I would ask that each person actively do something nice for at least two other people. It is a simple ask, but the multiplier effect of each person looking for ways to help others is tremendous.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Alexis Crowell.
Alexis Crowell Helzer is Intel’s global marketing lead for the Internet of Things group. Previously she was the senior director of artificial intelligence product marketing at Intel, where she led a team responsible for technical positioning and messaging as well as outbound content and campaigns for Intel AI products. She has an unyielding passion to deliver technology solutions that help businesses thrive. Over her rich career, she has run a cloud software engineering team focused on distributed computing and microservices integration led the open-source marketing efforts from Intel and worked with many of the Fortune 100 companies to help incubate service offerings and deliver innovative products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career I tended to be quieter in nature and sat back in meetings not really sharing my opinions or thoughts on subjects. We were in a naming conversation for a new product and one of the names suggested was “kickstand.” I can’t remember why that name came up, but it did. I remember sitting at the conference table and chuckling under my breath because of its reference in “Austin Powers.” But, given my quiet nature, and convincing myself that I was just too young to have an opinion that matters, I stayed silent. Thankfully the name never cleared legal, but I remember talking with our brand lead later in the process and shared my self-deemed immature thought process. She gave me advice I will never forget. She said, “you are always smarter than you think, and if you are thinking it, someone else will be too — get out of the shadows and share your thoughts.” I had a long road of learning to trust myself enough to speak up, but that point was the catalyst in changing how I show up and participate.
Thank you for sharing, that is funny and an important lesson as well. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there also any takeaways or lessons in there that others can learn from as well?
Actually, yes. I did a set of assignments throughout Europe where my job was to ensure the new engineers joining the company were welcomed, knew how to navigate the organization, and were set up for success. The ambiguity of the role and lack of a blueprint on how to be successful was incredibly freeing for me. I realized that I thrive in situations where there isn’t a clear path forward, but rather we need to forge one. Ever since that experience, I have sought out roles that either are just emerging, are recognized gaps, or need a significantly different approach. I am definitely not the person to bring into a well-oiled machine — I’m at my best when I can turn something around or create something new.
Now that I coach and mentor others, I try and help them find their own “ah-ha” moments that allow them to unlock their passions. Looking back, I can see moments before those assignments that would have helped me realize where I give my best, but I did not stop and assess long enough to uncover the truth. It’s so important to take that reflection time, even early in your career.
Looking forward to hearing more about that when you’re allowed to share more. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Totally agree, and I am fortunate enough to have a few of those people, both from my personal life and my professional. The first are my parents. My mom was the first female salesperson at 3M to travel, and later was a VP at a bank. My dad worked for Lincoln-Mercury and had an amazing reputation for helping regions get their sales numbers back on track. They both continue to be my sounding board when I hit a crossroads and am deciding which way to go.
The second quick story underscores the benefits of having a sponsor and allies within your company. As a young employee, I found myself in a situation where anytime I tried to speak up, I was getting talked over by someone else in the room. It wasn’t just me he was doing it to, but it certainly felt like it! Someone in that room eventually spoke up on my behalf and helped that person to recognize his poor behavior. It forged a friendship and sponsorship between me and the person who spoke out that has lasted for years. I’m grateful for what he did that day, and now I work to pay that kindness and allyship forward anytime I see someone in a similar situation.
Wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Remember what brings you joy about your profession. I don’t subscribe to the idea that every day is going to be utopia, but I do believe that we can find that slice of utopia if we look for it. On days when I’m fed up, or a project is not progressing, or we hit speed bumps far out of our control, I try and remind myself that I get to work with amazing people with a common goal — to build amazing technology that helps people. That’s what I am passionate about — find your passion and then figure out how your job can help you pursue that. Peaks don’t exist without valleys, try to keep your eyes on those peaks because it makes the valleys seem shorter.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
It’s more experiential — where the consumers, and businesses, are the lead actors in the campaign vs products and services touting how great they are. All products are an ingredient in a business’ success, or in a person’s life — they are a tool to build a stronger PnL or have a better/easier/healthier/etc life. By marketing products in that fashion, it helps drive more connection to the buyer and feels less like a sales pitch.
What 5 things do you wish someone told you before you started?
First would be that your opinion matters and deserves to be heard! Similar to the story I shared earlier, speaking up can help save time and resources, but more importantly, diverse thoughts and experiences create better outcomes — share your thoughts!
Saying no is as important as saying “yes” — there are times when each person will need to say no, maybe because time and budget won’t support a project, or your research has shown a better path. You need to find your own way of saying no in a very firm but professional manner.
It’s OK to not always have an answer — I really struggled with imposter syndrome throughout the early part of my career, so it was hard for me to not always have an answer. But I have learned that my credibility actually increased when I started to openly admit I didn’t know and that I would go find an answer. No one knows everything — it’s OK! Just make sure to follow up when you do know.
Similarly, it’s OK to ask for help. Being self-sufficient is valuable, no question, but we get better solutions and outcomes when we work together and solicit input from a diverse set of perspectives. Reach out, it will be well worth the effort!
Lastly, when it comes to your career, sometimes it’s really valuable to be naïve enough to say yes. There were at least two times in my career that I’ve said yes to new roles without truly understanding what I was being asked to do. In hindsight, if I had known everything, I probably would have said “no” but if I had, I would have missed out on the most valuable learnings and life experiences I have ever had.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I love talking to people actually — so I try and spend as much time as I can learning from those around me. I’m fortunate to spend a lot of time with other companies and work to learn from their experiences.
One more before we go: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A movement… I would ask that each person actively do something nice for at least two other people. It is a simple task, but the multiplier effect of each person looking for ways to help others is tremendous. We have collectively become very selfish as a society, and while there are selective pockets of good, think about the amazing impact we all could have. It’s certainly not that the majority of people are actively seeking to be harmful or mean, we just aren’t looking up from our phones enough to proactively care about others first. Just be more aware! And for those that need a reason to be nice, there’s an intense sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in helping others.
Cheers to that. Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us!