How reading 100 books a year can boost your career

In this second sneak peek into the creative brainiacs at RockBoost, you get to meet Daphne. Learn more about how she grew from one of RockBoost’s first interns to the Head of Growth Consultancy.

Let’s go back to the start: how did you end up working at RockBoost?

Four years ago I was rounding off my Master’s Degree in Finance & Investments at the Erasmus University as well as doing a board year at the entrepreneurship association, ECE Students. Before the end of the year, I already realized it was unlikely that I would pursue a career in finance. Mostly because the money-oriented culture and insane workweeks just did not feel like something I would want to do for the rest of my life.

Even though I was already working in Marketing at ECE Students, I was a bit hesitant to enter the Marketing field. Marketing felt so dreamy and fluffy, whereas Finance was raw and full of data analyses, which is something I always really enjoyed.

Near the end of my study, I decided to join the MAEUR’s Advertising Day to explore the possibilities and find out what I wanted to do. It always felt like a bit of faith to me. There were a lot of requirements to participate in the Advertising Day and because of thesis deadlines and the activities of the board year, I handed in my application two days too late. Luckily, I still got in and I got placed in the group that worked on the growth hacking case of DotControl and RockBoost.

We eventually won that case, and it felt like the perfect combination of all my interests. After we had finished the case, I talked to Chris and said: 

“So, I hear you are looking for interns?” 

And he said: “Yes, that’s true. Listen, your English is really good: can you translate a blog post for us from Dutch to English?” 

I wanted that internship so of course, I offered to help out. But then I never heard back from him again. Determined, I kept stalking him per mail until I decided to push my luck and invite myself over for coffee at the office. 

During that first interview, I used the briefcase technique that he taught us at the Advertising Day. The briefcase technique is a simple method of showing up with a briefcase with a large analysis of the company that you prepared. It’s not even the content that matters most, but the fact that you show how prepared you are for the job makes a really good statement. I prepared an analysis of the RockBoost website and ended up telling Mark and Chris all about what was wrong with their website. It felt like a risky move, because I had either destroyed my chances for the internship, or I had increased them. 

But two hours later they already called me that I had the internship.

That’s three and a half years ago now. What has the RockBoost journey been for you? 

Well, I started with the three-month internship. The main focus of my internship was on our website and growing the new e-mail list to 2.000 subscribers. As I had never worked with e-mail or content marketing nor with websites before, I had a lot to learn.

I managed to grow the e-mail list by creating e-mail courses, e-books and testing the effectiveness of various promotions. I even ended up staying late every day of the week — not because I had so much work to do, but because I was so intrigued by everything I was learning. 

After those three months, I had a choice between Google and RockBoost. Two amazing companies, but two very different jobs. I felt that the work at Google would be too repetitive in comparison to RockBoost, where I got to learn so many different things, work on growth for clients but also on our own growth as an agency. 

So, I decided to come back to RockBoost after traveling.

Daphne Tideman reading a book in RockBoost's office

This is Daphne!

In a rapidly growing company as RockBoost, had a lot changed when you got back? 

Of course. When I got back, there were new people that would take over the marketing of RockBoost, so I would focus more on clients. During that time, I quickly realised that we had difficulty retaining high quality for the clients and with the onboarding of new members of the team. We were not following strict enough processes, not uncommon for a young startup. It really frustrated me that you could do something three times, but the fourth time would still go wrong because we’re only human. 

Chris then appointed me to be Head of Processes, kind of a mini-promotion. I got more responsibility and even had someone help me out with my clients. 

After about a year of being in full-time employment for RockBoost, there were some job shifts within the team. We felt the person who was in charge of the consultancy team at that time was better suited to take over the education part (company workshops). They put me in charge of the consultancy team as it had been going well creating a process-driven organisation. And that is actually really cool because even though I was very young at the time, they still gave me a lot of responsibility and trusted me with that. 

If you look at it, it is quite the hockey stick growth that you have implemented on your own career.

You can look at it from two points of view: I worked hard for it, but RockBoost also provided the environment with enough freedom to develop myself. That is also what makes working for such a young company so appealing: as the company grows, you grow along with it. If there is someone with more seniority and experience that can be put on the job I would always cheer that on, because it’s not only better for the company, it is also beneficial for my own growth. It also motivates me to ensure I keep developing myself.

From the beginning, I also worked really closely with Chris. He coached me one on one, giving me tips on what courses to follow, which books to read and how to develop myself further. It was very important that you do not only have room to grow, but also have that support system in place to guide you. 

I also need to admit that there were only three people in the team when I started in that position, so that also changed the situation a bit. I had time to grow as a leader whilst the team grew.

You have been in this position for two years now. Is it time for a change?

No, I don’t think so. Even though it has been two years, there is still so much I learn every day from this job and from my colleagues. I have a moment of reflection every two to three months where I ask myself: am I still at the right place to learn as much as possible? And so far the answer has always been: hell yes.

Now that the company is growing so fast, there are always new challenges and situations to learn from. When more people are added to the team, there are more factors to consider in the team management. 

To give you an example: my OKR for this year is to have a minimum Team Happiness Score of 8.5. We have monthly check-ins with the members of the team to see what we can do to make them happy, what they can change themselves and see where they want to go in terms of development. With more people and more clients, it can become more challenging to give solutions to the challenges everyone is facing. 

Also, you notice that the clients are growing too, whether it is in amount or in size due to our Growth Hacking efforts. That makes running the RockBoost operations a challenge, but it also gives me energy. Hearing a client ask for more hours because they are so happy with the team’s efforts and results is really rewarding. 

Man holding books building the fundamental skills of a growth hacker

What makes the service of RockBoost so special for those clients?

Achieving faster growth at a company is something all companies strive for but is increasingly difficult with increasing competition. I think most happiness comes from getting the numbers to go up as well as seeing their different departments work together as a growth team.

But how do you keep that line going up if you have been doing it for a long time?

Growth is an iterative process, so whilst you have one experiment running you are already planning the next. You also look at how you can build on a previous win to get even more out of it. As a Growth Hacker, you are not limited to your own ‘specialism’, but you are also looking for improvements in other areas. 

Everyone on the team has their area of deep knowledge and several areas of broad knowledge. If you are specialised in conversion rate optimisation, you are still able to find hacks for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or for social media advertising. It is so very important to keep broadening your horizon as a Growth Hacker, so you can stay on top of things and analyse a problem from different angles.

We also try to teach each other the basics of our deep knowledge, for instance by means of Lunch Inspiration Sessions or at RockDotCon, our collaborative meet-up night with DotControl. We also have a brainstorm session with the whole RockBoost team once a month. As I said: we’re constantly challenging each other to learn and get better. 

What are your tips to achieve hockey stick growth for any (growth) marketer? 

I think it’s very dependent on your personal preferences for learning. If you’re a slow reader, but you devour videos, it’s better to follow video-courses. 

What works well for me is setting goals. My goal for 2018 was to read 100 books, and I am close to achieving my goal. My resolution for 2019 is to watch 365 hours of video material, so I will probably be spending a lot of time in the CXL Institute.

At RockBoost, we have the weekly learning time during which you can devote time to learning to achieve the development goals you set in your learning plan. 

Last question: of those 100 books you read, which ones are the must-reads? 

For me, the following titles were very memorable: 

  • Losing My Virginity — Richard Branson
  • Small Giants — Bo Burlingham
  • Girl, Wash Your Face — Rachel Hollis
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things — Ben Horowitz

If you can still add some books to your Christmas wishlist, I would recommend these. If you want more variation and inspiration, you can also look at our previously published Master List of 50+ Must-Reads