Welcome to So You Want My Job? Each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest roles about how they got where they are. Along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully our interviewees can inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.
This week Fara Howard, GoDaddy chief marketing officer, shares her story.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Does your job now resemble that in any way?
I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Once I realized that wasn’t in the cards, I contemplated being a sports medicine physician, so it’s fair to say that my current job is quite different than I expected.
How did you get your job? Did you take an unusual route there, or was it pretty standard? Any obstacles or funny stories along the way? Anything you would do differently? Tell us the full story.
The short version of a long story is I got my job by focusing on what I love to do, raising my hand for lots of opportunities that made me uncomfortable and being a steadfast student of human behavior – because marketing is about serving humans, or what most of us call customers.
The long version: post-undergraduate, I started in sales at a health information systems company. In those five years, I learned what I didn’t want to do (work in healthcare) and what I wanted to do (solve complex problems with creative people and lead teams). I learned that what I wanted to do was called ‘marketing’ and that it would behoove me to get formally trained. I took a risk, applied to get my MBA, quit my day job and went back to school full-time as a 28-year-old. It was, for me, the best decision of my life. It changed the trajectory of my career and my life in that I met my husband and some of my closest friends during that two-year experience.
My plan post-school? Bring my two passions together: sports and marketing. I was lucky to land a job at Gatorade and figured it would be my forever role. The reality: love and technology got in the way. My then-fiance lived in Austin, and I lived in Chicago. He worked at Dell, and much to everyone’s surprise, including my own, I decided to return to technology – this time with a marketing lens. That unusual route was career-defining for me. I was given an opportunity at Dell to take on roles that were daunting. I got to stand up their in-house agency for Dell.com. I was afforded the opportunity to lead US consumer marketing as Dell privatized. I learned more in those eleven years than I ever could have imagined.
What happened next? A bit like the Beverly Hillbillies (or so we felt), my husband, my three young boys and I packed up our truck and moved to Los Angeles when I was extended an opportunity to lead marketing at Vans. I learned more about the global creative process and got a crash course in action sports. With a few more positive career twists and turns, I headed to Amazon and continued to take more accountability leading cross-functional marketing teams – again with a focus on technology.
When GoDaddy reached out, I was struck by how important it has been in my career to be in a mission-driven role, so I leaned in to learn more about their mission to enable entrepreneurs. I was struck by how smart and kind the people were, so the conversations continued (here’s a tip: the people you work with daily matter greatly. You’re going to spend a lot of time with them, so if you respect and like them, you’ll enjoy your job more). I kept leaning in and learning and a few months after that first call, I found myself in my current job; one that I love.
The lesson in my circuitous tale? Be curious, raise your hand and take chances. There will be bumps in the road, but those will teach you about yourself and make you better as a learner and a leader.
OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?
I often say my job is to communicate what GoDaddy does for the masses and also ensure that what we say matters to each individual. That’s our job as marketers – to make the complex simple and relevant to our audience.
Do your parents understand what it is that you do?
Yes. My mom knows what I do, but only because she’s an exceptional listener who asks great questions. My kids used to think I ‘talk for a living’. As a silver lining of Covid-19 my kids have been more exposed to my work and they know my team and I ‘make things*’ too.
*They’re not 100% clear on what I make. When I was at Vans, they thought my team and I made shoes. Now they know we make advertisements, so that’s a start.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the psychology of it all. I love pairing up customers’ needs with our brand’s promise and finding creative ways to bring that to life with teams.
How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would be their route?
Again, be a consummate learner and remember that the media and technology landscape is changing so quickly that your specific expertise can be a strong route into marketing. Being a functional expert, whether that be in social media, content development or marketing technology, can be a great way for you to start and then you can chart the path from there.
What advice would you offer to others entering the advertising industry, especially at this weird time?
Advertising is about creating connection between your message and your audience. Despite the changes and ‘weirdness’ that we’re facing, it’s a fascinating time to be in advertising because these changes and challenges are truly global and that is rare.
What would you say is the trait that best suits you for your role?
High-risk tolerance and swift decision-making. Marketing requires innovation to be successful and break through, so if you’re going to do things that have never been done before that can be daunting and, at times, requires Herculean speed.
Who should those who want your job read or listen to?
If you’d rather listen than read, check out Guy Raz’s podcast How I Built This. I’m continually inspired by the creative thinking of entrepreneurs.
In terms of reading, I’ve always been moved by Todd Rath’s Strengthfinder because, as a marketing leader, it’s important to build balanced teams with diversity of thought. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and others based on the interactive nature of the book. I’m also a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. And because I’m insatiably curious about human behavior, there’s no better teacher than Malcolm Gladwell, so any title by him is a good investment of your time.