On March 10th, 2022, App Growth Summit held an invite-only, limited-vendor event in sunny Los Angeles, California. For many, it was their first in-person event back on the conference floor. Attendees were excited to get back to face-to-face relationship building. Nai Saeturn, VP of Sales at YouAppi, hosted a fireside chat with Wowd's VP of Partnerships, Bree Nguyen and the VP of Marketing at Maple Media, Ashley Fauset. This discussion at AGS 2022 circled around best practices for inspiring productivity from teams while developing great internal chemistry. In this chat, panelists explore the difference in strategies between being the head of a department and being an affective (and effective) leader of your department or company.
Nai: What is your personal story? How has it led you to your leadership position today?
Bree: My background is in entertainment and tech. I have many years working for artists and record labels doing Internet Marketing, as well as years developing consumer tech startups. Most recently, those paths converged for me when I headed public figure partnerships at Facebook through most of the 2010’s.
I had an untraditional start to my education and career. Because of personal things going on with my family, I found myself suddenly on my own at 16 years old, but I was also ready to start my life journey at that time. I was in L.A. going to LA City College and supporting myself at 16 just trying to survive. I was making websites and developing message board communities for musicians, just for fun, just fan sites, as a 16 year old does. And a long crazy story short (the whole story is on my LinkedIn) - I found myself working for Mariah Carey. At the time, I didn’t realize what I was doing was actually an employable skill. But this survival skill to constantly seize an opportunity, keep learning, keep figuring out different ways to solve problems on my own is what has laid the foundation for me being extremely adaptable, constantly problem solving in creative ways, identifying opportunities to seize on, not letting them pass by, not just for me, but for my team, my company, project.
Ashley: I’ve had a deep fascination with technology ever since I can remember, from using Print Shop on a Macintosh computer as a grade-schooler to designing ways to improve order-taking flows on the touchscreen register at my restaurant job in college. Organization and process are two things that come naturally to me, so the fact that I’ve landed in the app/product world is no surprise to me. I’ve spent the majority of my career in the startup world, including running two small companies of my own. I started out in brand & content strategy. As startup life goes, my role eventually also included email & lifecycle marketing, which turned into product marketing, which evolved into UA & growth marketing. And, as so typically seen at startups, all of these various verticals were cumulative, not exclusive.
As I built my skill set, I was quick to recognize an insatiable need to learn more, do more, understand more, contribute more. As my responsibilities and purview grew, so did my enthusiasm for connecting the dots, understanding how each marketing discipline impacts (or impedes) the next. I’m someone who’s constantly asking questions, looking for deeper insights, pushing to expand my skill set, and finding creative ways to solve problems for brands and consumers. The rapidly changing landscape of tech, apps, and overall consumer sentiment keeps me on my toes and engaged every day.
Nai: What are some leadership traits that have helped you in managing your team?
Bree: Getting to know my team and understanding their motivations - some of that is through the way I establish my relationship with my team, and some of that is trusting my intuition and observations of the team. Different things motivate different people (projects, money, a type of work). Aligning the goals and initiatives that we need to get done with the motivations and skills of my team. It’s like a big rubix cube, but I’m constantly looking for projects that will drive our initiatives forward AND align with the strengths and motivations of the team. From the executive leadership view, they see a highly motivated team getting a lot done in creative ways.
Ashley: Dependability – it is crucial that I have their backs as well as give my team the space to share how they are feeling, challenges and their ideas. I can learn from my team just like they can learn from me. Empathy is also key – we have all been in their shoes before. Taking a moment to think about issues and challenges from their point of view.
Nai: Psychological safety – let’s be honest with each other and figure out what is wrong.
Nai : What do you wish you had known or done differently five years ago as you were building your career as a leader?
Bree: Trust yourself. Don't second guess yourself. Learning to speak up and stick to your guns if you feel conviction about something. “You got this!”
Ashley: Owning decisions and taking the heat even if the decision wasn’t the right one. On the same token, delegating more to the team. Learning how to trust others to help you because you straight up don’t have enough time in the day. Realizing that when you delegate, it frees up time and gives power to your team. [It also] builds the team’s confidence because it gives them the space to succeed.
Nai: 30% of decisions managers make are the wrong ones. Feel free to make as many decisions as you can because that's how you succeed.
Nai: What are some strategies you can share about helping someone grow in their organization?
Ashley: Be really curious, figure out everything about the business. Learn how it works, have lunch with someone on a different team than you and then figure out where you can fill in the gaps
Bree: Meet as many people as you can; without the expectation of “we have to do something together” but the expectation to LEARN. Take advantage of lunches and coffees with people on different teams than you. You can see other things that are happening that can give you ideas for your own growth. [You] can make a large organization seem smaller and a small organization more close and aligned
Nai: Alignment of what everyone is doing. Never be siloed in your group or team - you won’t learn if you don’t do that! Always be interested in what everyone is doing at the org.
Nai: We all know there is gender bias in the workforce - do you have certain strategies to call it out or deal with it?
Bree: Be unapologetic! Ask for what you want. Be vocal and if someone isn’t doing something then insert yourself and do it yourself.
Ashley: As the only woman on the leadership team, I realize when I'm being talked over and I just keep talking because I still have things to say. I refuse to be interrupted. Most of the time, people aren’t doing it on purpose, so don’t take it personally. We are all learning how to be more aware of our habits and make a conscious effort to shift away from that behavior.
Bree: Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It is good to be vocal just to educate! People usually react in a positive and apologetic way.
Nai: In terms of gender bias, it is usually the little things. For example, when people are asked to volunteer for a project, women tend to volunteer so instead I’ll just assign a team member to do certain work.
Nai: What’s one thing that you make sure to do everyday to keep your sanity during the work day?
Bree: I have to admit I'm bad at this! I’d love to take a walk everyday or meditate - for those that do, I applaud you! What I do everyday: I keep a curated list of newsletters and keep up on every type of news; Sports, world, mobile news, so I’m prepared to talk about everything which helps me feel confident
Ashley: I do take a walk everyday, mostly because I have a new Apple Watch! I also do the New York Times mini crossword while I have my coffee before everyone is up in the morning.
Bree: I do Wordle everyday!
Nai: It is important for me to take a 30 minute walk with my dog everyday! Meditation is also great. Your mind does need to stop when you are type A and get away from your computer. Journaling is also helpful to put your thoughts on paper to help problem solve and look back on what you’re thinking about and strategize.
Nai: Before we leave the stage, is there any advice you’d give people moving up in their careers or taking on leadership positions on their own?
Ashley: Trust yourself, you won’t make the right decisions all the time. Try things out! Being a leader isn't for everyone but it is one of the most empowering and rewarding things I’ve done.
Bree: Try things and if it doesn't work out. Saying that I tried “X” because of this and now I’m trying “Y” because that didn’t work. I tried, I failed, I learned and I’m moving forward.
Nai: Trust yourself! Overall, what I’ve learned the most is forgiving yourself. Don’t think about the mistakes too long. Look back to assess what may have gone wrong and then move forward without regrets. People like leaders who move on and grow.
Takeaways from App Growth Summit 2022:
- Own your decisions and mistakes! No one is going to make the perfect decision every time. In fact, 30% of decisions are the wrong ones so just learn from those and move forward.
- Stay curious. In order to succeed you need to have the hunger to not only learn from your team but branch out to the other departments and ask what they are doing. We can all learn from each other.
- Trust yourself. Stick up for what you believe the right decision is and be vocal. If someone isn’t doing something then do it yourself.
- Forgive yourself. Remember: People like leaders who move on and grow. You’re going to make mistakes, so make them, learn something and keep it moving.