they feel stuck?
I love start-up stories. Startups often come up with out-of-the-box ideas in many areas such as product, internal culture, hiring, people management, community building, tooling, technologies, and many others. Inspiration comes from everywhere; when I hear something, I immediately think of ways how to apply it to our work culture and marketing. I read newsletters such as Please Advise, Geekout with Matt Navara, Lenny's Newsletter, Growthnotes, and others. I also follow companies like Sudolabs, their marketing strategies as well as their internal culture. For example, STRV has a very stylish brand. Bold, sexy, I like them. Then for example Thoughbot. They do very similar things to Sudolabs and their website is full of quality content. For the video and overall vibe, it's Johny Harris, Gawx Art, and Dan Mace. I hope one day we will be as proficient as them, both in storytelling and production. Long way ahead, right?
Leading a marketing team can be challenging. Do you think you have a good work-life balance?
There are just 5 of us, it's not that difficult haha. First of all, I would like to thank Jozef and Pavol for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to lead a marketing team at Sudolabs. Despite having no previous marketing or managerial experience. There are times that are more challenging and tasks pile up. And there are times when you can come to work at 11 am, and just have fun with some silly brainstorming. Work-life balance can be off for a while, but it always gets back on track in the long run.
In general, work-life balance is mainly about boundaries, time management, priorities and the ability to say no when you already have a lot on your plate. Everyone's work-life balance is as good as they allow. I am also very grateful for the option to travel and work remotely. This helps a lot with maintaining a healthy balance in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
What is your guilty pleasure?
There is no guilt, just pleasure (laughs). Chocolate. I would live in a chocolate house if I could. Playstation and Stardew Valley. This is my stress relief remedy. There’s little geekiness in everyone isn't it?
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