With digital marketing encompassing a growing number of channels and methodologies, marketers are under pressure to take on new tasks, learn new tools, and collaborate with other professionals in new ways. Staying in a narrow silo — being hyper-focused on content strategy or SEO alone, for instance — builds subject matter expertise… but not the versatility today’s marketing challenges demand.
Filterati Jody Turner is the definition of an “Xtrapreneur”: a multi-skilled professional who continually pushes the boundaries of their skills and knowledge. From brand strategy to creative direction, from writing for publications like Fast Company to giving keynote presentations around the world, she leverages a variety of interrelated disciplines to help organizations better understand and engage their customers.
Jody spoke with us about the state of digital marketing, the growing importance of professional evolution, and how customer-focused organizations can harness the power of the Xtrapreneur. Read the interview, and check out more of Jody’s business insights on FastCompany.com.
1. Your background includes design, writing, strategy, and entrepreneurship. How does your multidisciplinary experience influence your work?
Throughout my career I have been inspired to learn and grow in order to deliver to what is best for the brand and the end user. Every project and company along the way has taught me about the joys of branding, and about the various skills that go into it.
From design to design thinking, from strategy to retail and social engagement, having a broad background enables me to understand how the different pieces fit together. Design thinking is about empathy, or serving an opportunity space that completes the story for the end user. Meanwhile, entrepreneurship or the startup mind applies this story in ways that resonate and connect us to the larger world. Social media is the way people build culture around the ideas of the brand and can keep the brand real if we listen well.
This integrated approach has been key for me as a director. I love being able to bring the chemistry of my collective skills to the table in order to serve companies, teams, and end users.
2. Why is it important for today’s marketing professionals to keep expanding their skill sets?
We are in an era in which brands influence how we live, and we influence how brands behave. As a result, people across a range of disciplines are engaging in vital conversations in the creation of products, services, and marketplace experiences. These exchanges support product innovation, insightful branding, and relevant, engaged social media building. It’s a dynamic process that requires us to keep evolving along with it.
Today is all about expanded skill sets: design thinking, the startup mind, and the entrepreneurial way. It’s about applying your skill sets flexibly with each new and evolving challenge. Doing this requires lifelong learning, and being willing to share gains and losses with others.
The world is changing fast, and this is an essential mentality. I recommend learning about the concept of the multi-skilled T-shaped worker, and incorporating this approach into your own career plan or team approach.
3. You’ve coined the term “Xtrapreneur” to describe people who take on projects and learning opportunities outside of their day jobs. What role will Xtrapreneurs play in the Future of Work?
We are in an exciting shift from the one-skill worker to the T-Shaped worker and beyond. Xtrapreneurs and their behaviors have a vital role in that process.
An Xtrapraneur is a professional who goes above and beyond to develop skills outside of their immediate focus. The demand for Xtrapreneurs is growing every day: as the marketplace evolves, new skills and perspectives are needed.
Being an Xtrapreneur can feed your creativity in your current role, prepare you for your next career move, or both. It also helps you contribute to your company in new ways, adding new ideas and voices that open up the conversation.
Ultimately Xtrapreneurship creates more flexibility, allowing people and companies to go back and forth with consultancy depending on who needs what (and when) within our flux economy.
4. What advice or resources would you offer to professionals who want to start becoming Xtrapreneurs?
If you are currently inside of a company, find out what kind of support you could receive from your employer to expand your skills in relevant ways that contribute back to your team projects and company. For example, companies such as Adidas offer funds for employee education.
In general, one of my favorite resources is IDEO University — not only because I know and love the people who developed it, but because it is accessible, affordable, and provides great content on storytelling, design thinking, problem solving, and strategic thinking. It helps you speak the current language of change and contribution, be it in business development, design or branding.
In addition, doing pro bono work is a great opportunity to strengthen your skill set while also giving back. Each project in the pro bono world asks you to go above and beyond — and that’s a win-win for everyone involved!
5. What are your favorite types of projects to work on, and why?
While I love creating relevance for the end user, I also love the challenge of threading the authentic brand DNA through everything we do. I enjoy working with teams, bringing together our best abilities in order to solve the burning questions each project presents. Today, my focus is in working on long-term, everyday projects in which team efforts shine.
I have always been drawn to pro bono projects as well. I am currently moving forward a story platform for superstars in global ocean cleanup, and am doing music volunteering (with my dog) for an aphasia survivor choir. As I do this extra work, I continually develop my skills and find fulfillment.