James Kotecki - Biggest a-ha moment, Risks and Advice

March 18, 2020

James Koteck shares his biggest a-ha moment in marketing, risks he's taken in his career, and advice for marketing professionals.

Video Transcript

Speakers: James Kotecki, Director of Marketing & Communications, Infinia ML

What was the biggest a-ha moment of your marketing career?

James Kotecki: My name is James Kotecki, and I am the Director of Marketing at Infinia ML. The biggest ah-ha moment of my marketing career came when I realized that I don't have to know everything. I can actually just interview people who know things and turn that into great content and turn those conversations into great ideas. So a large chunk of my business, and a large chunk of my marketing expertise, and career has been built not around knowing all these great insights about technology or the businesses that I'm representing or marketing on behalf of, but in my ability to ask questions of people who do actually know those things. Something that is said in the voice of the customer, literally the voice of the customer, is far more powerful than something that I, as a marketer, can say. Something that is a really powerful piece of content, a really powerful insight, is probably living in the heads of my colleagues, my technical colleagues, at work right now, and it's my job to use my expertise to draw that out of that. It's not my job to kind of create that out of nothing. So I think once I realized that all the great content and all the great ideas and all the great stuff that marketing is pumping out could come from interviews and conversations, or at least a large chunk of those things, could come from interviews and conversations - that was really a game changer for me because it allowed me to focus on what I'm good at, asking questions and then allowing other people to do what they're good at, which is sharing their insights and expertise. Now, I once heard Terry Gross interviewed, the host of NPR's Fresh Air, (the interview show) and she said that actually, she had some kind of similar revelation at one point when she was hosting a radio show. In her early days of doing that, she was like, 'Oh, I can I can actually just do interviews on the on the air - full time do that.' So I want to just be clear. I'm not at all comparing myself to the great Terry Gross, but we did have a similar idea.

When did taking a risk in your career pay off?

James Kotecki: I was working in marketing at a tech company called Automated Insights, and it was going fine. But I just had this entrepreneurial itch to go and start my own thing. So I left. I took a risk, and I started my own company, a solo marketing business that I figured out eventually was going to focus on customer storytelling, and testimonial creation on behalf of mostly tech clients. I didn't realize that exact focus at first. I kind of had inklings of it, but I was scattered in a number of different directions. It took me maybe 12, 18 months to actually figure out exactly how to focus the business precisely and what exactly I was selling. And at the end of that time, the person who had been the CEO of the company that I had left had himself left that company and had gone to do something else and was now coming in to be the CEO of a new company called Infinia ML. He asked me to join that company as its director of marketing, and I did. The reason that the risk paid off was because in that 12,18,24 month span, of doing my own business. I had really been able to level up my own marketing abilities, my own confidence, my own kind of self, leadership and managerial abilities, to the point where I was able to come in at a much higher level for this new company and be a better contributor.

What advice do you have for marketers trying to take their career to the next level?

James Kotecki: Okay, so somebody comes to me and says, Hey, I'm a marketer and I want to take my career to the next level. What do I do?' I would first turn the question around and say, 'What do you mean by next level? Is it just going from, a manager title to a director title? Isn't that kind of linear promotion?' That's just one definition of what next level could be. It could be doing something, deepening your expertise within the title that you have now. And the fact that you don't get a promotion and therefore increased managerial responsibilities is what actually allows you to deepen your expertise because you have fewer managerial responsibilities and you can actually go deeper. That's just an example. Another example would be you could go and start your own thing. That's what I did. That's how I took my career to the next level. But I'm not seeing anyone necessarily has to do that. I'm just suggesting that before you think about how to advance and climb the ladder of life, just think about whether the next rung is really in a straight linear fashion. Because the ladder of life doesn't look like any kind of ladder that you buy in a hardware store - the rungs are flung all over God's creation. This metaphor is breaking down. But what did not break down is your resolve as a marketer to figure out what the next step should actually mean for you at this time. Not what other people would define it as, not what might impress people at your family reunion, but what the next level should actually mean for you right now. I would spend a lot more time thinking about that question that I would even necessarily thinking about. 'Okay, how do I get there?'

Produced with Vocal Video