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New Faces & Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021

SEJ's CEO pulls back the curtain for a peek at how our team thrived, stumbled, and embarked on a company transformation during the pandemic.

New Faces & Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021
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Good riddance to 2020. Fires, COVID-19, Tiger King (sorry, I just couldn’t with that series).

A year ago, when it looked like the pandemic was indeed ‘A Thing’ and would be making itself at home for the foreseeable future, we decided to hunker down and work on making SEJ a better place for our community.

We saw that marketers were scrambling to make sense of this unexpected new paradigm, and needed to figure out where and how to pivot quickly. (Talk about moving the cheese; the Coronavirus aerosolized it and teleported it into a parallel dimension.)

Our Counterpunch to COVID-19

To help marketers weather the new normal, we introduced our first virtual conference for digital marketers in June 2020.

With three months’ notice (pffft how hard could it be??) we somehow pulled off a day-long event featuring 10 hours of content, 15 AMAZING speakers, an expo hall, virtual networking, health and wellness sessions, and even an after-party with Lily Ray DJing…  attracting over 10,000 attendees.

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If it sounds like I’m bragging, it’s BECAUSE I AM. It was a huge accomplishment… and stretched all of us to our limits.

I tried to joke with our then-brand-new event manager Delisa, “Well, ‘that which does not kill us’, amiright??”  That didn’t go over as well as I thought it would.

We then started hiring to keep up with audience demand for best-in-class marketing strategy and breaking news.

Existing veterans transitioned into new roles. I re-arranged the org chart to be more distributed.

These moves beefed up our editorial, marketing, sales, and design teams. Two team members even went the extra mile and had babies! 👶👶

It was quite the change for our long-term team members that had worked together for years. A big change.

No Pain, No Gain…

With growth came the inevitable growing pains.

I kept being reminded of that old Bible paraphrase about the left hand not knowing what the right is doing.

I realized that I needed to take a critical eye to our infrastructure, culture, and management to identify what we had outgrown (or were about to) and facilitate a transformation.

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Frankly, this has been an exciting challenge — one of the best in my career.

A random example: our primary form of communication for years was email. As we added new hires, the usual email snowstorm grew into a whiteout, and we started to RIP our inboxes on a regular basis.

So we started using Slack. After a couple of months, our inboxes have subsided to a more manageable dull roar.

What’s more, communication appears to have actually increased (by my non-scientific measure).

I love that the team has been good about staying on-topic in the Slack channels, so I can easily search and browse threads, and stay up to date without adding to my inbox’s 38,633 unread emails <hangs head in shame>.

Bonus feature: we have fun channels such as #sej-animal-bros to show off our furry officemates!

SEJ Animal BrosSEJ Slack channel

“Tomorrow Is Often the Busiest Day of the Week”

On a related front, we were losing track of assignments and timelines, as we used email as well as an outdated project management system to communicate assignments.

So we adopted Asana, and I personally have become dependent on it.

I’m sure people are sick of me saying/messaging/emailing “Can you assign that in Asana?”

But it’s currently where my actual brain resides, so if you want me to do something, put it in Asana.

We have started to tackle time management, as well. Our regular meetings, on the calendar for years, were becoming stale and less relevant to the growing list of invitees.

Meanwhile, everyone also knows I hate meetings. I prefer to endlessly putter on my computer.

I want to read up on the latest publishing trends, think about how I’m procrastinating over yet another presentation, and admire my own well-crafted emails (am I the only one who browses my own Sent folder? Anyone?) while intermittently running down to the kitchen to refill my coffee.

Meetings force me to sit still and pay attention to one topic which I may have varying degrees of interest in at the moment, so I resent them.

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Eventually, I realized that the reason I hated meetings was because the meetings that I myself organized were becoming stale and less relevant to ME, as well as everyone else.

So I asked the project management team to study an HBR ebook series “Leading High Performing Teams” with me. It includes a fantastic short read on making meetings matter. The light bulb went on…

As a result, I tore up the schedule. We revisited all meetings, from our all-hands to one-on-ones, and either came up with a justification for their existence or nuked them.

For the meetings that remained, we have started to become more intentional about their purpose and who was invited.

What was our ideal outcome for the end of the meeting?

Did every person invited have a role? Did they understand what it was?

Are we engaging attendees and encouraging participation? Are we course-correcting when a meeting starts to segue or go down a rabbit hole?

As a result, a couple of the meetings I’ve been in recently have been some of the best in my recent memory. They had measurable outcomes and decisions, attendees were engaged and attentive.

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I NOW LOVE MEETINGS. Go figure.

As I write this post, it reminds me that I am so proud of SEJ’s most valuable resource: our people.

