Jen Grant, CEO, On Stepping Out of Other People’s Shadows
Jen Grant will tell you she grew up in the shadow of her smart sister who literally went on to be a rocket scientist. But she found her way into the spotlight through theater, starring as Duffy in Little Orphan Annie and the Artful Dodger in Oliver. And though Jen couldn’t have predicted it, that experience set the course for her career. “The creativity and spontaneity in theater led me to marketing.”
Every customer-focused leader will instantly grasp the connection. “When you’re acting, you step into someone else’s shoes in a thoughtful manner. You learn the person’s backstory – their experiences and what matters to them.”
While at Princeton, Jen ran the school’s summer theater. That’s where she first got a taste of the business side of marketing. “I was intrigued by which shows would bring in the most subscribers and how we could sign up season subscribers.”
You can’t sell a vision. You’ve first got to sell a solution to a problem that people are experiencing. That’s what we’re doing at Appify by enabling anyone to create apps without writing code.
After making her way into consulting roles, earning an MBA, and co-founding a corporate finance software company, Jen found herself in product marketing and marketing. She quickly strung together impressive roles at Google and Box before landing the CMO roles at Elastic and Looker. She led the rebrand of Elastic and built the team that took the company public for $2.4B in 2018, and headed Looker’s marketing until the $2.6B acquisition by Google in 2019.
Those experiences paved the way for her current role as CEO of Appify. “As a marketing leader, you need to think about the business overall. You need to step into your CEO’s shoes and figure out how you can help the company – and not just your department – succeed.”
Jen knew Appify was the right company for her after meeting its founder, Hari Subramanian, who previously co-founded ServiceMax. “When joining a company, I look for good people, customers who wildly love the offering, and a product that is a platform. It was clear that this was the company I wanted to be part of, and this was the partnership I wanted in my first CEO role.”
Appify is lucky to have Jen on board because she understands how to drive success in start-ups. “You can’t sell a vision. You’ve first got to sell a solution to a problem that people are experiencing. That’s what we’re doing at Appify by enabling anyone to create apps without writing code.”
Jen’s other keys to success include:
- Understanding the marketing strategy. Jen tunes in to which marketing approach makes sense in light of the company’s offering and founder’s strengths.
- Rebranding when necessary. While Jen knows a rebranding is hard and not usually necessary, she doesn’t hesitate to go that route when it’s best for the company.
- Knowing when to listen vs. act. Jen believes in striking a balance between getting stuff done and pausing to listen to customers.