“There's something quite remarkable about having a single source of truth. To know where each one of your initiatives lies, and what stage it is in, and if you change plans, everybody gets to know and see it at the same time.”- Airtable CMO Archana Agrawal
The pandemic is nothing if not a period of constant reinvention. Airtable’s CMO Archana Agrawal is one such example. She went through the WFH, teach from home transition like many working parents did, but she also took on the role as CMO of a startup and built a marketing function from scratch.
On this episode of CMO Conversations, hosted by Drift CMO Tricia Gellman, Archana shares insights on creating more alignment, executing with agility, and dealing with burnout during an uncertain time. Archana’s decision to join Airtable a little more than a year ago is a full circle career moment. She started out as an engineer, went to Harvard Business school, then landed at Atlassian. Her passion for data and app development makes her uniquely positioned to lead a rapidly growing marketing organization whose goal is to democratize software creation.
You can listen to the full interview here, or catch some of the highlights below:
Creating more alignment in the world of remote work
“All the general support structures we had around us just melted away, and even basic goods that you take for granted were hard to come by at that time. In the middle of all of that, I felt that I was trying to do what you do when you have a new job, which is build a team, build trusting relationships, have a point of view and a plan, so there was a lot going on at that time. When I joined Airtable, there were about four marketers lodged in different parts of the organization contributing to marketing, so effectively I had to go in and build the foundation of the entire marketing function.”
“There was a lot of intentionality. Intentionality in who you hire and at what levels you hire so they can actually self-start and build teams up themselves. In on-boarding, it’s how do you build the connective tissue between folks so that we get to know each other as people and enjoy working with each other, but also have the ability to build joint plans.”
Archana explains how Airtable uses Airtable to make remote work much easier. “There's something quite remarkable about having a single source of truth. To know where each one of your initiatives lies, and what stage it is in, and if you change plans, everybody gets to know and see it at the same time.”
On managing burnout
“Whether you're working from home or sleeping at work, it's hard to tell some days. We did a survey amongst our own customer base. 80 percent of the marketers we surveyed said that they felt that their workloads had increased.”
“I think there's a few things we can do as leaders, some part is just improving our own processes and efficiency in order to be able to do our best work and then the other is really taking care of ourselves, and each other, and the process.”
Embracing the digital transformation as a vehicle to expedite a creative revolution
“[As marketers,] I think the nature of our audiences and the world that we interact with is changing itself so much. Everyone is becoming a creator. Look at it across all platforms – Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram – there are so many of these platforms where people get to express themselves in various ways, and these are all our audiences.”
“If companies themselves are going through such a large transition, and that the customer interactions and expectations are changing, then marketers are at the forefront of driving growth, it's bound to create a lot of change in the marketing world itself. I can imagine it will only keep changing more, So I think operational excellence and getting the tools that make it simple for you to really do your best job without wasting time on status updates and verbal communication that's needed to get people on the same page, that's very important.”
“The digital transformation, the pace has accelerated, it's been felt in every company, every industry, and so being able to maintain that agility becomes uber important.”
Leaning into her strengths and going back to her engineering roots
“My first job was at IBM Research, and what a privilege to be able to go from ideation to taking a product to market and seeing it in a customer's data center. That was just such an incredibly beautiful experience, but it also gave me the sense that I had seen it from the research and development lens, and I wanted to actually understand, how do I take a step back and look at it holistically from the business lens, which took me to business school.”
“I love the product, but also it's actually going back full circle to my developer roots in that, at the end of the day, Airtable is trying to give that power of creation into the hands of non-developers. You're trying to make self-development accessible to everyone. I almost think about it as changing the syntax of software development. Instead of going from structured programming languages, you're giving a visual and intuitive interface for people to actually build the workflows and what they actually need to get the job done.”
Airtable CFO Ambereen Toubassy took the stage at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference to discuss how emerging technologies like AI are inspiring leaders to reimagine the future of work
Airtable’s CEO and CoFounder Howie Liu sat down with Caryn Marooney, GM of Coatue, at SaaStr Annual 2022 to discuss lessons learned from scaling Airtable.