We collaborate. We love experimentation. We are here for a growth mindset and lifelong learning.

I’d like to show off the newest team members, as well as highlight those who have taken on new roles.

Here Are the New Folks We’ve Added to Our Pirate Ship:

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Delisa Johnson is our Event Manager – the brilliant mind behind our virtual eSummit conference. 😉

She’s close to celebrating her first anniversary with SEJ this year!

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A foodie at heart, Delisa co-founded a vegan marshmallow business called Funky Mello in Austin, Texas. It’s a fun change of pace from her previous marketing roles at giant tech companies like OpenText and HP.

Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and cuddling with Maci, her mini schnaupin (schnauzer pinscher mix).

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Christina Robichaux is a Project Manager and has been with the company since October 2020.

She’s responsible for managing editorial team projects, the SEJ Show, and marketing initiatives.

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Christina loves to go on adventures and play outside with her two goofy Boxers. Christina lives right outside Austin, Texas, and cannot wait to go to live music shows again.

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Abby Villarica is our Editorial Assistant.

Aside from editing and preparing pieces for publication, she takes care of coordinating with contributors and making sure that editorial processes run smoothly.

Before SEJ, she did freelance work (writing, content creation, and admin roles) while being a homemaker and mama to her 2 kids and fur-baby Chihuahua.

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In her free time, the kitchen is her domain – cooking and creating dishes for her family and friends to enjoy.

Miranda Miller, SEJ Managing EditorMiranda Miller joined SEJ as our Managing Editor in January 2021.

She’s responsible for managing our excellent network of contributing experts and works alongside Executive Editor Danny Goodwin on all things editorial and content.

Miranda has been in marketing for 15 years and runs a local marketing agency as well as an enterprise creative agency that works with brands like Rio SEO, Trailer Bridge, Binary Fountain, and GlobalLogic.

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A part-time digital nomad, she has a home base with her husband, two teen sons, two Shepherds and two budgies on Georgian Bay in Canada. She can’t wait for the borders to re-open so she can hit the road again.

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Robin “RJ” Biong is our Graphic Designer based in QC Philippines!

Hired in October 2020, he’s previously worked for creative companies McCann & TCCP&M, both of which have a vast variety of well-known clients.

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He loves hanging out with a cup of coffee and traveling with friends.

Here’s the Folks Who Took on New Roles:

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Angel Niñofranco is Search Engine Journal’s Content Manager and has been with the company since 2017.

She’s responsible for managing SEJ’s email marketing initiatives. Before moving to her current role, Angel was previously SEJ’s Project Editor – in charge of copyediting article contributions from a pool of 100+ industry experts, as well as managing webinars, ebooks, and podcasts.

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Angel lives in the Bicol Region in the Philippines with her husband, Rey, and six-year-old daughter, Rhean Asha.

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Anna Crowe is Search Engine Journal’s Assistant Editor and has been with the company for 5 years.

Anna manages the ebooks and helps contribute to editorial activities. Previously, she was in charge of SEJ’s email marketing.

Anna also manages her own consulting agency where she’s worked with global brands like Mailboat Records, IHG, Marriott, McDonald’s, Neil Patel, Kissmetrics, and many more. She also manages content, SEO, email, PR, and social strategies as the Head of Content and SEO at Leadfeeder.

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Anna lives in sunny Florida with her husband Jake and two dogs, Haven (basset hound), and Bubba (boxer/lab). She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order).

New Faces &#038; Animal Bros: Search Engine Journal Takes On 2021Shelley Walsh joined the SEJ family in May 2020.

Initially responsible for email communications, she’s since moved into special content projects for SEJ. Sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? Stay tuned to find out what Shelley’s been working on.

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Shelley has been a hustler for over 20 years, working in illustration, design, marketing, magazine publishing, establishing a textile design business, a greeting cards publishing company, and a drop-ship business.

Eventually, she fell in love with the internet and founded ShellShock content marketing 10 years ago, producing content campaigns for major brands and a content strategy consultancy.

Shelley lives in the UK and her joys in life are swimming, hiking on the hills, and reading. Ela também está aprendendo a falar Português.

What’s Next?

I’m thinking I may write regularly about SEJ’s journey.

The team has been working on defining and refining our brand, our culture, and the value we bring to both advertisers and our audience.

We’ve got big dreams and big plans baby. The transformation has just begun.

I suspect it’s going to be a bumpy and exhilarating ride. I’ll be as transparent as possible on both the hits and the misses.

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I’d love your feedback on this post, and what you’d like to see in the next one: hit me up on Twitter!

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Jenise Uehara Henrikson

Jenise is the CEO of Alpha Brand Media, home of Search Engine Journal. Based in the San Francisco bay area, ... [Read full bio]

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