I was never supposed to be a marketer, but somehow, I managed to become one. While luck is defined as when preparation meets opportunity, you still have to find that chance. Fortunately for me, my time at Rackspace was my moment. I was able to transition from a practitioner of industrial engineering and project management, into a full-fledged, highly skilled marketer that spanned across the stack. So, today, when Rackspace asked me to leave there was naturally a bit of sadness, but also a tremendous amount of gratitude for what the company has done for me.
This is an enormous sea change in my life. I’m extremely excited about this moment, but am sad to leave a company that has given me so much by the way of friendships and opportunities. After working with words for the past six-and-a-half years at Rackspace, I felt I had to write something. Here are some memorable things I’ve learned over the years at the Rack along with a sneak peek at what’s next for me in the future. And if you’re just curious about what I’ll be up to, go ahead and skip down to the bottom.
#1: Career Changes Don’t Happen Overnight
In 2005, I graduated with a Master’s degree in industrial engineering, a discipline that focused on adding value through subtraction, such as: eliminating inventory, work-in-progress and non-value-added work. While that’s important, I found I wanted to create value by “addition,” or by creating things, and a year out of school I realized I wanted to be a marketer.
It took five long years and a fortuitous meeting with Angela Bartels who was profiling me for the Rackspace blog about an app I built. Angela had also heard about a blog I maintained and after the interview asked me to apply for a content marketing position. An industrial engineer was about to become a marketer—my life changed for the better.
#2: The Best Way to Improve Your Writing is to Read It Out Loud
Want a quick way to improve your writing? Read it out loud. Not “out loud” in your head, but rather audibly out loud. I learned this from Dominic Smith, one of the best writers I know, while on the content team. My writing became leaps and bounds better. You’ll find all the clunkieness and repetitiveness in your prose—and for me, it’s helps to keep in check my West Texas-ness.
#3: If You Want to Be an Expert at Anything, Write About It Once a Week
Back in 2008, David “Mitz” Mitzenmacher gave me this tip and it works. You can’t help becoming an expert if you write about any subject weekly. You’ll soon become part of the community and be able to explain it in depth. This advice is what led to me consistently posting to my personal blog, which led me to getting a job in marketing. I just wish I had learned the strategy about reading your copy out loud earlier.
#4: Everyone Wants to Be Valued Members of a Winning Team on an Inspired Mission
With two buildings dotting the San Antonio skyline and a third on the way, Graham Weston is both physically changing the cityscape as well as empowering an entire cohort of entrepreneurs and technologists. Rare is the person with a disparaging word to say about Graham. I was always amazed at how many names he knew and he was able to connect with so many Rackers (to this day, I occasionally get a text out of the blue from him and it always blows me away). While a slogan is just words on a paper, Graham’s ability to make everyone actually become a valued member on his team was inspiring.
Ideas I’m Thinking About After Rackspace
Having already left Rackspace once to start a business in 2010, I never thought I would have the opportunity to try to make it work again. But this time I have more than ideas—I have actual experience in paid media, content marketing and brand storytelling along with a network of businesses that I can deliver results. I’ve vetted many of the topics below in both practice at Rackspace and my side business of creating Fiesta Medals, and I’m excited to further explore some of these following options:
Going Big with the Fiesta Medals
This won’t make sense if you’re outside San Antonio, but for all of y’all in South Texas, I’m really excited about the prospect of creating medals for business. I’ve only scratched the surface of wholesaling medals (my model is more of a distribution network for medals I create) and I think that businesses are craving good design. I’m excited to reach out and develop partnerships with businesses for Fiesta Medals or any other promotional items. This is going to be my immediate focus and if you know of a business needing a medal, please let me know.
Consulting B2C Companies on Paid Social
Currently, I’ve seen between a three to 10x ROAS (return on advertising spend) with my personal B2C business. Many companies don’t realize how effective paid social marketing is to drive business results. I’m looking forward to working with these companies to demonstrate how paid social is far superior to traditional advertising and often returns better results than paid display/search. I hope to find some companies to work with in the near future.
Partnering with Non-Profits
Recently, I’ve unearthed an opportunity to help non-profits with their digital strategy. And the best part? I believe it can be done without any out of pocket expenses for them. I’ve wanted to act on this idea for the past three months but just haven’t had the time—I’m excited to research and refine this idea further and look forward to partnering with a non-profit organization.
Video Marketing Engine
Video is the best way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. But it’s far more than just getting a video filmed—you have to have a paid strategy to make sure that it’s seen and that it converts. Having worked on over 250+ short films at Rackspace, I’m interested in finding businesses looking to stand out with video. This is more of a stretch goal, but I was able to hone a solid video production talent while at Rackspace and enjoyed working on those projects.
Developing “Owned” Engines that Work
Two things that I’m incredibly bullish on are newsletters (read: properly executed, non-spammy newsletters) and Facebook Live broadcasting. These two channels have pound-for-pound outperformed anything else I’ve done with paid media in my personal business. I don’t think that companies are utilizing them right, and I have particular best practices that can make these channels incredibly effective for B2C companies. I know that most companies are not asking about these now, and this is more of a stretch goal.
