NHL to the Valley

Why your career is a path, not a choice. 

Disclaimer: Patrick did not actually play in the NHL. 

Disclaimer: Patrick did not actually play in the NHL. 

This is part of my Valley interview series, featuring a diverse range of marketers. For some context, read this post to learn why I went to the Valley and then this post to see what I learned. 

My path into tech marketing has thus far been one of advanced planning and precise calculation. Like many students, I worry about getting a job I like, and so I put a lot of effort into learning skills and having experiences that make me an ideal candidate. Patrick Frost taught me that having a strong profile is more important than having a clear path.

Humble Beginnings 

Patrick studied history at Denison University, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, primarily to play varsity soccer. Knowing a full-time career would be quite time-consuming, Patrick prioritized two things he loved: travel and skiing. He spent 2 months travelling across the West Coast, eventually settling in San Francisco; a big city with access to mountains nearby. 

Patrick has always been passionate about sports, so naturally he jumped into the sports industry after graduation. He spent more than 10 years working for the San Jose Sharks in sales. Here, Patrick championed a number of areas including ticket programs, partnerships, and offline marketing. It was fun, but he was restless. 

I wanted a new challenge, and tech seemed like it. Being in the Valley, I’m always hearing the buzz and following the trends, but never as a direct contributor to it. 

Most people might assume here that Patrick made the jump directly into tech marketing, but this wasn’t exactly the case. Square was at a young age and didn’t have a sales team, which would have fit his skillset. His eventual role? Customer Support.

Patrick and I chatted in one of these alcoves. 

Patrick and I chatted in one of these alcoves. 

Hard Work Pays Off 

Albite not the most glamorous role at a tech company, Patrick was determined to work at Square and was happy to start at Customer Support to learn the product from the ground up. He worked hard to build rapport at Square, harvesting relationships within the company and keeping an eye out for new opportunities. A year into the job, that opportunity came.

Starting as a Channel Marketing Manager, Patrick used his existing knowledge to develop association partnerships for Square and run marketing events, all with the goal of user acquisition. Being in a new industry, he still faced a variety of challenges and had to learn quickly. 

Never Stop Learning

One area that Patrick emphasized was learning how to frame problems. In order to get approval for new campaigns, he needed to find the right data and present it in a way that proved to his team members that he deserved the resources. 

Now focused on Marketing & Partnerships for Square Canada, I asked Patrick what he was keen on learning next. He mentioned, coincidentally, that the position of product manager was the next thing on his plate. 

I have a good grasp of sales and marketing, but you need to really understand what other teams do in order to get the ball rolling. That means diving into areas that you aren’t necessarily comfortable in.
Quick action shot before leaving the premises.

Quick action shot before leaving the premises.

Plan for Growth, Not Careers 

What I learned from Patrick was not that you need to start in support to get to your desired role, but rather that you need to focus on optimizing for learning and not for future roles. Doing the latter might mean you’re looking for an opportunity when there isn’t one, but always being prepared puts you in a much more desirable boat. 

I personally plan on pursuing something called t-shaped learning. The idea is to have a good grasp of the various areas in your practice, and have a strong expertise in 1–2 areas. For me, that means understanding SEO, paid advertisements, and data management, while going deep on areas like email marketing and customer segmentation. 

Getting work experience from ground zero can be difficult; subscribe to my email newsletter and get an EXCLUSIVE piece on how you can start.