How 2B Fearless with Fearless 50 Member, Jess Kao

In this third edition of the How 2B Fearless series, we sat down with Jess Kao, who is not only a Fearless 50 member, but a Marketo Champion and a Silicon Valley MUG Leader. Jess shares what being a fearless marketer means for her and what that has meant for her career.

What does fearless marketing mean to you?

Being fearless is commonly mistaken as functioning in the absence of fear. Yet, fear is part of being human. It is part of our evolution as a species. (Yes, I am a scientist.) Being a fearless marketer means being scared, embracing and befriending the fear, breathing through it, then doing something anyway.

Who is a fearless marketer you look up to and why?

Beth Comstock. I remember seeing her during one of the keynotes at Marketing Nation Summit 2014. (Oh my goodness, has it really been that long?) What struck me was here is this incredibly accomplished person, the CMO of GE, on stage talking about how she often felt fear and doubted herself. I always thought these incredibly successful people I see on stage were invincible, and my goal was to strive to squash all fear and doubt from my mind and be just like them. My learning was that the people on stage are humans, just like me, who experience feelings of fear and doubt and uncertainty too.

How did your career start out in marketing? How did you get to the point you are at in your career today?

My marketing career started in the most circuitous way possible. I worked in biotech after I graduated with my PhD in Cancer Biology. After 15 years working in labs, I transitioned to the Marketing Department, where everyone had a science degree but very few, if any, had a background in marketing. I went to Summit for the first time in 2013, which opened my eyes to the fascinating world of digital marketing. I fell in love and decided it was time to leave biotech all together. The day I decided to leave to work for a SaaS company, I was so scared, I literally cried.

I got the confidence to interview for a Demand Generation/Marketing Ops position because of everything I learned at Marketing Nation Summit and my local Marketo User Group (MUG). In fact, the San Francisco MUG leader at the time gave me the best ever advice on how to approach interviewing: “Pretend you already have the job and teach them what you know.”

When I interviewed for the job, I was asked to present a demand generation plan to the CEO. Having never created a demand generation plan before, I was up late into the night working on my deck.

I presented the foundational concepts I learned from the Marketing Nation and they loved it! I got the job.

I couldn’t have got to where I am without all the people in the Marketo eco-system.

What have you learned from other members of the Fearless 50?

There are still times I tell myself I can’t do something. I don’t even try. But when I talk to other members of the Fearless 50, they always inspire me to take a leap of faith and just do it!

What are three pieces of advice you would give to the next generation of fearless marketers?

  1. Embrace your "Failure Resume." It is your moments of failure that teach you the most about who you are and what you are capable of.
  2. Be relentless. Never settle. Constantly push yourself higher.
  3. Get to know your fear. Understand what that the voice inside your head, the one that talks you out of trying something new, whether it's a new workout routine or speaking up at work, is just your fear talking.

“Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” --George Addair

About Jess Kao



Community Profile:Digital Pi

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Level 10

I had no idea you had a phd, Jess! This is great, I completely agree with & relate to so many of these points

Level 4

So fascinating

Level 7 - Champion Alumni

A familiar story of moving from the lab into marketing.

Level 2

"Get to know your fear". Yes! The more you know, the less scary it is.

Level 2

Great advice, Jess!

Level 3

Very inspiring!

Level 3

"...fear is part of being human" I love this! I think so often we feel the pressure to put on a strong face and act as if we know it all and everything's fine. Personally, I've learned more from the things I'm afraid of and it's made me a better marketer.

Level 2

She's a scientist! I knew I felt a kindred spirit (I'm an engineer). Cheers Jess!

Level 10

Yay, Jess!!!!! Great advice all around

Level 3

Good to see marketers with different backgrounds