Meet Jamie Kanter – Longtail UX’s new VP of Sales, Americas! His exciting career journey so far has included stints as a Marketing Manager with Microsoft, Director of Sales Effectiveness Solutions with CEB (now Gartner), and Managing Director of Strategic Accounts with Seattle SEO software company, Moz.
We recently sat down with Jamie to ask a few questions and get to know him a little better…
- Can you briefly introduce how you got into the search engine space and what makes it interesting for you?
Part of it was just being in Seattle when I was looking for a new role a few years ago. Seattle has a lot of awesome startups, including Moz, which is one of the definitive names in SEO. And so I looked into roles there, got into Moz, and that was my first entry into that space – besides actually searching on Google, I suppose!
What makes it interesting, I think, is the omnipresence of search in all of our lives. Whether on a watch or phone or car, search is everywhere, all the time. And for people who are just growing up now, that is how they interact with information – differently to how I used to interact with information when I was a kid.
- What was it like working at Moz?
It’s a great company. It lives by its values, which are well known in the industry; it truly does live that every day and tries not just to make everything comfortable, but to bring its values into every bit of what it does. [There are] really smart people doing really interesting work. It’s cool to work alongside some of the biggest names in SEO, and to understand that these are the people defining how Google is doing what they do, and how businesses can respond to that.
Some of the cool people that I’ve learned from – Dr Pete [Dr Peter J. Meyers] is great, Britney Muller is great, Russ Jones is amazingly smart and funny… And all of these are resources at Moz – people who are on our Slack channels and who are just either a phone call or a walk down the hall away, which is crazy.
- What was it about Longtail UX that made you want to join the company?
There’s a lot! It’s a unique solution to a common problem. When I look back at my time at Moz, some of the biggest questions I got were, ‘How do you prove that SEO is working?’ ‘How do you know what the ROI is?’ ‘Why would we invest in this if we can’t prove that it’s actually working?’ Those are all legitimate questions, because it has traditionally been hard to do that. So part of it is that it’s solving an issue I already saw in the market, and therefore it’s intriguing to me.
Then, as I learned more about the company and got to talk to Will and Andreas, their vision – not only for the business side of the company, but the technology side of the company – just all seemed to fit; there was a good cultural fit for me. So all of that put together made for a really challenging but also exciting opportunity.
- What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?
It’s so simple, and it’s something that I actually learned back when I had my first sales management job. It’s the mantra ‘seek first to understand’. It takes a lot of forms – people say ‘assume good intent’ as well.
But a lot of things fall back on it: first try to understand the problem or the issue, and then try to solve it or what have you. Because oftentimes, if you seek first to understand, you will gain the knowledge that you need to deal with the problem appropriately – whether that is to react with a hammer coming down, or whether it’s to react with a hug. If you understand the problem and what created it, it’s a lot easier to deal with.
- What small change has made a big difference in your life?
I don’t know if it’s a small change – I mean, they’re technically small now! – but I would say my kids. Ever since I had my first kid almost six years ago (I’ve got three now), it’s changed my complete perspective. I don’t think I’ve lost ambition or desire or drive, but I think a lot of what I’m after today is different than what I would have been after before kids. Now it’s all about supporting my kids and enriching their lives. It’s made a huge difference in my life.
- What don’t you know that you wish you knew?
This probably has nothing to do with my career, but I wish I could be much handier! I wish I knew how to build things and fix things and create things – that is not me. I’ve never been skilled with those sorts of things. I’m the one who needs to call people to fix things, or my wife will do it because she’s much handier than me!
- What books are on your nightstand right now?
It’s a variety. I’m a more voracious reader of fiction, so I think I’ve got a Tana French novel that I just started. I also just started a [non-fiction] book called Waking Up White [by Debby Irving], which is about how to deal with some of the issues with race in society today, written from the perspective of someone who is white but also trying to wrestle with those same issues – that’s something of particular importance. And then I’m sure there’s a book or two that I’ve heard of Bill Gates or Obama reading that I should crack into!
- What one piece of advice would you give someone working in SEO/SEM today?
Take the time to understand what you really want. It’s harder to do SEO/SEM if you don’t know how you’re going to measure what a good job looks like. It’s pretty simple to just start throwing effort at something; it’s much harder to be thoughtful about why you’re trying to accomplish the things you want to accomplish, then figure out how to actually accomplish those things.