For the last six years, my wife and I have been fostering dogs for the Dumb Friends League. It’s been a rewarding volunteer experience, helping both animals and our community along with being a whole lotta fun. The reward extends beyond the personal fulfillment I receive, it also has helped make me a better marketer and also helped my enablement game. In past blog posts, I have talked about how improv helped me improve professionally, and this post will explain how fostering has aided my professional growth.
Doing the best that you can
When you are fostering dogs, you are often placed in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. Two mama dogs gave birth in our house, and believe me I lacked the preparation and skills to do this. We just jumped in and did it. Did a bit of research, worked with the foster office, and ground through it. We did the best that we could, and it turned out to be good enough. It was definitely worth it, as we got to see dogs be raised from birth to being adopted. One of our friends even adopted one, so we get to see it every so often.
This also happens in marketing or enablement. Necessity dictates thrusting you into situations that you catch you by surprise. For instance, I talked about running a virtual kick-off with basically no notice. The enablement team was not prepared to deal with that activity. The reality is that we worked through it, and did a heck of a job. Was it perfect? No, but we did the best that we could and that was enough.
Always continue to grow
Tied to the first item, being good enough won’t cut it over time. You need to learn from each experience and try to do better. As I mentioned, we had two litters of puppies born in our house. The second litter went a lot smoother than the first, as we mastered birthing puppies. We learned about weaning the pups, how to interact with mama, how to organize their space, potty training, and oh so much more. The next round of puppies we had, we took those learnings and applied them.
This is also something I did with a kick-off. In 2019, I ran two kick-offs. The first, ran in January of 2019, was quite the affair. The event turned out great. In fact, over 70% of attendees rated the event as being excellent or very excellent. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, it was, and I was quite proud of the effort of the team. But we need to continue to improve our kick-off. We took the feedback given at the event and made it better. We shortened the event, added more activities, more breaks, and also had a kick-butt whiteboarding session. The result? Well, 85% of attendees rated it better than the last event!
Don’t get too attached
The hardest about having fosters is giving them back. We have had almost 30 foster dogs already in 2020, and giving them back is always a challenge. You develop an attachment to those dogs, and the having to send them back tugs at your heart. Well, most of the time it does, but sometimes, you get sick of them and are ready for them to find their forever families.
This learning applies directly to product marketing. In product marketing, it’s often the case that the awesome thing you built has a short life. Maybe it doesn’t work, or maybe no one uses it, or maybe the go-to-market strategy changes. It can be hard to let these things go, but it’s best if you can keep some mental distance. So that when that thing you built ends, you are prepared to handle it.
So my wife (and editor), just commented to me as she was editing this post that maybe I made this post just to share cute pics of dogs. I have to admit that crossed my mind. Fostering has helped me develop professionally, by learning and applying those learnings across my professional career, I think I am a better marketer.