Head of Marketing + Chief Evangelist, ENGAGE Talent
High Alpha invested in ENGAGE Talent, the world’s first AI-powered recruiting platform, earlier this year—check out Drew Beechler’s interview with ENGAGE CEO Joe Hanna to learn more about the company. Right around the time of High Alpha’s investment, Robby Gulri officially joined the team as Head of Marketing and Chief Evangelist.
Not Your Traditional CMO
Robby never planned to be a marketing leader and likes to say that he stumbled into marketing leadership roles throughout his career. A Georgia Tech grad, Robby has degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics as well as an MBA in information technology and marketing. His first few jobs post-grad took him out west doing analog circuit design in the Bay Area. After spending some time behind the scenes, Robby quickly realized that he was itching to jump into the energetic world of the sales and marketing guys at his company. As a young professional he didn’t really know what he wanted to do, but soon realized that he was more comfortable and productive in sales and marketing roles leading him to take his technical knowledge into combined sales and engineering roles.
This realization brought him back to the Atlanta area where he jumped into sales, product management, product marketing roles, and finally marketing leadership.
A Versatile Marketer Is Best
Coming from a more non-traditional, technical background into marketing leadership, Robby has seen his variety of experiences pay off.
“Any modern marketer who is looking to be effective at their job has to combine both the left and right brain.”
Robby has seen his technical background benefit his marketing career, especially working in the tech space. “Even though I’m not writing the code anymore, it gives me an advantage as I am talking to vendors, partners, potential hires, etc. to understand all aspects of our product and the technical capabilities we have or need,” shares Robby.
Marketing is sometimes thought to just be about right-brained activities — storytelling through a brand, a beautiful website, great content, etc. Robby argues that your left-brain is just as important because analytics should be a part of everything.
“Everything is about metrics — every campaign, every event, every activity — everything needs to be measured to be able to tell that story accurately.”
In addition to his technical engineering background, Robby also credits sales experience as a major point of experience in his marketing journey. “As a marketing leader, if you don’t have sales experience of some kind, you’re doing yourself an injustice,” Robby shares. By learning to sell, you learn a whole new side of the business and can better understand the marketing needs by understanding the challenges of getting someone to buy-in.
Engaged with ENGAGE
Since joining the ENGAGE team in February, Robby has been riding a continuous wave of startup energy. ENGAGE is Robby’s 4th startup experience. Prior to working for tech startups, he spent time at larger organizations such as Yahoo! and roles in the telecommunications industry. Since Robby is a multi-talented leader with sales/engineering/marketing skills alike, he found that he was more productive in smaller organizations where he got to see all parts of the business in a way that he wasn’t exposed to in larger organizations. Startups were the perfect fit where he could wear multiple hats every single day.
ENGAGE specifically drew him in because its software is solving a crucial problem in the recruiting industry and allowing organizations to find the right talent at just the right time.
ENGAGE was the perfect combination of hard science used to solve a universal, social problem. The perfect place for an all-sides-of-the-brain marketer. Since joining the team, Robby hasn’t looked back.
“6 months with ENGAGE, in a good way, feels like 6 years.”
Daily Focus Points
Throughout his career and in his current role, Robby has developed his own approach to marketing and work in general. To sum it up, he shared 3 key ideas he tries to consider everyday.
1. The 10-Year Old Litmus Test
As technology continues to evolve and companies, like ENGAGE, continue to bring cutting-edge products and solutions to the market, Robby tries to remember that simplicity in messaging is key. When developing a new message, he explains it to his 10-year old daughter. It’s his way of reminding himself that simplicity and making sure the message is clear and concise is at the front of his mind. “If a customer can’t understand the message you’re trying to get across about a product in the milliseconds they spend looking at your messaging, you’re doing it wrong,” shares Robby. By keeping this rule in-mind, Robby ensures he is always thinking about simplicity and clarity as a focus for ENGAGE’s marketing message.
2. Constantly Mind-Share
Continuous knowledge-sharing and learning will make you a better leader, marketer, and individual. Robby believes surrounding yourself with like-minded peers (not just customers and prospects) that have the same industry or philosophical goals as you is key. This allows you to learn who aligns with you, who you can support and be supported by, and how you can grow into new ideas and grow as a company by learning from peers with the same intentions. A technique Robby uses to accomplish this is to go to conferences and speak on panels. This allows him to meet with other leaders in the recruiting/AI/ tech marketing spaces and share ideas in an authentic, positive way. In addition to knowledge share and gain, panels are a great way to elevate the ENGAGE brand and find mutually-beneficial connections.
3. Move with Velocity
“Velocity is a fast-fail attitude and approach.”
Robby believes in velocity to his approach in marketing. Velocity, or moving quickly in a direction, means making sure the ENGAGE team is working to get their message out there quickly, in mass quantities, but in a way that aligns with their mission. Throughout his career Robby has noticed that companies tend to get hesitant as they grow. “A lot of people are just afraid — the larger you get the more people are afraid to take risks/chances,”shares Robby. Even when there is a risk for making a mistake, Robby believes you have to continuously be moving fast in a direction you have conviction behind in order to be successful in marketing.
Love What You Do
At the end of our conversation, Robby left me with some great advice and a good reminder for someone at any stage of their career: have fun and be proud of what you do.
“I work a lot of hours; if you’re not having fun doing it, then it’s not worth it. Be involved with a team, company, a movement you can be proud of. After a very productive and fun day, you’re proud to go grab a beer, go for a run, or do whatever you’re doing in your life and say, ‘ you know what, I had a good day, I accomplished a lot, and I have the energy to go to the next day and do it again’.”
With folks like Robby leading, the ENGAGE Talent team is growing fast.