Women in Mobile: Career Lessons from Vivian Chang @ Plated

By Anya Pratskevich | March 18, 2019

This article is part of Liftoff’s Women in Mobile series in partnership with mBolden, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women get connected, stay inspired and become empowered through content and events.

Before Vivian Chang became Director of Digital Marketing at RetailMeNot, she had worked in digital marketing for nearly a decade. At the time, she was no stranger to making high-stakes decisions and navigating the complexity of new digital channels. But the new management role came with its own set of unique challenges. Vivian is now Senior Director of Marketing at Plated, a meal kit delivery service. In this interview, she reflects on her career lessons and shares tips for developing your leadership style as a woman in tech.

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How did you decide to pursue a career in mobile?

Working in mobile as a complement to desktop was a natural career transition for me. In one of my first jobs as a search marketer at an agency, I learned how to use real-time data to make marketing decisions. Rapid testing was key to success. When I moved to a full-service interactive agency, I applied the same success formula while learning more about the impact of creatives on digital campaigns.

My agency experience helped me find my passion at the intersection of data analytics, creative, and rapid testing. That brought me to RetailMeNot, where I worked on different digital channels before eventually moving into mobile. When RetailMeNot launched its first mobile app back in 2009, I volunteered to take on mobile marketing. Initially, the goal was to setup and manage our first mobile app install campaigns even before Facebook advertising for apps existed. But as the industry exploded with new mobile advertising channels, I expanded my focus to include cross-channel attribution and bringing programmatic in-house.

Over time, my goals have shifted from driving channel-specific performance to looking at a broader picture and identifying strategic channels for our target audience. Today, my priority is to grow the brand’s presence on these key channels while measuring the business impact, online and off.

How did you grow from an individual contributor into a manager role?

Throughout my career, my passion for marketing and learning new things drove me to bring innovation into the company. I often volunteered to take on new responsibilities. Working cross-functionally and stretching myself led me to look for advocates within the organization. About halfway through my tenure at RetailMeNot (I was there for seven years), I had the opportunity to take on a management role.

What has been your most career-defining moment?

In my career at RetailMeNot, I had a choice to make: go to Europe and work as an IC or remain in Austin and take on a management role. (At the time, my immediate manager left the company). The decision to stay in the US was difficult to make; but I’m glad I did because it opened many doors for me and helped me grow faster in my career.

What challenges have you faced in the industry traditionally dominated by men?

One of the challenges is that, even today, many corporate structures value an aggressive leadership style. Too often, the decision-making power goes to the loudest person in the room. It is natural that many women try to take on a personality that fits that mold. Yet unlike men, they are then viewed as too aggressive or attention-seeking. It’s a catch-22.

It has taken some time for me to develop my own leadership style. Leadership for me means listening and staying open to my team’s ideas instead of dictating the agenda. This sets me apart and helps me catch things that others might miss because they are too busy trying to get their point across. In the mobile industry, people are very open to sharing knowledge and information, so this becomes my advantage. Through listening, I learn a lot and identify new pockets of opportunity.

Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor?

I’ve been lucky to have many advocates in my career who gave me the freedom to expand my scope of work while also providing critical feedback to help me grow. For example, I learned a lot from my manager Brett Billick who demonstrated what it means to bring your “whole self” to work, share more about your life outside of work and connect with people on a genuine level. I apply the same approach not just within my organization but also to broader industry relationships. Some of my industry connections became close friends; I reach out to them when I face challenges.

What do you see as some of the best and worst initiatives designed to promote women in tech?

Organizations like mBolden are great at connecting women in the industry and providing them with opportunities to speak. While I find these initiatives very helpful, I wish getting visibility in the industry as a woman in mobile was a more organic process.

The truth is, men are raising their hands at much higher rates than women. Beyond formal initiatives, I wish we could solve this problem from the ground up. We need more people in leadership roles, men and women, who promote women within their organizations. That could be as simple as making introductions, encouraging women to speak or even nominating someone for Liftoff’s Mobile Heroes program.

Who is your biggest career inspiration in the industry?

My biggest career inspiration usually comes from people whom I know well. These people are my former and current managers, such as Marissa Tarleton, my former CMO and now CEO at RetailMeNot, and connections in the mobile app industry. Women like Mada Seghete at Branch, Sarah Hawley at Feedmob and Susan Kuo at Singular are not just inspiring professionals who are advancing our industry but also amazing people who think about building healthy organizations that are great places to work.

Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?

I can think of two. The first one is to always say “yes” to opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge, and value that more than titles and money. Having a broader skill set and more exposure to a variety of business problems will make you a stronger leader in the future. The second piece of advice is to build your network. Don’t just focus on getting tasks done; get to know your co-workers, managers and peers in the industry. My individual work projects didn’t travel with me from company to company, but my relationships did.

Fun fact about you that few people know?

At the moment of this interview, I’m driving from Austin to New York. It might sound a bit crazy, but I’m doing it for my dog. Another fun fact: I’m a certified yoga instructor. Life moves pretty fast and yoga is my time to slow down.

Follow Vivian Chang on LinkedIn and Twitter at @vivian814.

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