Harvard in Tech Spotlight: Kim Chen, Head of Growth and Marketing at Modern Fertility
I spoke with Kim Chen, head of growth and marketing at Modern Fertility, which is democratizing access to fertility hormone tracking for women.
Kim started her career in consulting at Bain and subsequently worked in corporate strategy at PepsiCo. She then went to Harvard Business School aiming to pressure test whether she wanted to work at large companies or smaller startups. She knew that she wanted her next role to be more mission oriented and in the consumer healthcare space. She had seen technology revolutionize how products are delivered to consumers in most industries except healthcare. Her passion for healthcare drew her to Modern Fertility. She felt the fertility space in particular had always been shrouded with mystery, and she loved how Modern Fertility brought true consumer empathy to disrupting fertility and solving a critical problem for women everywhere.
Kim shared her advice for team building, intentional learning, and career growth.
Take a multifaceted approach to marketing. Marketing is not just about the brand but encompasses everything from media to performance to growth to analytics. Day to day, marketers need to marry the data driven side with the creative one to launch innovative campaigns but also iteratively learn from them, incorporating audience feedback and insights.
Prioritize the highest leverage actions for your company. Every company’s circumstances are different. While certain marketing buzzwords like AB testing may be valuable for many companies, marketers should consider the type of impact each strategy will have on their specific outcomes. For example, a 0.1% AB test driven increase in website traffic is less meaningful for early stage companies, and their attention and resources are perhaps better directed elsewhere. The priorities you select need to lead to impacts that are aligned with and meaningful enough for your company’s goals. Step out of the weeds and ensure you are testing hypotheses and launching initiatives that are suitable for your company’s stage.
Provide team members with the highest leverage support. As a leader, you may be managing people who are doing jobs you do not 100% understand. Take the time to understand the nature of their work enough to know how to provide them with the most impactful guidance. What keeps them from doing their best work? What are their bottlenecks? What is blocking them? To this end, you may need to get quite deep in the weeds, examining data pipelines and data configurations at the granular level, for example, but lean into the initial discomfort of learning something new yet do not lose sight of the bigger picture: empowering your team to realize their own comparative advantages.
Put the goals first. Build mental models to consistently get to the overall objectives in each discussion, large project, or small deliverable. Arm the team with the high level goals and get them aligned before diving into the nitty gritty details, so they (and you) can better contextualize the tasks assigned.
Balance leaders with individual contributors. While leadership is crucial, each team needs a combination of leaders and executors. Especially at startups where execution is critical, it is important to find people who embody both the leader and individual contributor spirit, depending on the needs of the team. Look for these people when hiring and building your team. Not everyone immediately wants to be a leader, and many prefer and even love the thrill of the individual contributor work as well.
Solicit cross functional feedback. Instead of just doing internal retrospectives, actively ask many different people for feedback on your work, generally and on specific projects. Include non growth or marketing people as well. Given the interdisciplinary nature of growth, it is crucial to involve many cross functional stakeholders when gathering feedback.
Beyond collecting internal feedback, find mentors outside of your organization who work at companies in different spaces or at different stages who can give you a better sense of the future and something to work toward.
Get involved extracurricularly. Looking back on her time at Harvard College, Kim found she learned the most from extracurricular activities. For example, she was an executive producer for CityStep, where she learned about leading others, managing a budget, and building partnerships. Extracurricular activities prepared her more tangibly for her professional journey.
Experiment intentionally. Kim entered Harvard Business School with a very specific hypothesis to test, that is, whether she would enjoy working at an early stage startup. This allowed her to be very focused in making the most of her time at business school. She was able to experiment through term time and summer internships in a low risk environment and leave business school with a deeper understanding of her skills and interests.
Write your resume in advance. Before starting a new role, identify what you hope to have learned in 6 months, a year, and 18 months. Even if certain aspects of the role are not as expected, you can still see opportunity in everything by being intentional and taking control of your own learning and development.
Focus on the outcome, not the title. There are many ways to reach your goal. Craft a process that is most suited for you with work that gives you energy. Some titles or paths are more common or societally revered than others, but know that not one size fits all. You will be your best self when you focus more on your goals than career structures.