Currently, only about 1 in 4 employees in the tech industry identifies as a woman. So what does it take to create a successful career as a woman in tech? In this interview series called Women in Tech, we are talking to successful leaders in the tech industry to share stories and insights about what they did to lead successful careers. We also discuss the steps needed to create a great tech product. As part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Zabow.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before diving in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me on here, I’m happy to dive in and share my story! I have always been interested in technology and was fascinated by how it continually progresses, yet I didn’t ever have the plan to make it my career. This led to a rather unconventional entrance into the tech world - I actually studied and trained as an Occupational Therapist but after a couple of years, decided to change things up and received my Master of Business Management. Upon graduating in Australia, I was lucky to start working for a small boutique consulting firm where I had my first introduction to the world of product and marketing even before product marketing was the function it is today. As I continued to grow my career, I was lucky enough to work for some of the most notable tech companies in the world, Google and Amazon. Both companies played a pivotal role in my career development, where I learned from top talent. Both opportunities allowed me to learn some of the best-in-class, go-to-market strategies which prepared me to understand and anticipate possible challenges in my future positions.
It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I mean, when am I not making mistakes? I’d say most product professionals have launched a product too early! In all seriousness, I think one common mistake is letting yourself get too in the weeds with the tech you are trying to communicate, it's easy to forget that most people using technology aren’t familiar with industry jargon. Many years ago at a previous company, we had a launch heavily related to automation, before it was the hot topic of conversation it is today. There was a lot unknown about how to discuss automation and it was easy to be daunted by the monumental task of communicating such a topic. However, it would be a mistake to forget that there are always ways to speak about tech in a way that resonates with an audience - it's just about picking out which aspects those are.
What do you feel has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
That’s a great question. There have been so many moments in my career that I am proud of, but one, in particular, stands out. Let me start out by saying I have been fortunate enough to work for various Fortune 500 companies throughout my career and with that came highs and lows, luckily the highs outweighed the lows! For me, I need to feel the value in my work, I have to believe in the company fully and know the company values me and what I bring to the table. I’ve been able to choose to work for companies where I am confident the value of the product being delivered to customers is top-notch and have been trusted by leadership (in a male-dominated industry no less!) to take ownership roles and define the value, all while spreading love and positivity on even the toughest of days.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I would have to say that the harder aspects of my career have been in my roles as a manager. Managing different working styles and building teams that work well together will never be easy. I think whenever we step into a new role there is a learning curve, getting a promotion is similar to starting a new role when you think about it. And one of the biggest challenges we make in our career is becoming a first-time manager. A whole new plethora of opportunities and challenges are presented when you step into the manager role, but honestly, it’s so rewarding to watch people grow and flourish in their careers.
We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address? How does your company help people?
Botify, in technical terms, is a leading performance marketing platform for organic search. We work to provide solutions that strengthen the digital customer experience by creating greater content findability. Using proprietary first-party data, we protect and scale organic web traffic by surfacing deeper insights and understanding behind hidden SEO ROI. We help people find unique opportunities to increase relevant search results—and sustainable profitability—and build better brand authority in parallel.
If someone wants to lead a great company and create great products, what is the most important quality that person should have, and what habits or behaviors would you suggest for honing that particular quality?
High-quality team managers have a wide-angle lens for collaboration. They don't just focus on their own team, they drive collaboration across teams within the entire organization. This approach requires a leader who is open to different work styles, thus fostering a culture that supports different perspectives, and personalities and acknowledges different pain points. Managers like this see the big picture and know that everyone works together to ensure success.
Next, let’s talk about teams. What’s a team management strategy or framework that you’ve found to be exceptionally useful for the product development process?
