Target Audience: Kate Selfridge, Director of Demand Growth at Ritual
This month’s Target Audience guest is a bit different than our typical marketing experts, but their leadership and business insights are sure to be valuable to anyone.
Kate Selfridge, Director of Demand Growth at Ritual, has a role that’s more marketing-adjacent, but her close collaboration with marketers has provided Kate with a wealth of knowledge that we’re excited to share!
Kate Selfridge’s Career Journey and Leadership Insights
Tell us about how you became the Director of Demand Growth at Ritual.
I went to Clemson University, studied graphic communications management which is a mixture of print production and advertising and graphic design. It’s a business degree so you get a lot of exposure to a lot of different outlets and at the time I was really interested in the advertising route, so I started to kind of pave my way in that direction.
[I eventually] took a step from advertising into a marketing tech startup. At that point, I wore a lot of hats at that organization because that’s startup life – you’re an account manager and you’re a project manager and you’re doing some copywriting and you’re also facilitating whatever internal operations need to happen in order to accomplish these tasks.
I just love using those skillsets to solve different problems. I was in that role for two years and moved my life to Chicago, where I am now, and with that move, joined my current company, Ritual, which is a mobile order and pay app. I joined the team in this more scrappy role that was on the ground, working directly with restaurants, which I loved. It was a really great way to learn Chicago alongside growing in my role. About nine months after that, I did start migrating into a more project management, data analytics role.
[My role at Ritual] has been adjacent, as you said, to our marketing team. Growth and marketing work very well together. Understanding where we can go and the opportunities that exist and then having those more marketing-focused mindsets that really understand paid ads versus experiential versus what actual channels can we use to drive that strategy and partnering in that way quite deeply.
Most of the people we talk to on Target Audience didn’t intend to go into marketing-type roles, but they ended up here nonetheless.
In school, I thought advertising was all Don Draper and you’re the creative or you don’t work in advertising! As soon as I had my internship, I saw all these different business functionalities and skillsets and things that I just wasn’t exposed to with my schooling of what the opportunities were.
So to your point, people don’t know what they don’t know. And once you have that exposure, you can kind of tap into all of these different potential paths from there.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your position? What’s the most rewarding?
I think they’re actually one and the same for me. With my business (and I think a lot of businesses now, especially as you’re in new industries and trying to crack into new areas of growth, regardless of industry) there’s a lot of ambiguous problems that you need to solve that don’t have a previously paved path where you’re just reiterating on it.
In order to really grow a business, you have to have this thinking-outside-the-box, innovative strategy while simultaneously being able to apply some set of ability to forecast and model and understand revenue impact on this thing that you’ve never done before. So it’s so challenging to think all the way outside of the box and say, okay, how are we applying numbers to this? I find that so…gosh, I don’t even know. It’s very energizing. I really enjoy the startup space because it really encourages that type of growth mindset.
Also, failure is a good mindset because we’re trying [something], and as long we’re learning from that failure, it’s positive. It’s super difficult and also so rewarding even if you fail because you make this bet and you learn from it and now you have all of these inputs to apply to the next problem.
Sometimes you feel like you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall a little bit, but a lot of those times you’re trying something new and stretching and that’s really where growth comes in.
What advice do you have for emerging leaders?
We actually had a wonderful conversation across the leadership team last week about leading by example…we talked a lot about vulnerability as it relates to your confidence.
Being confident in what you know is equally important as being confident when you don’t know [something] – being able to show up to a meeting and ask for clarification, don’t be afraid to ask questions, make sure that everyone’s on the same page. If something’s not clear, create an environment that enables that type of discussion for people to feel safe not being 100% sure.
Because then what you’re ultimately doing is getting everyone on the same page, which enables everyone to be more effective, more efficient, more clear when they’re operating independently. You’re building confidence that then gets you greater output at the end.
I feel like sometimes in an organization, especially if you have a younger team, the fear of saying that you don’t know – as it relates to you being seen as a failure, you being seen as not good enough – it’s such a negative, negative societal norm, unfortunately.
What are some common traps new leaders can fall into and how do we avoid them?
Humility and confidence as they work together as a leader. When people are freshly promoted or just get a team, they equally feel pressure to not be seen as a failure and to make sure that they seem like they know everything or have all the answers.
Leading by example, like we were just talking about before, is so critical in that. What they can learn from you can be humility and confidence in what you don’t know and asking for help and asking for clarification and being a leader by being human first and not feeling the need to be this perfect, buttoned-up person.
There’s a fear of failure in the workplace and, regardless of level, I think we all have that trap that we try to avoid. Making perfection not the goal is what we all can do across any level of organization.
Networking, New York City, and Knocking Out Essential Tasks
What are your honest, unfiltered opinions on networking?
I’m a huge proponent of networking without a goal. I’m anti-networking if you’re only [doing it] to gain something for yourself and I think that’s the bad rap that networking gets.
It has a selfish mindset of “what can this person give me, provide me?” versus something like this [Target Audience] conversation! I’m communicating with you and connecting with you because you’re part of my community because we’re connected through mutual colleagues, friends. That type of networking I am a huge proponent of, especially if you want to learn about different industries. Approaching networking from a curiosity standpoint and knowledge-sharing standpoint versus “I’m trying to achieve X and this person can help get me there.”
Intention is critical with networking.
What’s something you’re glad you experienced but will never do again?
Living in New York City!
I was there when I was 23 until I was 28, so it was primetime – no responsibilities, but you also had no money or were scraping by and jumping around and you have all the energy in the world and your hangovers are nothing. So I’m so glad to have lived there and I’m so glad to no longer live there.
I will never live there again. It grinds on you so much. I know people that are going to be lifers there and I am supportive of their choice – I’ll go back to visit and eat all of the food that I miss deeply – but I am very, very glad to not be living in New York City.
Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?
I think that I would go horse-sized duck. I was actually thinking about this as it relates to some opportunities that my company is trying to solve right now. When you have so many seemingly accomplishable tasks – like duck-sized horses – they’re pretty small, but the whole army would be a lot to take on.
You’re one person. Really all you can do as one person is try to accomplish one thing at a time. Sure, you can come up with a tactic take takes half of these horses out (or three-quarters if you’re lucky), but you’re still going to have all these issues coming at you from a variety of places. If you have one clear goal that you’re trying to achieve, pointing all your resources to prioritizing that one North Star task [makes it] feel more achievable, even if it seems like a Goliath-type of problem.
What’s your pump-up song?
There’s a lot of songs I can vibe to. It depends on my mood, but I typically lean toward the 90s and 2000s era to bring the vibes I need.
Jock Jams 4, specifically – that album on repeat. There’s a lot of bangers in there! I played a lot of sports when I was younger and I have some brothers, so Jock Jams was always on at my house and it gives me the energy and the vibe to accomplish and move and achieve, but in a fun way!
Kyle Biemiller moved to Chicago from the great Garden State in 2015. When he isn’t writing blogs or crafting content, Kyle can be found spending time outside, reading, or watching too many episodes of Survivor in one sitting.