Michaela Zubárová: Building community in San Francisco's startup ecosystem
Miška's recent shift from Social Media Manager to Growth marketing led her to San Francisco, where she supports Sudolabs' sales team. In this month's Meet the Team blog post we dive into her current agenda, her latest projects aimed at building a thriving startup community, and also the hurdles she's had to overcome in her new role.
How did you become a part of Sudolabs' team?
You know how life can be unpredictable? Well, that's exactly how I ended up joining Sudolabs. I had been living in Copenhagen for four years, and while I loved it, I knew it was time to head back home to Slovakia for a while before exploring other countries or settling down somewhere else.
I knew the job market in Slovakia was tough, so I wanted to find a job before I headed back. But I wasn't keen on joining a company with a rigid culture, being micromanaged, or having no flexible working hours. To be honest, the decision was a bit frightening for me as my perception of Slovak companies was somewhat biased after living in Copenhagen for so long.
But then I stumbled upon Sudolabs' job listing for a Social Media Manager thanks to a friend who re-shared it on LinkedIn. Intrigued by what the company had to offer, I applied and went through a series of interviews in June 2021. At the end of it all, it was clear that Sudolabs was the perfect place for me and it seemed like they thought I was a good fit too! I made the move back at the end of the summer and have never looked back.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of such an amazing journey at Sudolabs, surrounded by exceptional people & I'm thankful for all the opportunities to grow professionally and personally.
So yeah, thank you Martin for re-sharing. Without you, I might have never come across Sudolabs.
Before, you worked in the marketing department for a fashion company in Denmark. Was it difficult to transition into the IT industry?
I was so worried about switching industries but it turned out to be a breeze! My onboarding was awesome, it really helped me wrap my head around our business, the industry, and all the clients and projects we're working on. One of the things that contributed significantly was enrolling in a Product Management course taught by Jan, our CPO - that was a game changer in understanding what our Product Lab does. I mean, understanding the business is an ongoing process, but after about 2-3 months, I felt like I had a solid grasp on things. So, if you're thinking about changing industries, don't freak out, it's way easier than you think!
At Sudolabs, you started as a Social Media Marketing Manager. Tell us more about this position.
Sure. Sudolabs' marketing team was a three-person operation when I began working with them. The socials were in its baby stages so we had to come up with some ways to make it pop. It took some trial and error, but we found our way to move forward. We came up with a bunch of fun stuff to do on social media - not just for our followers, but also for our own team. A mix of internal communication and external marketing. Back then, the main focus was on employer branding, and we were determined to reflect our unique company culture and work style at Sudolabs.
Our team was small, but we had big ambitions so my role become multifaceted over time. In addition to managing our social media presence, I was tasked with organizing internal events and helped also with retreats and workations. It was a challenge, but one that I was excited to take on.
I loved being a part of the team from the outset, as it gave me the opportunity to help establish our practices and to have the autonomy to implement my ideas (which I have until this day).
Sudolabs mostly works with US early-stage startups and a part of our sales team is present in San Francisco. Recently, you joined them to support their efforts. Why did you decide to pursue Growth Marketing?
So, here's the deal - this position wasn't on our radar before, but we realized our sales team needed more backup over the past few months. We came up with two options: either hire someone new for this position or have me switch from my social media job. Laura thought I'd be a good fit since I've been with the company for a while and know a thing or two about the projects & clients. From the get-go, I was definitely up for the challenge, and I'm pretty glad I made the switch. It's been an intense learning experience, considering that no one in the company had tackled this before. It's all about experimenting and having fun with the process, hoping for a positive outcome - which ideally should be an inbound lead.
What was the most challenging part about this change?
It’s a tough one. But out of all the tasks, I would say the initial stage of lay-outing activities was a real challenge. We had a ton of ideas floating around and too many directions to choose from. At that point, it was crucial to identify each of them, determine whether we had sufficient capacity to allocate, and evaluate the potential benefits it would offer us.
We had a whopping 20+ activities on our list at the outset, but thanks to the formulation of company-wide OKRs, the decision was easier to make as we needed to align our focus with those priorities and managed to streamline and get down to the three main areas.
Our top priority right now is to build a vibrant community of startup founders in the Bay Area. To make this happen, we're using a variety of methods, including meetups, digital ads, and a podcast, to increase brand recognition. While it's a challenging task, we're fully committed to seeing it through to fruition.
How has your daily agenda changed?
Actually, it’s changed quite a bit. While I used to focus heavily on copywriting and visual assets, my current role is much more focused on relationship-building and networking. That said, I still get to exercise my creative muscles every now and then - like right now, when I'm working on developing some digital ads for the Bay Area & sales content creation.
Meeting interesting individuals in-person and online, attending numerous meetups, and exploring partnership possibilities with other thriving startups or VCs are all part of my routine. San Francisco is an incredible place to be because the energy and passion of the people here inspire me every day.
In my previous role, my main focus was on collaborating with the marketing team (which I still do ofc), but now I find myself working more closely with the sales team on a day-to-day basis. As a social media manager, my workdays used to be quite predictable, these days my schedule is a bit of a mess. Due to time zone differences, I'm having calls either very early in the morning or late at night, and I typically attend about two events per week. Strangely enough, I feel this erratic schedule has made me more productive.
Together with the sales team, you have organized your first event in SF. What was it like?
Well, I had a great time and I hope others did too! Haha. As a newcomer to the Bay Area event scene, I was a little nervous about hosting, but it all worked out well in the end. The event was titled "Startups & Slices," and as you can guess, there was a lot of free pizza. We aimed for a relaxed atmosphere, and I'm thrilled that so many exciting startup founders, VCs, and investors showed up. All in all, it was an excellent evening filled with insightful conversations and valuable connections. Certainly, the experience has offered us valuable insights that we can utilize to enhance and elevate our upcoming events.
Do you plan to organize more events in the Bay Area?
Absolutely. We’d love to bring events for startup founders on a regular basis. Currently, we’ve got two concepts brewing up, but it’s all still early days so make sure to keep an eye on our community page to not miss out ;)
You recently helped launch The Startup Huddle Podcast hosted by Sudolabs' founding partner Jozef Maruščák. That sounds pretty exciting!
Oh yes! It took some time to release but we've finally been up & running since February. This is my first time working on a podcast and I'm taking on the dual role of the project coordinator and social media manager. I'm the one who makes sure everything is ready to go for the release. I distribute all the materials to the right people, come up with catchy titles and descriptions (or at least I hope so haha), communicate with guests if needed, and plan out the social media strategy for 5 different channels including copywriting. Jozef, the host of the podcast, has curated a fantastic lineup of inspiring guests. Listening to the podcast is an enjoyable way to work, and the episodes are full of valuable insights that can benefit anyone, not just startup founders. I'm glad to be working on this project, even though I didn't anticipate how much time and effort it would require to create a high-quality podcast. Major props to all the podcast teams out there for their efforts!
My last question is a must. :) What is your guilty pleasure?
Housewives of Beverly Hills, it’s a no-brainer. Oh, and sójové rezy, I eat too many of those when I'm at the office lol.
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