These are just a taste of the ideas that are to come. The last time I left Rackspace was one of the most creative times in my life. I created a bar game app that was on the front page of the iTunes store, founded a company that made a CMS for museums to dynamically create a smartphone art tour and developed the idea that would become the Pi Pie Pan. I’m hoping for an even greater wave of creativity and am looking forward to seeing what happens!
If you’re interested in collaborating or know of someone who would, I would love it if you would reach out. You can find me on Twitter at @pinojo and on LinkedIn (I don’t do Facebook outside of family). If you’d like to get in touch via email, you can drop me a line at my first name (remember: two Rs and two Ts) dot my last name at gmail dot com.
Some Quick Thank You Notes to Rackspace Folks
I just wanted to end on some quick thank you notes—I imagine that I’m going to leave out a ton of people and I don’t mean to do so. There have just been so many people who’ve impacted me at Rackspace and I’m sure I can’t name them all, but these are some that have come to mind.
- Ric Jimenez—gotta start with the guy who got me in the door at Rackspace, a great friend and business partner
- Angela Bartels—for giving me a chance at being a marketer, giving me the SA Flavor domain and a dear friend
- Sally Aguilar-Robertson—for being one of the most kind-hearted bosses who showed me what it meant to care for people
- Barrow Hamilton—for showing me what it means to be even keeled and what it means to really work when no one else will
- Shanon Montelongo—for being a solid leader who demonstrates what it means to have a team’s back
- Pat Condon—for spending time with a guy who was trying to hustle out a museum app
- Graham Weston—for building San Antonio into the next great city and demonstrating what it means to inspire someone
- Frank Cerda—for always being a friend, thick-and-thin, hunting out the best enchiladas in town and eating Oscar’s on my birthday
- Waz—for giving me the opportunity on the social team and letting me be a little crazy
- Rob La Gesse—for being tenacious in getting me on his team (even though he knew I didn’t like him at the time) and for encouraging me to shoot for the moon
- Andy Pape—for always being a dude who cheers me on, no matter whether it’s professional or personal, and for looking on the bright side of life
- Dave Post—for basically going zero to social marketing all-star in order to cover me on my paternity leave
- Dave Kroll—for being a solid leader and having my back, even up until the end
- Major Hayden—for being the most approachable expert I’ve ever met and willing to teach anyone
- Dominic Smith—for helping this “three-legged” horse learn how to run like the wind
- Matt Niemann—for being an incredibly talented photographer/producer and developing into a better friend
- Christina Liserio—for being my Fiesta Medal friend and always cheering me on
- Franklin Morris—for being there when I needed to get some Scotch and talk content
- Lauren Riazzi—for showing me how freakin’ hard Millennials work and for the AJ story
- Mel Offill—for being “offilly” amazing; I really miss working with you
- Brian Johnson—for being that little bit of Zen and getting me the VOTE coaster
- Pete Vorenkamp—for a lot of leadership in a short amount of time
- Mel Carrasco—for really looking out for me when I first came back
- Bobby Vardeman—for having my back, all the time no matter the fight
- Bret McGowen—for being a friend first, museum tour partner second and on-air talent third
- Alan Bush—for his passion in serving the customer and live video
- Drew Cox—for his love of coffee and willingness to always help
- Sammy Balogun—for all our UT/Texas Tech bets, being a good sport and carrying himself in a manner that I aspire to emulate
- Jake Gracia—for always having the best life perspective and being an artist
- Cody Benavides—for being a great teammate and better basketball player
- Tracy Hamilton—for eliminating my passive voice
- Dan Goodgame—for having the best stories about life and busines
- Sara Fields—for caring about her book of business as much as I do and for really getting to know me as a person
- Heather Stephenson—for being the most talented digital marketer I’ve ever met and for pushing me to be better than I was trying to be
- Neven Simpson—for incredible copy and hanging with me at SXSW
- Hailey Bishop—for making my job far more easier and always being in a good mood
- Alex Medina—for training me to be in better shape and enjoy life much more
- Mike Torres—for being one of the most genuinely likeable guys I’ve ever met and a good leader
- Andrew Hickey—for introducing me to good beer and better prose
- Jason Swindle—for genuinely always looking to help me and for actually doing it when I needed my blog’s DB fixed
Best of luck to you, Garrett! And thanks for the shout out above! It has been an honor and a pleasure working with you. I can’t properly communicate how much I was able to learn from you, except by summing it up with a quote.
As Ace Frehley once said, “I can’t even read notes. But I can teach someone how to make a guitar smoke.” This is how you impact people, not with a guitar (yet), but with ideas that help make people shine.
You are extremely talented and I know that great things are ahead for you. To infinity and beyond!
You’re aces mate! Really appreciate the comment!