Downtime to Upskill: Performance and Growth Marketing

COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact on many businesses, leading to broad layoffs of professionals. Recognizing that we have the ability to make an impact in this area, Robert Walters has developed a new webinar series called Downtime to Upskill, where we offer free fireside chats with top leaders. Our intent is to offer advice on how to develop new skills to become more marketable in today's competitive and rapidly changing job market.

We partnered with Holly Chen, award-winning growth advisor formerly at Slack, Google, Gucci, and Deloitte to bring you the latest installment in the Downtime to Upskill Series. This episode was specifically geared towards Performance and Growth Marketers. See below for a wrap-up of the discussion in case you missed it, and feel free to visit our webinars page to sign up for upcoming webinars or watch them on-demand.

If you were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, what now?

You are not alone. Nearly 1 in 5 households have lost work because of the pandemic.

“It speaks nothing of your competency as a professional or your value as a human being. Too often we attach our identity to our jobs. It doesn’t define you; If you were laid off it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You are still you and you are experiencing life’s ups and downs right now,” advises Holly.  

Think of yourself as a startup. The three components that give you a competitive advantage are at the intersection of your assets, your aspirations and values, and market realities. While in transition, consider your strongest soft skills (communication, public speaking, organization, critical thinking). Think about where your passions lie and what industry or market your skillset would go the furthest. There are many industries in hyper-growth during this time, so consider setting your sights on those.

“Look at macro trends (automation, future of work, collaboration, AI), and think about what’s unique about you that fits that trend. Create a go-to-market plan for yourself. Develop your unique value proposition,” says Holly.

Are there any trends in how performance or growth marketing has changed since the onset of COVID-19?

Three trends have emerged as a result of COVID-19: digital marketing is now a top priority, ROI of marketing is now more essential than ever, and retention and monetization is at the core of the most resilient businesses right now.

“Your skillsets in content marketing, SEO, email campaigns, digital advertising, digital events, and online community building are things people (and hiring managers) value, and you want to build your skillset around that,” says Holly.

“Hone your ability to gain insights from data and understand how to measure your marketing efforts. Read up about attribution models, incrementality tests, and A/B testing, and get familiar with the marketing tools and systems that host this data,” she adds.

Companies that are typically concerned with top of funnel acquisition are realizing the importance of retaining existing customers at this time. This is a time to retain your customers in an ROI positive way.

“Think about how to use your channels to engage with your companies. You should be able to connect the dots between acquisition, lifecycle marketing, and product growth,” says Holly.

Are there any specific tools that all of us should be really well-versed in if we consider ourselves experts in performance or growth marketing?

Depending on where you specialize, a strong growth marketer should have a deep understanding of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and testing platforms such as Optimizely. Holly recommends Google Skillshop for advancing your skills in that arena. Google Analytics also has a YouTube channel, where you can access tutorials and walk-throughs to deepen your knowledge. There’s also Facebook Blueprint, which hosts online learning videos on advertising, community development, and lead generation (to name a few).

“Another high in demand skillset is mobile user acquisition. Mobile UA really needs talent, but there aren’t a lot of people with experience in it. Learn about Google UAC, Apple search ads, App Store Optimization, how to improve mobile creatives, and best practices around mobile engagement. Also, learn SQL! If you can learn how to write SQL, you already have your foot in the door. Data scientists are very much in demand right now,” says Holly.

What are some things you look for on a resume or profile when looking for people to grow your team?

Your resume shouldn’t be a list of all the projects and tasks you’ve completed on the job. Instead, look at your resume as a portfolio of the incredible results that you’ve driven as a growth marketer.

“As a recruiter, I always look for results. It’s all about the ability to show a data-driven skillset. If numbers aren’t the first thing I see, then something isn’t quite clicking. I also look for a clean and well-structured resume, as well as specific skills (like Tableau or SQL),” says Julia Horiuchi, Associate Director at Robert Walters San Francisco.

Hiring managers are also specifically looking for an agency background or experience in a similar industry, stage or complexity. Performance marketers early on in their career should focus on adding points to their resumes that demonstrate an ability to learn and adapt quickly.

“What’s important for hiring managers is the softer side of your skillset, particularly in a remote work world. They are looking for self-starters that require minimal supervision to get things done and excel at collaboration. Strategic thinking and problem solving are also very desirable. In this new situation with so many unknowns, your ability to be resourceful and find solutions quickly is something that is highly valued— so be sure to emphasize your ability to do so in interviews,” says Holly.

What are some good questions to ask in an interview process to gauge culture fit and evaluate the company in-depth?

Always ask a potential manager how they give feedback and how they like to receive feedback. It reveals whether they’re open to feedback as well as the communication style of the manager. Don’t be afraid to ask about workplace culture and philosophies around work life balance and mental health, which are absolutely essential to have clear during a global pandemic.

“Ask how goals are set to determine whether the company is a top-down decision making company or more consensus-driven,” says Holly. “I always ask to speak with my potential future coworkers or reports as well, because those are the people that will really have insight into how the company really is,” she adds.

Do you have any advice on switching industry or getting into tech if you aren’t already a part of the tech world?

If you don’t have any experience in the tech world, think about your core skillset and what portions of that are transferable.

“Are you a data analyst from a financial services company? That’s relevant and transferable to a data scientist role at a tech company,” says Holly. “Tech companies provide tools for the general market. If their target market is in an industry that you have experience in, then that experience will be very valuable for that role,” she adds.

“Keep in mind that if you are making a big industry switch, then you might be making a lateral move. We typically think of a career shift in terms of moving up a ladder, but that’s not always the case, and it’s important to be realistic,” says Julia.

Should candidates consider roles in spaces that COVID-19 has affected?

Understandably, many professionals are weary to apply to businesses that may not seem resilient amidst crisis.

“I think that industries like travel will bounce back. The market is pretty segmented. Companies that are currently hiring are doing so because part of their target audience is resilient, and that is a great sign that those companies have something up their sleeves to grow. Consider the growth plan of the company to assess whether they are pandemic-proof. Take a longer-term view when you evaluate,” says Holly.

If somebody is in a position where they’re looking for a new position, where should they look for support, or what resources would you recommend they check out?


Skill Building/Online Learning

Are you looking for hiring assistance in the Bay Area? Contact Kelly Carson, Go to Market Consultant at Robert Walters San Francisco, by emailing her at

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