As product marketing is a growing function it’s still in relative nascency and many on your team may not have direct experience. As a product marketing leader, I’ve found that one of the most crucial strategies has been to invest time in educating the product team and key commercial business leaders about the complementary role that product marketing plays in the product development process. Investing time in getting to know the market, customers, and commercial-facing teams can result in powerful outputs, informing new features or re-prioritizing the roadmap. I am also a big advocate for giving teams some space and time to think big, and creatively - so that they can think out of the box when it comes to crafting new solutions or audience narratives.
When you think of the strongest team you’ve ever worked with, why do you think the team worked so well together, and can you recall an anecdote that illustrates the dynamic?
Well, it’s a funny story, I actually didn’t hire anyone on my team at Botify yet they are by far one of the strongest teams I have ever worked with. They all come from different backgrounds with different levels of product experience, and we really do learn from one another every single day. As a consequence, they’re open to learning, are fully supportive of each other, and encourage critical feedback. This dynamic led us to deliver a ton of value to the business in 2022. And it goes without saying that this is further enhanced by the ecosystem within which it functions—having a culture that promotes open communication, inclusivity, and always going the extra mile. You succeed when everyone on your team feels empowered, heard, and valued which is something we work hard to ensure on my team.
If you had only one software tool in your arsenal, what would it be, why, and what other tools do you consider to be mission-critical?
There are so many. My favorite tool that I’ve more recently been getting into is Gong, the revenue intelligence platform. It’s an easy and efficient way to get closer to customers and helps to position and craft messaging that will resonate with your audience.
Let’s talk about downtime. What’s your go-to practice or ritual for preventing burnout?
Great question! This is a continuous challenge I will always be working on. Having spent time in fast-paced working environments for most or all of my career, I’ve put a lot of effort into mastering work-life balance. It’s something that still challenges me every day. I’m a big advocate for movement and music, even more so when the two are combined. I’m also very into travel and find this is a great way to step into different cultures, access new perspectives, and ultimately restore and revive inner peace.
Based on your experience, what are your “5 Steps Needed to Create Great Tech Products”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
Narrowing it down to 5, that’s tough! But, the top 5, for me, would be:
- Customer centricity - Designing a product for anyone other than the customer will always fail. From step one, it is vital to have the customer in mind when making any decision, from the most mundane details to the bigger-picture planning. This is when we get to get into the creative side and really get to put target personas together, it’s a fun step!
- Overcommunication within teams - I know, I know, communication is key is a common answer but it’s truly the backbone for a successful product release. From conception to launch, a product will have touched nearly every team in the organization. No team, therefore, should be working in a vacuum-sealed silo. Having close contact across teams prevents countless mistakes and setbacks and results in a cohesive and dynamic product. It also helps make sure nothing slips through the cracks and helps us get to know one another better.
- Organization and structure - While there is sure to be a breakdown in flow, having a set structure for the process eliminates a lot of chaos.
- Access to company strategy, and direct connection to the CEO - I’ve been blessed at Botify to be able to work closely with our CEO, Adrien Menard. When in close contact with an organization’s CEO, the chances for miscommunication are much lower. Most importantly, however, the team feels supported and seen throughout the whole process. It allows us to ensure that everything we do has a personalized touch and aligns with the company's mission and values.
- Test your messaging - Before the final product launch, an important step should be testing your messaging with the desired audience. The feedback from these results can prevent an out-of-touch and convoluted seeming launch, and can truly impact the adoption of your product.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
There’s clearly been some progress in the industry, however, we’re far from where we need to be. I’m not the first to say it but think it’s valuable to repeat: not only do we need more women in tech—we need more diversity in tech, period. If we are striving to create products that ultimately make people's lives easier—those products need to be accessible to everyone. For that to happen, people working in tech need to bring unique experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds to the table. So it's not just about needing more women in tech; it's also about needing more Black and Brown women in tech, more neurodiversity, more of the LGBTQ+ family, and other underrepresented communities. I truly believe this will drive innovation, and I am confident that the industry will get there. After all, we all have different backgrounds and stories, so we all need to be present in order to ensure our products can help everyone.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why?
Wonder Woman. Need I say more?
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