Surbhi's Transformation from Freelance Consultant to Product Marketing Manager
Surbhi Gupta was a star client of mine. When we met, Surhbhi was struggling to balance her life as a mom and being the owner of a freelance consulting business. She had been out of the corporate world for 3 years and while she had extensive marketing experience, she had no formal background in product marketing. But through our work together, she landed a PMM job at a reputable startup earning a great salary that exceeded her expectations.
Her story is truly transformational.
I recently caught up with Surbhi, to give her a chance to tell her story and share some of what she’s learned. I hope she inspires you, the way she’s inspired me!
Finding the Right Career Path at Avalara
Yi Lin: I'm super excited to chat with you today. Could you share with the audience where you work right now?
Surbhi: Of course! I'm a product marketing manager at Avalara. Avalara is into tax compliance for the B2B audience in the Fintech space.
I earned my MBA in marketing in 2013 and joined Hindustan Times, the largest media house in India as a marketer responsible for social media, promotion, campaigns, and more. I worked there for five years in different capacities, eventually becoming a senior marketing manager. Then I moved to Seattle with my husband, had a baby, and decided to start my own consulting firm in brand and marketing, so I can have a more flexible schedule while still working in marketing. I eventually went on to hire and manage 5 people in my consulting firm.
The Decision to Shift into Product Marketing
Yi Lin: I love that you started your own business and you have such an amazing background! So how did you decide to break into product marketing?
Surbhi: It's funny because I heard the term "go-to-market" and it intrigued me. I knew about it before but with its increasing popularity on LinkedIn, I wondered if there was more to it. Watching product marketing videos made me realize PMMs do GTM, and I became interested in exploring the field for its unique challenges and opportunities. It was a refreshing change from my previous work, and I was excited to pursue it despite not knowing how to get there.
Yi Lin: What did you do initially to try to pivot into product marketing?
Surbhi: Initially I learned a lot just by reading online, watching videos and free resources, including following you on LinkedIn! I then started to apply for roles. I realized while I was getting some first-round interviews, I could not progress past the hiring manager round. I realized my stories were not cohesive and as a working mom, I really didn’t have all the time dedicated to interview prep and I needed to change. I couldn’t wake up at 5 am, interview prep, and then have to get through the day.
Yi Lin: As a working mom myself, I really empathize with you. It’s hard enough to job search, let alone having to take care of a baby and run your own business! So what did you do next?
Surbhi: I realized I needed help when I returned from a family visit. I told myself I HAD to get a PMM job in 3 months. I knew that if I didn’t prioritize or focus on it, I would just have delayed the process - delayed the learning and my goal. I knew I may be able to do it alone, but to get the results faster and to keep my sanity intact, I needed a career coach - especially someone who has gone through the exact process and who fully understands my situation.
This is when I reached out to you, and within just our first call I decided to work with you because of exactly those reasons - you have been there, done that, and you shared great insights with me just in that 30 min.
Sometimes, as a mom, I feel the responsibility is huge. I am taking care of my daughter at night, and then it’s 11 pm, I am laying on the couch, and I realize I didn’t do anything for myself. I decided at that moment to prioritize my own career needs and hiring you would be a gift for me.
Yi Lin: Wow, thank you for sharing that! It’s really a powerful step to prioritize your own needs! You have such wonderful skills and I knew instantly that you would be a great PMM. I was happy to provide guidance.
Would you share then how the job search process was while working with me?
Surbhi: Partnering with you — who are equally excited about my dreams and success — helped me tremendously to land the PMM role. First of all, I had instant relief when we started working together, as you provided me with frameworks and a specific plan of action for every milestone. You laid out exactly what I needed to do after each session, so I knew I was held accountable and that really motivated me and kept me on track.
During the job search, I felt the level of detail you put into the program was something I didn’t see in other coaches. You didn’t just show me how to go about getting referrals and using untraditional ways to reach the hiring manager, you also created specific templates and sample messages I could modify and use. You had a template for everything from resumes to tracking progress, interviews, and even assignments which were so helpful.
Your resume edit, in particular, was a game changer - it was not a generic resume edit. I was getting completely stuck in my head, but you came in and helped reframe my experiences in a way that exactly described me and highlighted my unique value. I started getting interviews with the new resume and it was remarkable!
Finally, as we approached interviews the approach you used to structure questions really changed the game - they actually made me feel more confident in my own skills as I walked into each interview. Apart from the 1-1s I also loved the group sessions and the student community you built which was great for emotional support.
Overcoming Challenges and Winning the Role
Yi Lin: Wow, thank you for sharing all that! I was so glad when you got the offer because I knew it was the perfect opportunity for you, and you have shown so much resilience in the process.
On the other hand, I know the process was also not free of challenges, especially on the emotional side. Would you share how you were able to overcome the challenges?
Surbhi: Absolutely, it was definitely not smooth sailing all the way and particularly there were two difficult times I faced. The first one was when I wasn't getting enough calls for product marketing roles. I wanted to give in and switch back to marketing, but after discussing it with you, you reminded me that my dream role was product marketing and that I should keep going and focus on doing one thing at a time. For instance, reach out to 5 hiring managers in a week. I am really glad you didn’t make me give up because then I started landing more interviews and progressing to the final rounds.
The second turning point was when I got rejected in the final round with this company I thought I was a shoo-in for. I remember being extremely upset but then speaking with you, you objectively assessed my situation and made me realize the huge progress I made and that success was around the corner.
A lot of the time, I felt you were not just a coach, but a friend who I can be completely myself with. You are open, flexible and were available whenever I needed help.
Yi Lin: It was clear that your answers kept getting better and better. I only taught you the techniques but you did it all! Now that you are a PMM, how do you like the role so far?
Surbhi: I love it. I look forward to Mondays and I look forward to tomorrow. I realized I might not know the mechanics of, say, a full positioning/messaging project, but I know I can learn it. I am fully tapping into my superpowers of collaboration - I can ensure projects get done, and I am learning and drawing energy from everything around my work. It’s awesome.
Yi Lin: That’s so great to hear! What advice would you have for anyone who is on this job search journey now?
Surbhi: For anyone trying to break into product marketing or land a dream role, I’d say, 1) believe that you can do it and have a positive mindset, and 2) do something about it. Put an action plan together, and have a defined strategy.
Then, when you encounter roadblocks (which are inevitable), don’t take things personally. Try to get the help you need, whether it is from a coach, a community, or something else. It's about getting help in whichever form you find useful at the time. What I would caution against is just sitting there by yourself and waiting for something different to happen.
Thanks so much to Surbhi for sharing her perspective! Hearing stories like hers is what motivates me to do the work I do. If you’re struggling in your career, just know: You’re not alone! I’ve been there. Surbhi was there. And when you’re having a hard time, asking for help isn’t weakness—it’s proof of wisdom. If you could use some help, contact me on my website, and let's chat!