Meagan Rhodes, 27, is the Digital Marketing Lead for @Pay, an email payments technology based out of Albuquerque, NM. Meagan has grown a Twitter Following of over 14K on her personal page, @MeaganNRhodes, where she posts about digital marketing, tech news and advocates for women in tech.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
In third grade, I sat in the back of the classroom. After receiving an 'unsatisfactory' mark in "Pays Attention in Class" on my report card, my father told me, "From here on out, promise me you'll sit front-row-and-center."
I soon realized that "front-row-and-center" was the ticket to the top in all aspects of life. To me, it means much more than just physically sitting in the front of the class room or board room. It means to focus, make eye contact, speak up, raise your hand, ask questions, and most importantly: to listen. If you are present, truly listening and offering creative solutions, others will gravitate towards your leadership.
My interests and job path have changed several times in my still-young career: I started as a musician--an oboist--and then switched gears as I entered the arts and publishing world. I switched gears again when publishing naturally led to digital marketing and tech. In all of these different paths, being "front-row-and-center" has remained my mantra.
How has your previous employment experience aided your role at @Pay?
I made a leap from music into publishing. I had written weekly columns for various newspapers, but had the golden opportunity to work for a small arts magazine directly out of college that had recently relaunched.
Being a startup, everyone wore many hats. It gave me a chance to try out nearly every role in publishing--from advertising sales, to social media and website management, to distribution, to editing, writing and production. It was the best crash-course education in publishing, PR and marketing I could have asked for and I'm incredibly grateful for that opportunity.
When I started at that magazine, it was really the beginning of social media marketing for businesses and even publishing. There were no classes offered yet to teach it--it was too new and the sites were changing drastically every week. Everything I learned was by trial-and-error, blogs by other budding social media marketers, and unofficial coffee meetings with local ladies who were in similar positions at different organizations.
As I moved on to editor and community manager positions for two other publications (one a large newspaper; the other a startup magazine testing out a new business model), I realized that the one aspect I loved most was not my main job description as editor, but rather, the digital marketing aspect that was rolled into it.
Because publications are in the business of churning out constant great content, it was a great industry for me to learn community engagement and digital marketing. No matter what product you are marketing online, content is always king.
By taking this unplanned route through publishing, I was more prepared for my digital marking position at @Pay. I was accustomed to the many hats worn at startups; I understood PR since I had been on the receiving end of story pitches; I had ample experience in producing quality content at a fast pace; and I learned how to best distribute and market that content.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at @Pay?
The biggest challenge for me was learning a new language. I went from arts, music and writing to talking about technology, online security and payments. Drastically different!
Our CEO, John Killoran, was patient with me as he instructed me on a whiteboard about how APIs work along with SPF, DKIM, ISOs and a long list of other technical acronyms related to how our technology works in the payments sphere.
I've never been afraid of the stage--whether playing an oboe concerto or emceeing an event--but I was terrified before going on stage for my first live pitch at a tech competition. It was a mere two minutes, but I was so afraid I'd get this foreign tech-language wrong. To my surprise, we were one of the winners and I feel much more confident with this new vocabulary and more confident I understand how the technology actually works.
What I find so incredibly addicting about a tech startup is the fast-paced energy. There's always a thrilling feeling that propels us forward: "We're almost there. Just around the corner." Every single person in that office is running a marathon each day, but we love it. The harder it gets and the more work there is to do, the better our spirits. I think it takes that kind of person to ensure that a startup succeeds.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to start a career in digital marketing?
You have to absolutely love educating yourself every day. You will never know it all because digital/social media changes yearly, monthly, weekly, daily. You have to actively seek out thought leaders who have their thumb on the pulse of these changes and really take the time to understand and test them out.
Networking is extremely important for digital marketing--both online networking and traditional networking. If you are aiming to get marketing news about a product out to the digital world, you need to be sure you have a large and engaged network.
And, of course, consistent great content is a must.
How can we encourage more women to work in tech companies?
I think women of all ages should consider working at tech companies. If you're in high school, learn to code. If you're in college, learn data science. If you're in marketing, extend your knowledge to digital marketing. If you love finance, become the CFO. If you love HR, join a tech company and hire more women. Any traditional job position out there can be applied to a tech company. More women should learn code, but it's not a requirement to be successful at a tech company.
Tech companies are a wonderful spot for women to further their career. The energy can be addictive if the company is moving at a fast pace. Stock options are also a great perk of many tech companies.
I find the men to be very welcoming to women in the workplace--I think they also crave that natural balance. ...And how can you not want to work somewhere that allows you to shoot your coworkers randomly with Nerf guns?? It's just fun!
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
When I worked in publishing, I had a very hard time trying to find that balance. It seems easier to achieve that balance at a tech company to me. You work incredibly hard all day, but once you're done for the day you should just shut that computer off and not reopen it if at all possible. You can't bring your best to work the next day if you haven't taken the time to relax and enjoy your own hobbies. "The more you work, the more you work," is something a friend once told me. Find a time to say "Done" and then go grab a beer or a paintbrush or a friend and re-energize.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Equal pay. I still feel like I'm battling to be paid what I know I'm worth. I struggle with broaching the topic and being firm about what I want...money is an intimidating subject to many women. After reading Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," I think I'd be better prepared for the salary conversation next time around.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been huge for my career in every chapter of it. I've never asked for a mentor, but rather, let the relationships grow naturally. At my last publishing gig, my boss, Knight Stivender, was an incredibly strong, smart, caring woman. She recognized my talents and plucked me out of the masses to work on smaller projects, which eventually led to big career moments for me. She suggested networking events I should attend and introduced me to key people in our community and company. We remained friends after I left there to work in tech, and she's always been there for me to help guide me on professional decisions and even some personal decisions. I commend her for putting so much of herself into helping a younger woman grow. I've since found two other younger women who I hope I can help return the favor in the same way.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As a woman in tech, I can't help but to praise Sheryl Sandberg for the trail she has blazed. Her book, her words, her actions have inspired so many women. She has become the leader for women in tech and in business...urging us to also become leaders.
In a similar way, Marissa Mayer (Yahoo's CEO), has also shown young women that we can rise to the top of organizations while also growing a family. I wonder if she realizes how many woman are watching her every move, to see how she reacts to company disasters and successes?
On a personal level, I have great admiration for a good friend of mine, Margaret Ellis. She's 70, she's gorgeous, she's an artist with a successful jewelry line, she's continued to educate herself and recently taught herself photography, she travels the world and enjoys life to the fullest without worrying what anyone thinks. And on top of that, she was a major leader in the Nashville LGBT community advocating for equal rights. I want to be just like her when I grow up...
What do you want @Pay to accomplish in the next year?
There are several large agreements in the works right now, that could help us secure a great position in the bill pay and nonprofit fundraising verticals. I'm excited to see where these partnerships will take our company, and hoping that they spur many more similar relationships.
As for my job, I aim to make @Pay a verb. I want to grow our social media presence to a level that reaches the masses--I want everyone who comes across an @Pay button to recognize it and trust it.
I want everyone who is following us on social media to start demanding @Pay from their favorite organizations as a way to donate and pay bills.
I think the Millennial audience in particular wants to start paying with just two clicks, and I think they are so over remembering usernames and passwords and downloading more apps. I'm hoping they discover how easy and secure @Pay is and begin requesting it.