Linda Welch came to marketing by way of computer science, starting out building office automation systems and working her way up to her current role as Director of Marketing at Unisys. She spoke to Humans of Marketing about her experiences learning SEO and managing a close-knit team, as well as the similarities between programming and marketing — both are focused on the person behind the screen.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Christine: I like to start at the beginning for this series. How did you get started in marketing? Can you take us through your career path?
Linda: It wasn’t something I started out with. In college I was doing computer science and mathematics. We didn’t have computers in high school, college was my first exposure to computers.
I was working in the computer sciences department as part of a work-study program. We had Sperry equipment, and I was using their office automation system. Towards the end of my college career, a Sperry rep came in and was talking to the director of the department. I was introduced to him and he inquired about my plans after college and offered to take my resume back to Sperry. I got an interview, and a couple of months later I graduated and we moved down here for a job.
I started in computer programming, building office automation systems. Through that, you see the lens of the person that’s in front of the screen, the person you’re building things for. I did that for a good number of years and later managed the team before moving into e-commerce and new venture programs. So the technology side was probably half of my career, and then I received an opportunity to move to the services side of the company. I managed a team that was actually building our solutions and services. I did that for a number of years and then I had an opportunity to move into marketing to do big deal support. I had never done marketing, but my boss said, “You know our technology side, you know our services, you know our products, we need to be able to explain that to people through marketing.”
We would be uniquely creative for each large opportunity we would pursue. We would create a theme, and design content and material specifically for the deal. That was my initial exposure to marketing, and then I moved into other roles, like field marketing and events. Now I’m really branching out into other marketing functions. So, it’s been a journey.
Christine: It does sound like a journey. It’s funny because I came into marketing in a similar way — I was a subject matter expert and then made the transition to digital marketing. I would love to hear a little bit more about what inspires you. What keeps you excited about marketing and Unisys?
Linda: There’s always something new. We continue to evolve our products and solutions. We have great leadership, and our CEO always comes up and says, “We need this,” or, “We need that.” And you scratch your head a little bit, and say, “Okay.” So it’s not boring. It doesn’t stop changing, and there are always new things to learn. That keeps me happy.
Christine: It sounds like Unisys is an organization where there’s a lot of room to grow and try new things — the organization itself is changing, the products are changing, and digital marketing is changing. Tell me about what you’re most proud of as you look back on your career.
Linda: Most recently, it’s learning about SEO. That’s currently what I’m doing. A couple of people before me had started working on it, but they left and there was a gap. We went about a year without doing anything. And all of a sudden my manager said, “Linda, I would like you to learn SEO.” I’m like, “What’s that?” So it was a little bit scary at the beginning, with a couple of books flopped in front of me, “Here, go read about this.”
Christine: That’s a big vote of confidence though — you’re the person they trust, they figure, “You’re smart, you can figure this out.”
Linda: Yeah. So it’s been two years of going through that. We leveraged an outside agency to kick-start us, which was extremely helpful. I didn’t feel like I was alone by myself, set up to fail. Then this year we moved into using Conductor, which has been the next big step; the combination of having somebody to talk to and work with, plus having that toolset.
Christine: I would love to hear a little bit more about that process of education and evangelism, both on your team and within your organization. How do you spread the word about the data that you’re using, the things you’re learning, and what your team is working on and implementing?
Linda: We started out with guides. I’d create a document, get the group together, have a virtual meeting, and walk through various things. We covered the basics: what’s a keyword, where do we put them, and that type of thing. But everybody’s jobs are busy and it gets pushed to the side and forgotten about. So it’s a continual process.
And sometimes we’re working with individuals who are developing our products and solutions, and they may write the content they want to use, or they may use an outside vendor. So the people who are writing may not necessarily use the keyword list. And the keywords change. So it’s continuous. You can’t get frustrated and stop. So we set up another call or meeting and I work one-on-one with individuals for a particular section of our content.
Sometimes I’ll give examples: “Are you looking at what your competitors are doing? What else is out there? What are other ways to do this instead of writing three paragraphs of text? Let’s add some visuals, let’s put some other pop up things in there, something that’s going to keep the person on the page.”
Christine: That’s actually a very mature way to look at SEO. It’s not just getting traffic to the page, it’s also the UX side — making sure the experience is engaging and interesting, and approaching it from a holistic point of view.
Linda: Yeah, definitely.
Christine: What other teams do you interface with when you share this search knowledge?
Linda: Well, primarily, it’s been our product and solutions teams, and we also try to get their management to understand. Our Chief Marketing Officer is all over it. The best story that we have is, last year, we had started quarterly meetings. We used another vendor to develop the content and we would look at it, tweak it, and we would present to our CMO and she would suggest changes.
When we got Conductor, we started building a workspace for her. A workspace, for those who don’t know is, a very interactive page where you can add pieces of content and see what the keywords are doing, how you’re doing with your competitors. We knew what she was looking for, and we built a custom workspace for her.
At our quarterly meeting in April, we walked through it, and at the end of it, she had some questions, things she’d want to change, which is good. And then we said, “When would you like to have our next quarterly meeting?” And she said, “Just make sure I’m getting workspaces every month, and I’ll let you know if I have any questions.”
