When a woman with 20 years of experience in the industry says you don’t have to apologize for having an opinion, listen to her. “Feel confident in the knowledge that you are being paid to be present and active in this dialogue.”
With humble ease, Kelly shares what she’s learned on the winding path that led to her current position at CoSchedule. It’s been a journey of escaping comparisons to societal ideals, accepting the fact that mistakes are lessons to be built upon and paying attention to her soul.
Can you please introduce yourself, your position and the company you work for?
My name is Kelly Yanke Deltener, I’m the Head of Product at CoSchedule. I’ve had the pleasure of being in this role for about 1 ½ years, but I’ve been with CoSchedule for almost four years.
CoSchedule is a marketing software that allows you to organize all your team marketing needs—such as a marketing calendar, automated publishing, shared content creation, team workflows, etc.—in one place.
What inspired or led you to enter the SaaS field/tech startup world?
Like many people in this field, I became interested through close acquaintances. In my case, it goes back to the late nineties. I had the fortune to meet some technically inclined twin brothers who needed someone to help with project management and business development for a web startup. We embarked on an e-commerce development company journey and I experienced hands-on learning about business, project management and growing individuals in their careers. Side note: After a few years, I married one of my partners and we sold the company.
Since then, I’ve worked with incredible entrepreneurs in the startup automotive aftermarket e-commerce industry and had a brief stint in healthcare software. I’m pleased to say that, at present, I’ve settled into SaaS product management as my heart’s passion.
Did you study technology? Do you feel it’s important to have a tech education in order to get a job in a tech startup?
I did NOT study technology and I’m always open about that fact. I dropped out of college when I actively started pursuing my career with my husband and his brother. For the longest time, I felt some measure of shame or failure at not finishing, even after achieving success in my field and community.
I took some time to examine those feelings more logically and realized I was comparing myself to societal ideals from the past that no longer applied to me. However, a part of me still wanted to finish some education and continued learning goals. A few years ago, I decided to hop back on the grind and finished my degree online.
It’s important to understand that everyone’s path to success is different.
As a woman, it can be especially winding and have many turns or even perceived dead ends. A technological education is certainly helpful and important; however, I’m reminded daily that the people who use our products do not have computer engineering degrees. Having a diverse background, experience and education can be just as important as a technical degree.
What was the biggest challenge for you when entering the tech field and how did you manage to overcome it?
One of the biggest lessons I learned was how quickly technology moves. Keeping up means being self-taught and informed. Understanding how best you learn and retain information as an individual is key to setting yourself up for success. I feel fortunate that CoSchedule supports a culture of continuous learning.
What piece of advice would you give to your freshman self?
Don’t have to apologize for having an opinion! Your perspective is just as important and valued as anyone else in the room. Feel confident in the knowledge that you are being paid to be present and active in this dialogue. Any huge mistake you feel you just made is most likely barely noticeable to the outside world. Accept the fact that mistakes are lessons to be built upon.
It’s easy to write that paragraph now and believe it, but it has taken me over 20 years of working in this industry to do so with confidence. I absolutely love that the culture of the company I work for aligns with my personal values when it comes to learning and growing. I try to say these words to anyone I’m mentoring any chance I get.
What sort of impact do you feel from working in a male-dominated industry/environment?
I feel incredibly privileged to have worked with considerate and equitable male partners from the start and throughout my career.
However, as a woman who has worked in this industry since the late nineties, I have experienced my fair share of condescension, harassment and disregard. But, for every individual who behaved unprofessionally towards me, there are 50-100 more who were nothing but kind, cooperative and empowering.
Those individuals unequivocally outweigh the bad. And the tide has shifted and continues to do so. While there are definite pockets in our industry where the old guard still stands, women’s voices are heard more daily.
Only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice. Why do you believe working in a tech startup or SaaS is a good career path?
This statistic saddens me because our industry still needs more women to help solve problems for customers. I think a misperception anyone (not just women) may have is that a career in technology or working for a tech company equals a lack of creativity, when the opposite is true. Working in SaaS has been one of the most passion-affirming and fulfilling experiences of my life. These aren’t simply desk jobs!
Additionally, a career at a tech startup doesn’t necessarily equate to a computer engineering degree. For example, at CoSchedule we have women working in every part of our business: Product Designers, Human Resources, Marketing Specialists, Customer Experience, Sales Account Executives, etc. Every single one of these individuals contributes to the success of our users and the product.
Do you see a lack of female presence at your startup? If so, how do you think this could be changed?
CoSchedule has worked hard at hiring for improvement and continuation of our culture from day one. Because of this, women have always been a part of the equation.
We do not have a lack of female presence but, like any growing and changing company, we face unique challenges such as size and location that sometimes contribute to a less diverse workforce. I’ve seen this naturally change over the years and am confident it will continue to do so.
What would you recommend to women who would like to enter the tech field? Any educational material you’d recommend as well?
In my product management role, being able to connect with the teams doing the work has been key to roadmap goal success. I attribute this connection to understanding how teams do their work. CoSchedule is agile, therefore all of our PMs have Agile Scrum Master or Product Owner certification training. It's been key to helping us implement, support and respect team ceremonies and processes.
Books for women looking to enter the tech startup industry:
People working in startups are usually very busy. How do you manage your work-life balance? Do you have time for some side/passion projects?
Ever since my early project management days, I’ve drunk the Agile kool-aid and have seen my hours, days and weeks in terms of priority. After some pretty hard lessons in managing both personal and professional relationships, I had to learn how to appropriately balance where I spend my physical and mental energy.
In simple terms, that means blocking time and holding space for the projects and people that mean the most to me. When things feel particularly hectic, I use a pen and notebook to help sort my day. Simply setting limits and expectations on your time can bring balance.
Lastly, I would recommend setting aside time for a passion project that isn’t a gig or makes money. Do something that does nothing other than bring you joy through creativity and art. Pay attention to your soul. You’ll reap the dividends through quality interactions with your family and coworkers.
Women in SaaS initiative
Did you know that only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice and only 5% of leadership positions in technology are held by a woman? With our new initiative - Women in SaaS interviews, we want to inspire more women to join SaaS field & technology and combat prejudges connected to technology.
Every two weeks, you can look forward to interviews with inspirational ladies who decided on a career path in SaaS. In our next article, we will talk to Arielle from Donut.