There are no straight lines in digital careers…
With the aim of inspiring digital marketing jobs seekers, aspiring freelancers and the trailblazing entrepreneurs amongst you, we’ve tracked down accomplished marketing industry professionals from a range of sectors to talk us through their own career journeys in this new series of blog posts.
This time, we have the much-admired JP Sherman of RedHat in our hot seat. It’s hard to believe the career journey which has brought JP to where he is today. It just goes to show, there is no straight path into digital marketing!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a Paleontologist.
What & where was your very first job?
I grew up in Sacramento, California and my very first job was hand-making tortillas for a Mexican restaurant. However, that was the very first of at least 20 different jobs I’ve had. For example, I worked in a carnival, a funeral home, a cafe, a coffee roasting company, three video game companies, as an Archaeological Artist and Excavator, a Community Manager for massive Star Wars game, a Certified Massage Therapist, a Theatre Actor, US Army Special Operations (Airborne), an Autopsy Assistant, a Linguist, several positions at many marketing agencies, a Podcaster, a field Paleontologist, a Freelance Writer, a competitive Cyclocrosser, and my current position as a SEO/ Findability Professional.
When & how did you first discover digital marketing / your specific industry sector?
Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I was a Psychological Operations soldier for US Army Special Operations. The officers were attempting to work with host governments in Asia to share malaria prevention information in the wildly popular internet cafes. While a bunch of high-level officers (just picture a bunch of old dudes in a meeting room) were trying to figure out an internet strategy, one of them shouted for me to come in. I complied. The Colonel looked at me and said, “Sherman. You’re a nerd, right?”. I was a bit confused but answered in the affirmative. He then told me to “figure out search engines and have a report ready the next week.” I did. From that point on, the intersection of semantics, technology & behaviour hooked me forever.
Share a mistake you made or an event you most regret from your career?
After three years at a large SEO agency, I accepted a position at a startup as a “Director”. I thought I knew what I was doing. I also was so fresh in the startup industry that I didn’t know that many times, titles are more about image than competence. I was good at a few channels, but leading a team was difficult. While I didn’t create any catastrophes, it was a chaotic experience that constantly stressed out my team and myself.
Jumping in a time machine, what pearls of wisdom would you give your 18-year-old self?
Go outside more often and build stuff with your hands.
What industry skill do you wish you’d learned sooner, and why?
Without a doubt, python
If you were to publish your autobiography in 20 years’ time, what would it be titled?
The Worst Career Advice Book You’ll Read
What is the one thing you want to be remembered for from your career, and why?
I’d love to be remembered for making this better, my empathy & my occasional cleverness
Thank you, JP for sharing your incredible career journey. We hope, like us, you’ve enjoyed hearing where JP has come from. Keep an eye out for more in our ‘Making Of A Marketer’ series as we’ll be continuing to publish new editions on a regular basis from equally inspiring digital marketing experts.
Could your career story encourage others to further their digital marketing careers? Or do you know someone whose story needs to be told? Get in touch with me, Emma, via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re looking to explore your career in digital marketing, visit our contact page.