Advisor Spotlight: Nikki Mendell
Nikki Mendell is a #BUILTBYGIRLS WAVE Advisor and has experience as a Partnerships Lead. In her previous role at Meetup, she formed strategic partnerships to amplify the brand and develop new business and growth opportunities. Prior to Meetup, she spent 4 years at Refinery29 managing brand strategy, marketing, and communications.
Day in the Life
Explain your previous role to me
As a marketing consultant, I focus on brand development, strategic partnerships, multichannel marketing strategy and business development opportunities for startup clients. While at Meetup, I launched a brand partnerships practice, where I worked on building out a framework that would allow brands, nonprofits, media companies, and other organizations to partner with Meetup and connect with their global user base. It was a combination of brand building and business development, and my goal was to drive awareness for Meetup and unlock new revenue streams.
I’m a natural born storyteller, and I try to help companies figure out their brand identity in order to stand out, and then leverage that unique offering in order to drive business goals like revenue and audience growth. It’s about understanding what the brand wants to achieve and finding the best words to communicate it, and matching the brand with the best partners or building out new business models to achieve those goals. It’s also knowing the best channel and frequency to reach their audiences.
What did you study in school and how does it help in your day job?
I studied Creative Writing and Communications in college and I think that it’s a big part of my success. As a creative individual in the tech industry, it’s really valuable if you’re able to communicate effectively, and being a good communicator is two-folds: Being able to write is one, speaking in different workplace “languages” is another. Those communications skills have come in very handy as I pursue partnerships because it helps me articulate my company’s goals while finding synergies with partner goals.
What practical skills do you need to be successful in this particular position?
Definitely being able to work cross-functionally. Brand shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. It's something that's being expressed through things like written material, the product experience, brand ambassadors, your customers, word-of-mouth, etc. When executing a campaign or partnership, I work with everyone from Designers to Engineers to UX Researchers in order to bring concepts to life. In short, be a good team player and be ready to lead across many functions.
What advice do you have for young girls who want to be in your position right now?
What I do doesn't fit in a box and it never has, but I’ve been able to succeed by taking lessons and skills with me to every position I’ve held. I believe that strong foundation in the communications space can contribute to continued success. As a junior team player, learn how to pitch ideas and don’t be afraid to reach out to people. It's such an important skill no matter what you do. If you want to be a marketer or brand expert, you must have a strong knowledge of what communications channels exist (e.g. social media, events, email, website), their strengths, and how you can use them to reach your goals. Ultimately, a strategic mind is needed in order to make decisions on how to best prioritize the tools that will help you reach your goals. And - being a great communicator is important, but it’s a bonus if you’re familiar with analyzing data so you can measure the impact of your campaigns.
In general, if you want to work at a tech company or any innovative industry, be open to your role evolving to meet the business needs. Know your strengths and what you can contribute but also being open to what needs to happen to get the job done.
Early in your career, what advice did you receive that changed the way you approach your work?
Believe in the value you can bring to the table. When I first started at Refinery29, it was really daunting because I was the only in-house PR person and I felt much younger than other people in the room. I was reporting directly to the CEOs! It was intimidating until someone told me “Why wouldn’t they listen to what you have to say? They chose to hire YOU for this role. Just because you don’t have as many years of experience - get comfortable speaking up and don’t be afraid of being out of place.” I learned that there is immense value in diversity of thought and experience.
And one final piece of advice that I carry with me, from a mentor of mine named Fran Hauser, is the importance of developing great relationships with your colleagues. Being nice in the workplace can be your professional superpower. (In fact, she wrote a whole book about this - see here!).