Ryan Raiker is known in the technology space as an accomplished business consultant with experience working with small and medium enterprises and government agencies around process improvement.
As of this publication, Ryan works as the head of global content and digital experience strategy at Digital Intelligence software company ABBYY.
ABBYY acquired technology start-up TimelinePI, Inc. in August 2019, where Ryan was the head of the Process Intelligence company’s marketing function. Since the acquisition, he oversaw the development of ABBYY Timeline’s marketing, messaging, and positioning that facilitated and drove education to ABBYY’s global sales teams, partners, and customer channels about the growing Process Intelligence trend.
Before TimelinePI, Ryan led an independent consultancy firm for small and medium enterprises and worked with the public sector for the City of Philadelphia and other state and local agencies. His focus was on IT planning, streamlining and modernizing citizen (customer) experiences, and implementing and integrating enterprise technologies that transformed organizations for the digital age.
Ryan studied Business Analytics and Operations Management and later earned his Master of Business Administration from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. He continues to hold a faculty appointment as an Adjunct Professor at Widener University in business management, communications, and digital media informatics.
We recently sat down with Ryan for a virtual interview to discuss his experience – being a millennial marketing and technology leader in times of COVID, social distancing practices, and business shutdowns.
What was it like leading a marketing team during a pandemic, social distancing, and lockdowns?
Honestly, not easy. Not that I ever expected it to be, but COVID and all the precautions and restrictions that came with it certainly put a twist on things.
Since March 2020, “being at work” has taken on a whole new meaning. I was promoted to serve as the head of Digital Marketing for the Digital Intelligence software company ABBYY. Under normal circumstances, I would have been immediately jumping on a plane to visit my newly formed team in Germany, Russia, or maybe to another city in the United States. One of the largest struggles for me was working with team members I’ve never actually met in person. While we may have grown more accustomed to the current circumstances, many of us are missing one of the main things that makes work so enjoyable…in-person connections! So many teams are built on collaboration, bonding, and trust – so much of which is identified and learned through spending quality time together – in person.
Beyond that, I taught a course in digital media informatics at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. While I had held classes remotely previously, handling an entire course curriculum online was hectic. The students were quick to adjust, but a year later, digital fatigue became a severe issue. Mental health is a growing concern.
I think overall, regardless of the corporate world or in education, people stepped up. There’s been a definite change of pace for many. While we are so digital today, I also think we’ve rekindled the sense of being human – immortal, sensitive, and understanding. These are essential things to remember for any leader. Our time is limited; we should spend it working with people we like and accomplishing things we enjoy.
Our time is limited; we should spend it working with people we like and accomplishing things we enjoy.
What are some of the top practices you feel leaders in marketing roles need to follow to ensure better output from their tools and teams?
Thanks to the global pandemic, scrutiny on budgets is only growing. The “spray and pray” marketing practice is a thing of the past. There’s no longer unlimited money to spend to try something. Marketers need to get laser-focused on their audience and wow them! Speaking from some recent experiences, that means going the extra mile. Example: notice someone loves to wear a hat to zoom meetings, ask for their address, and send them one. Be memorable and, more importantly, be a human being.
Besides the usual be a good listener, trust your team, delegate when you can, I think it is essential to recognize you need a break. As we are now on the 13th month of shutdowns, we must advocate deploying processes and systems that are “always-on” for our customers. Things that enable your audience to get the things they want when they want it. This might be at 2 am Eastern or 1 pm Central European Time. You have to have technology and processes to meet your customer where they are. This means investing in chatbots, robotic process automation, marketing automation, and for those in technology and SaaS – streamlined free trial signups that offer frictionless customer experiences.
What do you think are a few “must-dos” that every marketing leader should do in 2021?
Anxiety, stress, fear, grief, and emotional exhaustion are heightened, but we’re in this together.
Look, it’s no secret many of us are still working behind webcams and computer screens. One thing that marketing leaders and teams need to reinvigorate is a positive, can-do attitude.
COVID burnout and Zoom fatigue are very apparent. In many of the virtual meetings that I am a part of, whether marketing, advisory boards, education, or other, I think it has become quite difficult to participate, share, and collaborate actively; at times, tensions run high, and people pop. It’s not easy when you can’t see other’s body language, or you are frustrated typing to a screen. I think a must-do is to show gratitude.
At ABBYY, we’ve adopted the “Glad to Be Here” mentality from John Foley, Former Lead Solo Pilot in the Blue Angels. This newly evangelized concept reminds me of the meetings I spent as a brother and now an alumni advisor to Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), the social college fraternity founded in 1899. After each meeting, we “pass the gavel,” say what is on our mind, thank the attendees for their presence and input, and end with pride and affection towards the organization. We do this because we are happy to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I think the same should exist in our work organizations.
We should join together to do our jobs, learn from each other, and support one another.
We can all step back from the webcam, take a deep breath, and take a moment to thank a colleague, your team, or a whole department for finding new solutions, taking care of people, and keeping things moving.
What kind of advice would you give to young people who are just getting started in their marketing or technology career during these times?
I would encourage a young person looking to start in any career to, first of all, fail. Fail absolutely and miserably hard. Then stand back up, take the lesson and keep moving towards your goals. Sure starting a career during a pandemic is difficult, but keep pushing. Secondly, I mentioned goals… if you don’t have them or don’t know what they are, you better find someone to help you.
It would help if you focused on doing three things:
Believing in Yourself – not because of ego, but because you’ve actually put in the work;
Believing in Your Network – you better be telling everyone you know about what you’re doing and where you want to go;
and lastly, Believing in Your Goals – as big or as crazy as they may be.
I think these three things will keep people humble but eager to keep on striving for their success, whatever they might define that as.