Susanne Axelsson, Frontline Community Evangelist at AskNicely
What do you get when you combine creative problem solving with a keenness to learn? A Swedish Unicorn of course. Susanne Axelsson, Frontline Community Evangelist at AskNicely, has an approach to her career and finding a job that many people could learn a lot from. AskNicely were looking for a unicorn to join the team and that is exactly what she pitched herself as.
We caught up with Susanne to learn more about her journey from Sweden to working in tech in New Zealand, how some of the problem solving skills she learnt at home as a child have helped shape her approach to creative marketing, as well as how she leverages her position as a minority in tech to her advantage. It is great to have you in New Zealand Susanne and thanks for sharing your story.
Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?
I create stories built around real people and their lives. I then tell these stories to others to make them feel inspired, motivated or to make them see that there are people like them, who also like to play the same way as they do.
“I then tell these stories to others to make them feel inspired, motivated or to make them see that there are people like them..”
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
In my role as a Chief Evangelist I create a human connection with buyers and consumers of technology that would not be possible through traditional content marketing. I tell the stories of the people Ask Nicely empower, the frontline teams and the experts in the category, rather than talking about our company or the product itself.
To paraphrase Steve Jobs, "you have to start with the customer and work back to the technology”. In a simple manner my job is to bring that to life in an inspiring, engaging way so that our customers can find something they enjoy and feel connected to on a personal level as well as professionally.
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in marketing?
That every marketing role looks the same or requires exactly the same skillset. There are so many different roles when it comes to marketing. It is an endlessness of possibilities if you want to get a job in marketing, so many different routes you can go down (but it can also be a challenge for companies that might not know what they are looking for).
In the last few years many new roles have come up in marketing too that never really existed 5-10 years ago. So working in marketing, you either need to find your niche or be willing to learn a lot of different skill sets within the field of marketing!
“The job for Ask Nicely is one of the few jobs that I have applied for when it has been advertised and I actually found it via Matchstiq. ”
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I have always been a keen learner and wanting to understand how things work, not by reading instructions but by taking things apart and putting them together. My grandpa showed me how to fix things when they broke, and allowed me to test things out.
My dad exposed me to creativity by allowing me to be with him in he's wood workshop when he was making things, he also got me my first camera at the age of five and taught me how to develop film as a little kid. I think the mix of both the problem solving and creative freedom set me up for a career in marketing. Crazy you learn those skills at such a young age and they follow you your whole life.
I never had a desire to work in tech from an early age but I think in today's world it is just going to be harder and harder not to somehow work in tech. Basically every industry is somehow connected to tech.. or will be in the near future.
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at AskNicely?
I have a mixed background, telling stories though, has always been part of my professional life. I am a self taught photographer and having that skillset as a marketer has been seen as highly competitive combined with my degree in marketing and comms (thanks dad).
Before I moved to NZ from Sweden I worked in advertising, and digital marketing. In NZ I have worked for a few start-ups. I worked for The Mind Lab for several years establishing their marketing team and strategy and producing lots of digital content and three of their e-learning platforms. Before Ask Nicely I worked for a charity to help transform them to fit into a more digital world with new branding and a stronger digital footprint.
The job for Ask Nicely is one of the few jobs that I have applied for when it has been advertised and I actually found it via Matchstiq.
I thought the role for Ask Nicely offered something new in the field of marketing and I loved how they straight from the start allowed me to shape the role and decide how high I wanted to put the bar.
“Being the minority in every meeting and work consultations you always have an opportunity to come with new ideas and bring new perspectives to the table..”
What do you think are some of the benefits of being a woman working in tech?
Working in a male-dominated field there are benefits of being a woman. Being the minority in every meeting and work consultations you always have an opportunity to come with new ideas and bring new perspectives to the table that will have great impact for the organisation.
If the company is serious about improving diversity and equality you also almost always get invited to participate in programs or activities to support that, so there is lots of room to make an impact and create change.
Personally I enjoy being an inspiration for others so even if there might not be many women in your company, you can be an inspiration for others to see there is an opportunity for a career in tech as a female or other minority. That is a great benefit just on its own!
Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?
Many people would tell you to build a network in the field, go out network and connect with people, but I think for me, my biggest win has actually been to create a digital footprint so when I apply for a job, they have easily been able to see proof on things I have done and not just taken my words for it.
For example I created a marketing campaign when I moved to NZ called Hire The Swede. It's amazing the positive response I received from that and still do five years later. I also started a podcast without having any idea on how to do it - none of these things were opportunities I got offered.
I simply created them myself. So even if you don’t have experience working in tech, but know that you might want to, you should think about the things you can put out there to create a digital footprint that shows your skills and passion.
You probably heard this before but many of the jobs out there are not being advertised, so don’t be afraid to do your research on companies you would like to work for and then reach out to them. 2-3 jobs I have had in the last five years were never advertised!
“..before I even got the job offer I asked to check references of the people working for the company, investors and board members.”
What is it specifically that you like about working AskNicely?
Personally I have always been purpose driven so working for a company that has a strong purpose that aligns with my values is really important for me. I knew that if I don’t align with that I would not deliver great results.
So before I even got the job offer I asked to check references of the people working for the company, investors and board members. I don’t think many companies would allow that, but I do think that shows the transparency within the company and I really admire that. After all, a great employee experience leads to a great customer experience.
I love being part of a team and work collaboratively to deliver great results. Working for Ask Nicely is not about having all the answers, it's more about seeking out the potential and evolving over time, testing new waters and learning along the way. We might not get it perfect at the start but we keep improving as we go!
I love that way of thinking and it offers me great opportunity for being creative and strategic at the same time.
Lastly, AskNicely continues to grow and evolve. What kind of candidates do you think AskNicely is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?
Working for AskNicely you have to love feedback, be in to win and be nice, a great business is built on its people, technology is only there as an enabler but without its people it is nothing, so you would have to live and breath those values to love to work for Ask Nicely. I would also like to see more diversity in the future! That will just bring new ideas and opportunities to grow as a company.