For this #ayaniwomen interview, we’re talking to Sara, EMEA Channel Marketing Lead at Formlabs.
Here we chat about everything from her professional journey, the 3D printing industry, to impostor syndrome and building confidence. Very inspiring. Enjoy the read!
Ani: Can you share a bit about yourself and your professional life?
Sara: I’m originally from Italy. I’ve lived abroad since 10 years. I’m a marketer by profession and education. I studied Business Administration for my Bachelors and then did a Masters in Marketing. Since then I’ve worked in the marketing field mostly for startups that do technology products, specifically hardware products like 3D printers. I first worked in San Francisco for a couple of years and then in Berlin for 5 years.
Ani: 3D printing is a very specific and technical field. Why did you choose to work in it?
Sara: Actually how I started was very random. When I was in San Francisco, I met the 2 founders of this company and they were both foreigners. They were looking for the first-employee from a non-technical field, specifically marketing. At that time, I was trying so hard to look for a job for more than 3 months, because US is very tricky when it comes to obtaining a work permit. You need to have a VISA to have a job and need a job to have a VISA. In the end this company was the one that understood the pain of being the foreigner.
So my entrance into the 3D printing world was quite spontaneous. At the same time it made sense for me as I’m a very practical person. I love to see and touch things I work with. Throughout my career, I loved working with products that make physical products for other people. Another aspect I enjoyed about 3D printing is that it's almost like working in the field of art and design. Enabling people to bring their dreams from their mind, their idea to the reality. That’s really beautiful and powerful.
Ani: And how did you find marketing for 3D printers?
Sara: It was mostly B2B marketing. And especially for 3D printing, people really have to see to be convinced. So a lot of offline activity was involved like going to trade shows, organising events, doing a lot of reviews on technical websites. Plus there’s a whole bunch of vertical marketing that you can do. Targeting companies in fashion, dental, jewellery. You need a very professional tone of voice , collaterals and have brand ambassadors that are trusted voices. In dental, for example, there are a lot of Facebook groups that are very active.
At the end of the day, you really rely on your community. So understanding who your users are is important. If they love your product, they’ll become your best ambassadors. That has worked a lot for us.
Ani: So there’s a lot about making personal connections in the marketing you do.
Sara: Yes, lots of word of mouth and face to face interactions. Now we’re even doing a lot of workshops with big companies to teach them not just about the product but the technology and how they can use it better. We also become a spokesperson as a brand of this transformation of 3D printing.
Ani: I know your work requires extensive travelling, sometimes 2-3 travels in one week. How do you feel about that?
Sara: Especially in the first year, when Formlabs just moved to Berlin, we were going to a lot of conferences. So it was tiring overall, but it also gave me a lot of energy to be on my own.
Ani: So you were usually working on your own?
Sara: Yes, and I was also carrying a 32 kg suitcase with the printer inside to go to journalists, trade shows, customers. It was physically challenging. One time I even travelled with 4 suitcases, because we were going on a PR tour with our early prototype. Now looking back it’s good to see how the office has also grown to 120 people.
Ani: So a useful advice for everyone when joining a new company would be to check the product and its size ;)
Sara: (laughing) Yes. But I also felt very powerful as a woman as well because this field is already very much male-oriented and they never expect you to walk in with a huge printer that you are carrying yourself and to know all the technical details about the product. It was surprising for them and gave me a lot of confidence.
Ani: How do you make sure you are always growing personally and professionally?
Sara: So I always try to find new ways of learning. Last year I turned 30 and became a mother so that has been a transformational year for me. I enjoy people-oriented roles. Few years ago I did a course that really changed my life.
Ani: How did you find out about this course?
Sara: Well, it was actually through Rotaract. They were offering this top course and I managed to get in. It was a 4 day retreat with about 40 people where you were partnered with a buddy for the entire course duration. It was a lot about team building and introspective work to understand yourself more. It left a really big mark on me about how to be a better version of myself and helped me to understand what my strengths and weaknesses are. This led me to learn something more about myself at this point. From just being Sara to also being a mother. And how not to let those things overlap all the time. Even if you are someone’s mother, you are still yourself. So I’m looking forward to a new course that starts soon. And I’m glad that Christian (Sara's husband) is supporting me and helping me with the baby while I will be gone.
Ani: Do you also like to read books on self-development?
Sara: Yes, though I mostly listen to podcasts these days because with a baby it’s just easier to listen to it while cooking or walking. But at the same time, I don’t want to prepare myself for the course too much. I believe discomfort is what challenges you the most. It will be better to read afterwards, once you’ve gone through it to kind of solidify the learnings in your mind.
Ani: Do like to read books on the professional topics like marketing?
Sara: Not so much, I’m more into the learning by doing approach. What I like to do is go to events where I can network or learn more. I think marketing is such a changing field, so I prefer to listen to real-life applications from people and get inspired.
Ani: What drives you in work?
Sara: It’s the feeling of being part of something and always improving. Growing personally and also making the company and brand grow. I also enjoy being part of things that are fast, so when things get slow I like to have more things on my plate.
Ani: My last question to you is - what does confidence mean to you?
Sara: Confidence has a lot of forms for me. Sometimes it’s just the way you are and how you feel. Other times it’s the way people see you. And you have to fake it until you make it. When I’m a new environment at times I tend to have impostor syndrome. So in order to tackle it I visualize myself doing the task, which gives me the confidence to actually do it. When I’m speaking at a conference, I will just think I’m here because I know about this topic more than the other people in the room. Also I remind myself that only I know how exactly my talk is supposed to be, so even if I miss a part, it’s just me who will notice it. Just know your worth, wherever you are.
So confidence is a mix of how you see yourself and how you make yourself be seen.
Ani: Thank you so much for your time for the interview. Many great points and highly applicable advice!
If you would like to get in touch with Sara, connect with her on LinkedIn.
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