My journey to MKTG WMN: A Q&A with the founders

By: Danielle Aihini, Marketing Manager at Vendr

I studied journalism in undergrad. I wanted to tell stories about people in places I hadn’t traveled to yet.

I remember even the most subtle mention of the word “marketing” was frowned upon, as if it was a curse word in the journalism department. Professors shaking their heads, confused how someone could go from writing about the truth behind concussions in women’s collegiate sports to convincing someone into buying a new product.

A couple years later and an entry-level marketing opportunity landed in my lap that I couldn’t say no to. At first I felt guilty, constantly hearing those professors’ voices in my head. Is this what I’m meant to do? Is Boston where I’m meant to be? Who am I serving?

In the beginning, my core focus was content marketing where I continued to put my writing and multimedia skills to the test. It was a quick adjustment, going from writing for the university newspaper to creating blog posts for a workplace experience software company.

What I soon came to realize, though, is that thoughtful marketing isn’t all that different from journalism at its core. It doesn’t equate to persuading or manipulating people into liking your product or service. It’s not about telling factless stories to win over a new customer.

It’s about connecting with people, creating a community, and building an experience around engagement. It’s a part of everyday life.

Fast forward three+ years and the marketing space is one I can’t imagine leaving. I love what I do and when my friends Gabrielle and Natalie asked if I wanted to be a founding member of their new, intentionally inclusive marketing networking group, MKTG WMN, joining was a no brainer.

The passion and expertise behind MKTG WMN

I won’t lie — I always like connecting with people who followed a similar journey to me: journalist gone marketer. Beyond that, I love connecting with and learning from like-minded marketers working their way up, overcoming workplace challenges, and mastering different skills.

That’s what excites me most about MKTG WMN. I now have access to people from all different backgrounds, not grounded in one industry or level — women I wouldn’t otherwise interact with in my daily life.

So, who are the brains behind the magic? I sat down with founders Gabrielle Dalvet and Natalie Cantave to hear what inspired MKTG WMN, who they are beyond their LinkedIn profiles, how this group differs from the many others out there, and more.

  1. What’s kept you in marketing?

Natalie: Marketing in general is a way to connect people, an area I’ve always been passionate about because of psychology. One of the ways marketing can connect people is through storytelling but it has also the power to inspire people to act on something. We [marketers] hold a lot of power in our roles and companies to help people do better and make an impact.

Gabrielle: I love how marketing is all about the experience you’re creating for your audience. Coming from a hospitality and literature background, all of my experience combined has made me passionate about marketing across industries. It’s a part of everyday life.

2. What inspired you to create this group?

Natalie: Gabrielle and I met at a networking event for “young women in marketing” in 2018 and since then have continued to support each other. We wanted to create an inclusive space first and foremost. Rather than cut people off at a specific age or career level, we aim to bring any marketer together knowing that there’s so much to learn. You can’t quite get that knowledge in more segmented groups.

Gabrielle: I remember succinctly at a HubSpot event I attended, the core focus was tech. I believe there should be more encouraged crossover between industries. We can all learn from those different experiences. And at the end of the day, we’re all encountering the same micro-aggressions and sexism so this is meant to help women learn and fight through that. Plus, in the last couple of months alone, I’ve gathered a bunch of how-to knowledge. How to take headshots in my bathroom, how to pick up the batphone and talk to people for advice, resume tips. I don’t want to keep it all in my head. Regardless of age, title, level, we know everyone who joins MKTG WMN will have something to share based on their experience.

3. What major obstacles have you had to overcome in your marketing career?

Gabrielle: I think back to the first mentor I ever had in a formal mentor program at New Balance. I wasn’t in marketing at the time and barely knew anything about it. She helped me transform my way of thinking, what I wanted to do in my career, organize a plan, and I still quote her to this day. That experience shouldn’t be limited to the luck of the draw mentorship program at your workplace. Oftentimes we don’t have female leaders to lean on. When we do find someone, costs are high. We want to keep this forever free and accessible. No sales gimmick.

Natalie: Getting to the next step in my career as a woman is a constant obstacle whether its salary negotiation, advocating for yourself to get a promotion, or balancing career and home life. However, to overcome these obstacles I’ve realized that finding people in my network who support and empower me has been key. I would recommend any woman to have a village in their corner that will support them.

4. What do you hope to accomplish within the first few months? First year? First few years?

Natalie: There are a lot of different ways success can look this year. We’re planning our first virtual event around overcoming barriers which is a huge win. Success can look like women in this group getting a promotion they’ve been fighting for, switching industries to something they’re more interested in, and so on with the help and advice from this community. We’d love to grow the brand and expand outside of the Boston area. But today, it’s about the value people get out of this group by meeting people who one day become your “bat phone call”.

Gabrielle: I purposely trying to keep it nebulous. I don’t want to put structure on something that should grow organically and reshape as the group grows. As a regular member, you can interact as you please, as much or as little, picking up tips and tricks along the way.

5. How is this different from groups that already exist?

Gabrielle: I want something that will grow with me, and that’s what MKTG WMN is based upon. There are wonderful groups today like Young Women in Digital or Sports. Tech Ladies. Nothing is long-term, and this is meant to be.

Natalie: It’s all about inclusivity and removing financial barriers that prevent people from joining networking groups today. Entry-level to CMO, B2B to B2C, industry to industry, everyone has the same access.

6. If you were to leave people with one piece of advice or a mantra, what would it be?

Gabrielle: There are stupid people everywhere; don’t sweat the petty stuff. Control what you can control. Make your voice heard. Figure out what you actually want out of your role and the why behind your career aspirations.

Natalie: Know your worth aka #securethebag. Also, don’t be afraid to pitch a bold idea and experiment. Embrace failure.

7. Who is MKTG WMN for and how can people join?

Anyone who’s in or wants to be in a marketing function who identifies as a woman, we welcome you! You can join by signing up on our website here.

​An inclusive community for marketing women everywhere ​to get what they need to grow, together.