That was an accomplishment, we not only saved time for us, but we saved time in her busy schedule as well. Any time she wants to, she can go and get her questions answered by looking at the rankings. So it was great to find the right medium that works for both of us.
Christine: That is such a great feeling of relief, and it means that you can work on other things. You can take that time and put it towards the next project. What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?
Linda: I don’t know if I’m excited about it. I’m actually tackling the backlinks that we have.
Christine: That’s a big project.
Linda: We’re close to that little toxic level. So I’m going through and looking at the different backlinks and then disavowing them. It has been a long process. We used to have a tool to do that. But now I’m waiting and getting them all together so we can send them off to Google and have them disavow them. It’s amazing what you find if you know to look for it.
Christine: How do you share your wins within the company? How do you let people know what you’ve accomplished so far?
Linda: A lot of it is communication amongst the group. We also have a great internal communications group, and they share news you can use every week. We also use Yammer and some other internal social ways to communicate. Email is obviously the go-to, but we get tons of email. So we try to cover all bases and share information in various ways.
Christine: That’s multi-channel marketing internally and externally. That’s a good point — everybody is willing to receive information differently. What are some things you do outside of work, outside of marketing, that make you a better marketer?
Linda: Wow, that’s a good one. I read a lot. When I go home, I still get on the internet, I still search, I still look at what other people are doing. And I’m involved with organizations that may have to do marketing-oriented things for a different reason. Moving and doing things outside of what you do at your company gives you a different perspective.
Christine: What are some things you read or listen to? Are there any specific thought leaders or publications that you recommend?
Linda: I leverage both Conductor and SEMrush. They have different people doing workshops and trainings that I can get to when I have time. A lot of times I’ll get an email, sign up, and it’s recorded and I can go back to it.
There’s a wealth of knowledge in their learning community, and that’s been very helpful. I can always pick up the phone and call people, but sometimes I like to delve in and learn what I can myself. I like to educate myself a little bit more before I ask questions.
Christine: Talk to me about what tips you would give to keep people inspired.
Linda: I think you need to go and look for different things yourself. We focus on what we’re doing at work, and sometimes we go home and that’s the last thing we want to pick up, we don’t want to do anything more. But either through reading or looking at other people’s websites, we can learn from each other.
Christine: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just getting started in marketing?
Linda: You always have to look at who is receiving whatever you’re doing. Sometimes you can get caught up in what works for you, but you have to realize there are other people looking at your content.
Christine: That is such an important kind of part of the marketing mindset that we want to have. What is something you’re working on learning? Something that you are doing to get yourself to the next level?
Linda: The Conductor tool itself. I went through and took the first two tests this year. So I’m certified at that level, but there are parts of it that I still haven’t had time to go learn or do.
It’s a big tool, but there’s a lot of depth there. So over the next year I’d like to continue to learn what I still don’t know. And I want to teach the other folks on our team.
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Christine: Let’s talk about Unisys a little bit more. What makes it a special place to work — as a marketer, or as a human being?
Linda: It’s the people. We really are a great organization. We moved into this renovated area upstairs — the walls are down, we can see each other. A lot of people were apprehensive, but I think we collaborate more. You may overhear certain things that you wouldn’t have heard about before, and you may have an opinion, or you get to help out, or maybe they can help you. So I think it brings the team closer together, we’re more aligned. Everyone knows what everybody else is doing, versus being tunneled into their own little world. And that’s what we’re there for — we want to be a team and help each other out.
Christine: That’s a great team — you’re building something exciting. We’ve talked a little bit about what you do outside to make yourself a better marketer. What is one song or album you’re listening to right now?
Linda: Right now I like Maren Morris’s album, “Girl”. There’s one song called “The Bones,” which is about the foundation of a relationship. I like that. But the whole album is great. I’ve heard her songs over a couple of years, but all of a sudden I just downloaded that album, and it’s on repeat. I’m playing it on the way to work.
Christine: Tell me a little bit about your day-to-day routine.
Linda: Both my husband and my alarms go off at 5:30. We go back and forth, hitting snooze for a little bit longer, but we’re usually up pretty early. He gets out faster to work than I do. I definitely do a stop at Wawa to get a coffee and make my own little combo. Mostly decaf, a little bit of hazelnut, some cinnamon. That’s my kick start for the morning.
When I get in, I check my email, that type of thing, depending on whether I have a lot of meetings or not.
In nice weather, some of the people on our team will go out for a walk to break the day up, just for a half hour, and we end up talking about work or our personal lives. It brings the team together, and sometimes we do things outside of work. We’re close knit; we’re all there to help each other out during the week.
Christine: I would love to hear what you would look for in your ideal marketing community. What would you be getting from that? What would you be giving?
Linda: I definitely would want a diverse community, because everybody brings something to the party. It would be great to have experts in different areas. So you’d have that combination of learning from each other, and then people coming to you.
Doing things after work, having great management, and management that really looks at what people are doing, acknowledges them, and supports them when things aren’t going well — we have that here.
Christine: What’s something interesting that you’ve googled lately?
Linda: I can’t answer that, I don’t know. Good vacations. We just did a long weekend with our family up in the Poconos, and I got to thinking about the next one. And I’m thinking Aruba.
The big question is, what’s going to work for everybody. Aruba is on my bucket list of places to go, but it is kind of far to get everybody to fly there. But that’s on the top of the list.