After my very early impressions of Infinio, I’ve tried not to overthink the transition. I’ve had moments of reflection here and there, but being prone to over-analysis I’ve tried to be “in the moment” here.
Recently, however, a handful of themes have continually appeared in my everyday work that I want to share. My life at Dell was *so* different from my life here.
In my decision to come to Infinio, one of the most important conversations I had was with Matt Brender, who had recently made a similar transition from EMC. In fact, when I interviewed at Infinio, my now-manager Carrie quoted to me from his blog:
At EMC you first assume there is a process.
At Infinio, you start confident there isn’t one yet.
Here’s his entire post on his transition to Infinio.
Anyway, back to ME. Here’s what was different when I was at Dell:
1. I (mostly) stuck to my quarterly plan.
At Dell, I’d propose a 3-month content plan for my team, negotiate with them on it, negotiate with my management on it, and usually by week 2 or 3 of the quarter, we’d have agreement. I was measured on (and great at) how well I delivered that which I committed to. Sure, we kept some slack in the plan for unexpected projects, but that was the exception, not the rule.
In fact, if anything major came up, more than a few days of work, we’d go to the work plan and decide what was getting pushed to the next quarter. We’d let the stakeholders for the different projects fight it out about whose we tackled.
This is not to say that we didn’t work hard and try to overdeliver on our plan. We often would work late to meet a deadline or otherwise do things that otherwise seemed impossible.
But there was a language and a process around how we handled additional workload throughout the quarter, and in fact navigating that is one of the major skills managers at Dell acquire and use.
Is that different at Infinio!!
We did create a quarterly marketing/content plan this quarter, and I’m told it’s the first time we’ve done it at this level of detail. However, two weeks later, I’m looking at my plan nostalgically as I would a homework assignment list of mine from high school.
It’s not that I don’t need to do those things, but in the span of just a few weeks, so much changes with respect to prioritization and opportunities that it seems outdated very quickly.
And as new things come up, there’s no negotiation on what doesn’t get done. It’s more like triage – “well, I’ll have to delay creating that training module so I can get us certified before this show we just decided to do,” but that doesn’t mean delaying until I next get to write a quarterly plan, it just means something jumps the queue. All the work still has to get done.
2. I didn’t do a lot of guessing.
For example, when we launched a new product, we knew what resources we needed to support it. Sure, we may not always have known exactly what claims would resonate best with customers (or what results we could achieve in the lab) but we knew we needed claims and there was a process to get them. We often felt understaffed and under-resourced, but the reality was that we had teams of people dedicated to various different aspects of the marketing for a launch, a refresh, and sustaining operations.
There was no concept of someone at Dell not knowing the answer. That person may not have been in the meeting or in the room, but you could ask and someone would have an opinion which was determined to be “The Answer.” The job of being a manager at Dell was very much about executing within the system, escalating uncertainty, and decision-making within a pre-defined structure.
At Infinio, I think the phrase I hear most often is, “I’m not sure, let’s try it.” Everyone from our executive team on down talks about A/B tests, experiments, learning, and mistakes, nearly every day.
This isn’t to minimize the experience of the leadership team here or the employees – it’s an amazing group of people from Endeca, vKernel, EqualLogic, NetApp, and other name brands. Many of them have built a company before.
But we are in a new market selling something that is very disruptive – and there’s no codified “right way” to do that. Inbound marketing is still an adolescent.
We just don’t know the answer sometimes.
Back to the discussion on priorities, often during my weekly meeting with Carrie, I’ll bring a list of the new tasks I’ve accrued during the week. We’ll look at it along with my plan. “Should I do the content for this project or create the materials for this project,” I’ll ask. And we’ll consider both, without knowing the “right” answer.
3. At Dell, I was detached from the minutiae
At Dell, I was light years away from lots of daily decisions. If I staffed a tradeshow, I basically just showed up with the right polo shirt on. For Dell Storage Forum, I was a little more involved in things like T-shirt slogans and activities, but mostly I just knew about them early, I didn’t create them.
In contrast, the number of details that come across my desk as part of a 5-person marketing team is incredibly high. What should the booth graphics look like for Citrix Synergy? What should our giveaway be? Is this close enough to our “blue”? Is the text in this ad centered right? With which vendors should we split our lead gen spend? With whom do we syndicate which content?
It’s an amazing education.
All of it is an amazing education.
(It’s also exhausting!)