Last Wednesday, we welcomed Stuart Pitts from Microsoft, who gave us a crash course in Product Marketing and offered a glimpse behind the scenes of Microsoft’s culture. As a former Husky and Foster alumnus, his advice and insights were particularly helpful—and inspiring.
(The following recap has been edited for length.)
Stuart Pitts at AMA
Let’s Meet Microsoft
“It’s a really interesting time to be at Microsoft. It’s this huge institution that has existed for forty years, while many other companies have risen and fallen in that time. The job Satya Nadella, our CEO, has been tasked with is continuing past success and searching for the next waves of innovation…There’s never going to be a moment where we think the company’s transformation is over, when we say “we’re done, let’s go home.”
The company’s sense of purpose has evolved from putting a computer on every desk to empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.
One of the first questions Satya asked his leadership team when he became CEO was: what would a world look like without Microsoft in it, what’s the unique purpose of Microsoft on this planet? And in the end, the answer was clear: we’re in the empowerment business.
The company’s strategy today is also different than ever before. While we missed out on mobile in a platform sense, how can Microsoft build on existing platforms while also creating new ones, like the Microsoft Cloud? We don’t believe there is any one end-all-be-all device, so we’re building experiences that span many platforms and many devices – devices on the “Intelligent Edge” of computing – while we’re also contributing new categories of devices.
There are three big technology bets we are making as a company.
Mixed Reality – devices and experiences that span virtual and augmented reality and everything in-between.
Artificial Intelligence – technology that can learn and solve problems, and infusing this into everything we create.
Quantum Computing – computers that can solve complex problems in hours or minutes that would take billions of years with the most powerful computers of today.”
What is Product Marketing?
aka ‘Stuart’s take on product marketing’
“Product marketing is the intersection of the customer, competition and product making. It’s about looking at real people, the landscape of the world, and then asking and solving for what we can make and do to help them do the things they do. Great marketing starts and ends with customer obsession. That’s how you build momentum with different audiences of people.”
BUILDING AUDIENCE MOMENTUM
What do you stand for?
Who are you better for?
What matters to them?
What’s your unique POV?
To what end does this matter?
“Tell authentic stories in the places they gather through the people and partners they care about.
Figure out who your core audience is, and figure out how you can provide them value that’s unique. If you can win your target audience, you’ll begin to earn the hearts and minds of individuals more broadly.”
Microsoft has a reputation for being fiercely competitive at all levels of employment, what can someone do now that will make them attractive to employers for the rest of their lives (and specifically at Microsoft)?
“What I wish I had realized when I was sitting in your seat is that every company is looking to find someone with a really unique perspective. So how do you get that? When I look back, I did do a lot of things but I wish I’d done even more things. The more things you do the more things you’ll learn. I’m not talking about sitting in a classroom – gather up as many paid and unpaid internship and experiences as you can. It’s less about what the job is and for what organization, and more about: what did you do, and what did you learn from it. Explore and take things on, on your own. I believe that’s when you’ll start to build a perspective that’s unique and one that no one else can contribute. That’s certainly what we’re looking for at Microsoft.”
What has been the hardest part of your career?
“Learning as much as I can as fast as I can. You might think that learning stops when you finish school, but learning only accelerates: I learn more and more every day. I’m always thinking about where should I focus my learning next, where should I focus the next set of personal growth I want to have. It’s exciting but learning to be smart about where to focus your growth is also challenging – this focus constantly pushes me to be better.”
How is marketing a physical product different than a digital one?
“It can vary a lot. At least at Microsoft, often what differs is the state of maturity across many of our businesses, and that affects where we focus from a marketing perspective. For example, bringing Surface from the place of a new market entrance and an underdog to a much more successful business took focus around who we thought would be better off with a Surface, and focusing on growing momentum with those customers. With a product like Office, however, as a business that’s been around a long time and is much more established, the focus is much more on business model innovation, not necessarily making a beautiful video focused on the story of an individual who loves it. That’s part of what’s really cool about working at Microsoft – you get exposure to many different things. It’s a place where you can find a start-up-like culture in some areas, and also learn from working on big, established businesses in others.”