Courtney RoeBefore joining Widen in 2016, Courtney worked in marketing and e-commerce at retail organisations including Kohl’s and L.L Bean.

With her experience and knowledge in analysing consumer behaviour and addressing them through marketing, Courtney now manages the content marketing strategy and execution at Widen.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the Manager of Widen’s Global Content Strategy, a role which has evolved a lot over the last four years! I began my career at Widen as a Marketing Customer Experience Strategist, focused on customer communications, before shifting to focus on the company’s overarching content strategy.

Before moving to B2B marketing, I had spent nine years of my career in e-commerce merchandising. I started in e-commerce in 2006 when online shopping was just beginning. It was an interesting time. Not everyone believed that online shopping was the way of the future, and so often those early conversations were around convincing the merchandise buyers that they should put inventory online. At that time, new products were only being added to websites once a month, via an excel spreadsheet!

Today, my main goals are to create consistent, informative, top-ranking content that helps digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) software seekers and users throughout their DAM and PIM journey.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not initially. I have a BA in Print Journalism, which I don’t even think is a degree option anymore. I’d originally intended to write for a newspaper but ended up taking my first job out of university at a printing company working in pre-press production on magazines like Vogue and GQ.

After that, I sort of fell into e-commerce in the early 2000s working at Kohl’s first and then L.L. Bean before I realised that I was better suited for marketing and aspired to get back to my journalism roots — this career transition was the first time I thought long and hard about a career plan. I looked at the things I valued and decided that working in B2B for a smaller company would be a better fit for me, and that definitely turned out to be true!

Since then, I’ve been more intentional about my career moves and progression. I’ve worked to get a clear idea on what I want out of my career and life. I have a better vision of where I want to go and what I want to be doing, which are strongly guided by my core values: the top of which is connection. So that’s why connecting people with valuable content works well for me!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I found myself in a role that no longer aligned with my career aspirations and had to make some hard decisions about where to go next. This led to a big career transition and my first time working with a career coach. I learned a lot about myself and other people during that time. It also taught me a lot about leadership, compassion, strength, and networking.

Vulnerability helped a lot. Asking for help is hard, but it doesn’t make you weak. I found a lot of inspiration and connection with others when I was vulnerable enough to talk about the challenges I faced during this career transition. Many people have gone through similar experiences but very few talk openly about them. It gave me a new perspective on people I admired who I had just (wrongly) assumed never stumbled or switched gears in their career. This was eye opening and inspiring.

This experience taught me more about the attributes that I want to have as a leader and what to look for in a leader as well.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Moving from a North America-based team to supporting our global content efforts has been incredibly rewarding. We’re currently focused on NA and Europe, but I’ve learned so much about marketing to different regions and just working in a different country has brought new opportunities within my career path that I never really thought were possible.

Evolving our content strategy is something I’m also extremely proud of. My content predecessors at Widen did an amazing job setting up a solid content foundation but we lacked a strong maintenance strategy. This resulted in outdated articles that didn’t accurately highlight the current functionality of our software. To solve this, the team worked to identify high-performing content and content that no longer served our audience as well as they once did, and we got to work redirecting, updating, and retiring articles and resources. This approach is a core tenant of inbound marketing and I’m incredibly pleased with the progress we’ve seen as a result of our work. Not only are our articles ranking higher in search results, but they better support our customers and those looking to learn more about DAM and PIM software. Having updated foundational content has allowed us to start thinking about new content to reach different audiences. It’s also helping us be more creative because our existing content is optimised and working harder, making room for new things and ideas.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Determination and having the courage to ask. I had always wanted to work abroad and have looked for ways to do so since graduating from university, but the opportunity never came up. So, when it did, I jumped at it!

A willingness to learn new things and advocating for yourself are also key, as well as having the empathy and humility to learn from others. Just because you’re used to doing something one way doesn’t mean it will work in another country. I like learning about the preferences of different cultures and being curious instead of judgemental allows you to see things from a different perspective.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

There are a lot of options for a career within technology. To be in tech, you don’t have to be the one who codes…though I know some pretty amazing women who do! I love being able to be creative within marketing yet work within the tech industry.

Here are my top tips:

  • Learn about yourself. What drives you? What holds you back? What do you want out of your career and life? These will help guide your career moves and conversations about your career path.
  • Play to your strengths. Look for what fuels you and when you recognise that something isn’t, seek to figure out why and what you can do about it. I’m not saying to move companies, but have conversations with your manager about where you can make the strongest contributions that benefit you and the company.
  • Set aside time to learn. It’s so easy to get caught up in the deadlines and everything that has to be done. But knowing what you want to learn, learning it, and then applying it is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding — not to mention good for the company, too!

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are still a lot of hurdles for women in the workplace in general and tech is no exception — though I think the barrier to entry is different for some career paths than others. But I think the biggest thing a woman can do is to take ownership of her career and advocate for herself. Knowing what you want out of your career — and life — will allow you to more consciously set your own path. Because if you don’t, someone else will set it for you and it might not be what you want!

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

Even though progress and projects are moving fast, there are a number of things I think technology companies can do to support the careers of women:

  • Take time to provide support and encouragement — especially for those early on in their career or if they’re new to a company.
  • Make room for women to have a seat at the table and actually listen to them.
  • Offer options and encourage women to participate in professional development. This might look different for each person; professional development isn’t just conferences, it’s also individual leadership coaching and mentoring.

There is currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Encourage women to think of tech careers outside of engineering and coding. There are several other career paths within the tech industry outside of what people think of as tech career options.

We talk a lot about unconscious bias in general, but I think there could be more conversations around this with women, too. Not just in regard to motherhood, but to communication styles, societal norms, and other factors that play into how women “show up” in the workplace. The tech world moves fast and often people don’t stop to think about how their actions impact others, so women — especially women who have been trained to be “respectful” from a young age — are easily overlooked and not always considered when decisions are made.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I think a lot about content writing and SEO so those are the resources I gravitate towards:

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here