Education

An Interview with Jenn Branstetter, Porch’s Chief of Staff and Master Marketer

Who says you can't start your first company in college?

Are you thinking about a career in tech marketing? Then Jenn Branstetter, Porch’s Chief of Staff & Head of Lowe’s Partnership, is your ultimate girl crush. She’s definitely one of ours. After starting her first company in college, Jenn went on to have a 10 year marketing career with Microsoft before moving to Porch, one of Seattle’s fastest growing startups. She is a marketing wiz, team builder extraordinaire, and an avid water sport lover. We caught up with her to talk all things tech marketing and what it takes to develop a career this dynamic field!

Jenn Branstetter headshot of ChickTech and PorchWhen you were a teenager, did you know you wanted to start your career in marketing? How did you decide to go into the Foster School of Business at UW?
JB
: I knew in high school that I wanted to attend the UW and start a career in marketing. My family has a rich history with the Purple & Gold (both my parents and grandparents went there) and I was very excited to cheer for the Huskies. I majored in Business, with a focus in marketing and entrepreneurship. I even started a company in college with a few close friends.

What is your favorite marketing campaign you’ve created?
JB: My favorite campaign was pretty quirky, considering it was for Microsoft. I was running social media for the Microsoft Retail Stores, and we created a fun holiday campaign: “12 Days of Deals.” We had a different offering each day, with these really silly, fun videos to showcase that day’s special.

What advice would you give girls who are interested in marketing?
JB:
Marketing is about inspiring a connection – so start by observing when marketers hit you to learn how to do it. Pay attention to what campaigns catch your eye. Think about why you remember them, what makes you want to buy the product or service they’re offering and most importantly how they make you feel.

Outside of Microsoft and Porch, is there an ad or social campaign that caught your eye as being really well executed?
JB:
It was almost impossible to miss the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – it was designed to be viral and it succeeded. More than 17 million videos were created and viewed 440 million times, raising $220 million for charity.

You worked in marketing at Microsoft for over 10 years and then transitioned to Porch. What inspired that decision? How was the move from a large tech company to a smaller start-up?
JB: I loved my 10+ years at Microsoft. I worked with incredibly smart people, on a variety of challenging problems and I learned a TON! I decided to make the change to a start-up to “road test” my skills. I knew I could be successful in a large organization, but I wanted to see if I could have a similar (or even greater) impact at a start-up. Having spent the last 2.5 years at Porch – I can’t imagine not working for a start-up. I love the pace, the energy, and the pressure. It’s an intense environment, and certainly not the right fit for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

6. In your current role as Chief of Staff & Head of Porch’s Lowe’s Partnership, what have you found the most challenging? The most rewarding?
JB: The most rewarding part for me is team building. I love that during my time at Porch, I’ve been able to help people realize their potential in a team role, and watch them create a significant impact for the company. Finding each person’s unique attributes and skills and helping them apply those to drive the business forward is the absolute favorite part of my role. But, as Chief of Staff, I am also responsible for managing the staff reduction that occurred here last fall (October 2015). It was incredibly difficult to let go of smart, talented people who had also become dear friends.

The most important thing to me is attitude.

When hiring at Porch, what kind of character traits and work experience are you looking for, specifically in your entry-level hires?
JB: Attitude. Technical skills can be learned and improved, but the most important thing to me is attitude. In interviews, I look for candidates who demonstrate a passion for the company and the role, a willingness to work hard and most importantly a positive attitude. In any job, there will be times when things get hard – and who you have in the boat with you matters – people who chose a positive attitude, even in the midst of adversity are the most valuable members of the team at Porch.

Can you speak to the female role models that have inspired you? How important are they to your success?
JB: I’ve been fortunate to work for some amazingly talented female leaders – my former boss, Kelly Soligon, who I worked for during the majority of my tenure at Microsoft and my current boss, Asha Sharma (Porch’s COO) are both role models who have challenged me and inspired me. They believe in my fullest potential and push me to achieve more and strive toward reaching it.

Some of my other favorite female role models –
⦁ Brene Brown for her work on vulnerability and authenticity
⦁ Melinda Gates for her work to support women and children in developing nations

And, the most important inspirational force in my life is my husband. He believes in me and my talent and is the biggest supporter of my success.

What’s one thing you do to relax and take a break from work?
JB: Anything on the water! The water is extremely relaxing for me, and thankfully, in Seattle there are lots of lakes and the Puget Sound to enjoy. I love to be on the boat, go stand-up paddle boarding, or simply sitting on the beach and watching the waves. Being by the water gives me a deep sense of peace and a stillness that I crave in the midst of my busy days.

Sign up for internships or jobs based on the experience you can gain and the things you can learn!

If there is one piece of advice you could give your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
JB: Do internships! Don’t just think about jobs to make money and sustain your lifestyle now, think about the future – sign up for internships or jobs based on the experience you can gain and the things you can learn. Money, positions, titles – all of that will follow if you focus on experience first and seek to learn in every role you’re in.

At Metiza, we are challenging everybody to do one act of kindness a day, 365 days a year. What would you say was your act of kindness today?
JB: Saying, “thank you.” As I ran out the door this morning, I thanked my nanny for being a consistent positive force in my kids’ lives (and my life). I always appreciate her faithfulness and support of our family, but I felt that gratitude especially strong today and took a quick moment to thank her for all she does. One of my personal goals for this year is to live life with more gratitude, it’s a practical way I’m expressing kindness.

Interview sponsored by ChickTech.

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