Whitney van der Zanden: “The growth marketer job is 80 percent tech”

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Whitney van der Zanden

Many people are looking into retraining. Do another profession, because you want to contribute more to society, or because you simply want to earn more money. Nothing wrong with it. Ironhack is such a retraining location. NL News of the Week Whitney van der Zanden works there: she is a growth marketer. But what exactly does such a person do? Spoiler: more with tech than you might think.

Ironhack is an international tech school where you can follow boot camps on cybersecurity and UX design, among other things. You can participate in intensive day programs that take 9 weeks, or go for the 24-week variant where you spend a few evenings a week learning. After all, you also have to earn money. Very useful and especially aimed at people who would like to retrain for a tech profession. Whitney would also like to take a course herself. “But, I really have to make time for that.”

Growth marketer

No wonder, she has a daughter and a busy job, in which she regularly consults with growth marketers from other countries about actions to take to ensure that more students join Ironhack. Growth marketer is often seen as marketing, but there are certainly differences, says Whitney: “In general, marketing is a bit more creative, then you come up with campaigns based mainly on creativity. As a growth marketer you approach it more from the data: what do the numbers say?”

Whitney did not study to become a growth marketer, because that course did not exist at the time. “I studied marketing and learned the trade gradually. I did obtain my Growth Tribe certificate and I find it very valuable. Growth marketer comes from growth hacking. You first look at the data, where the opportunities lie, and then you apply a strategy or campaign and experiment. Experimenting is especially important: if it doesn’t work, stop and move on to the next thing. This often makes everything go a bit faster.” But it does mean that as a marketer you are suddenly put in a rather data scientist-like role. How does Whitney see that?

“We have a data team available to help us. In this way they help visualize data and make it readable. However, I do think that creativity is still important in the work of a growth marketer. However, knowledge about data analytics is really a great added value. I think the profession is 80 percent tech and 20 percent creative marketing.” In any case, Whitney is very happy with her job. “I am truly a marketer through and through. I certainly want to go into depth in terms of data in the future, but we really do a lot of fun campaigns, such as on social media. What does help if you want to become a growth marketer is to be able to work very agile. Switching quickly helps you, especially in tech. You have to be able to try things and then leave it and move on. If you can’t go along with that and you get stuck, then it doesn’t work.”

Female students at Ironhack

In the Netherlands, 45 percent of Ironhack’s students are women, which is a good number. Fortunately, it is not representative of how many women work in tech in the Netherlands: that is only 18 percent, which makes these types of retraining programs important. Whitney notices in communication that in the Netherlands we often have more communication needs around finances: “What financing options are there, but also which career options and how long does that take? Just because you do something in technology that requires a lot of people is no guarantee that you will have a job the day after completing the course. Keep in mind that it is a process: you are moving in a completely new direction, it does not just happen overnight.”

Ultimately, Whitney was approached by Ironhack via LinkedIn for this job. “I first worked as a growth lead at a marketing agency, but then I got that message. I had never heard of Ironhack, but I thought it was great that this kind of education exists, in which you can start working in tech in an accelerated trajectory. Now I already had a great interest in coding, so I was already learning JavaScript with Udemy. So the offer came at a good time. I worked for myself for a long time and also did things with web design. I did a lot with WordPress and realized: if you want to progress in this, it is useful if you understand the basics of web design. I haven’t learned much about it within Ironhack so far, but I would like to. It can also be done from the company, but I still have to find the time for it myself.”

We hope Whitney manages to do that, maybe when her little one is a bit bigger? In any case, we wish her the best of luck with growing Ironhack. After all, it ultimately has the same goal as us: helping women in tech, but also helping women get into tech.

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