We had the pleasure of interviewing Marika Hirsch, a copywriter with Thinkific. Marika was a part of our #aspiretotech campaign and we wanted to learn more about her and why she chose a career in tech. Here’s what she had to say:
BC Tech: Tell us a bit about your early years and where you’re from…
Marika: I was born in Seattle but grew up in northern California, in a suburb outside of Sacramento. Since I can remember, I have always wanted to do just one thing. Write and share stories with the world. I wrote my first full-length novel at age 8 or 9 during after-school daycare using pencils and art paper. The novel was about a girl in a wheelchair and her dog, and the adventures they went on together. My mom was wonderful enough to type up the whole thing so I could have an official ‘manuscript’ (130 pages!). It was my first big accomplishment, and after that, I was addicted to writing. I moved to the Bay Area to attend university at UC Berkeley and studied English Literature and Creative Writing. I fell in love with everything about Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, but eventually felt the need for a change. I really didn’t have much of a plan when I decided to move up to Canada—I just wanted a new experience. I packed up my car and drove up from California, and have been in Vancouver ever since.
BC Tech: How did you end up in tech?
Marika: I started working in publishing while living in San Francisco, and that was originally the plan when I moved up to Vancouver. But as soon as I got to this city, I saw all the opportunities in tech and digital. At first, to be honest, working in the tech industry seemed boring, coming from a creative writing background. I thought ‘tech writing’ meant writing manuals for products or something. I had no idea what a copywriter really did! But I truly believe it was my creative writing background and my love of telling stories that pulled me towards a career in copywriting. I would always see short form copy in advertisements either on billboards or websites or something (it was before Facebook ads, Adwords, retargeting was huge) and I thought ‘I can do that better,’ or ‘that would get a lot more attention if it was written this way.’ A few Google searches and mentorship coffees later, I started applying for content writer and copywriter jobs.
BC Tech: How were you were first introduced to the tech industry?
Marika: I started as a Content Intern and later became the Content Manager at a website design company in Coal Harbour called Blender Media. I learned so much there and, because it was a smaller company, I wrote everything. Blog posts, long-form ebooks, social media copy, email swipe copy, client website copy, landing pages, you name it. It was a great opportunity to figure out what I liked and didn’t like about digital writing and tech writing. I learned that I 1) hated writing those long, lead-capturing ebooks that no one really reads and 2) I loved writing quick headlines, button text, website content, and landing pages. So I just started Googling and realized what I really wanted to be wasn’t a content marketer necessarily, but a digital or creative copywriter.
BC Tech: Walk me through your work and tell us what you’re working on now…
Marika: I am now the copywriter on the Creative team at Thinkific. I feel super lucky to be at a tech company who truly sees the value of having a full in-house Creative team. Thinkific truly empowers us to think outside the box and not just follow the usual roadmap for what it means to grow a tech company for a marketing and creative team. We are encouraged to share ideas, experiment, and mold our role into something we love doing every day. A great example of this was during a recent 24 hour Hackathon when a group of us decided to write and illustrate a children’s storybook for our project. Though a storybook may not align on the surface with Thinkific’s mission to empower people and businesses to grow through education technology, we were able to create something wonderful. And it totally did link back to our mission! The book was made to not only inspire future entrepreneurs but also to allow our clients who are often parents and solo business owners to share their love of building something out of nothing with their children.
As a Creative team, we get to see firsthand every day the inspiring stories of people whose lives have been changed after growing a business with online courses. I’m especially excited about some video case studies we’ll be doing soon that feature our success stories. I get to use my creative power to inspire other people to be creative and share their knowledge with the world! It’s an awesome ripple effect with a great payoff.
BC Tech: Tell us about some of the bigger roadblocks and struggles that you’ve had to overcome in your career…
Marika: I find that the struggle with being a writer, especially for digital, is that everyone thinks they can write, so many companies feel they don’t need to invest time or money in copywriting services. I’ve seen a lot of companies hire designers to create their idea, developers to make it a reality, and then think to themselves ‘well I can write an email,’ or ‘how hard can it be to write website copy?’ They fall short of hiring good copywriters that can really help bring those designed and developed assets to life. Good copy and design really need to work in harmony together to make a product awesome.
I also think it was very hard at first to break into the tech industry (especially the tech industry in an entirely new country!) as a woman. It’s getting a lot better now, with big gatherings such as Tech Ladies. But I have definitely felt the struggle of having my voice heard in large group settings that were predominantly male. I had to learn how to write confidently, be assertive, and speak my mind, as well as to understand that I was hired for a reason. I was hired for my written expertise, and I shouldn’t need to soften my opinions in order to not sound too ‘severe.’
BC Tech: What are the biggest motivators in your work? What drives you?
Marika: Even though I now spend my days writing landing pages, ad copy, or app copy, I try not to forget my core love of creative writing. I don’t want to forget that little eight-year-old girl who wrote a 130-page manuscript for her family and friends. I believe at the heart of all good copywriting is still storytelling, emotion, and passion. Why not be an aspiring novelist, as well as a creative copywriter? (I’m still going to write that best-selling novel one day). Whenever I write professionally, I try to channel that pure love of telling stories that I’ve always had. I also love the idea that I get to spend every day at work inspiring people to take up their passion and grow their business by teaching online. I’ve seen so many amazing success stories happen here, and a lot started because they were motivated to work after reading something I wrote or watching a video made by our amazing team. We really are changing lives.
BC Tech: What does a typical day look like for you?
Marika: The great thing about working at Thinkific on the Creative team is that every day looks completely different. And that’s what I want in a writing career. One morning I could be working on a video campaign, the next I’m working out a voice and tone guide for the company, sometimes I spend my days working in the product itself writing messages for customers. I don’t think I’d want to work anywhere that didn’t challenge different parts of my writing style every day. The great thing about working at a startup like Thinkific, where everything is fast paced, and I get to carve out my own role, is that I’m not stuck doing the same thing every day. If I’m ever in a career position where my answer to this question would look something like A to B then to C every day, then I’d be working in the wrong place.
BC Tech: How do you feel about the state of tech in 2017, what excites you?
Marika: With the crazy amount of digital content consumed every day, I think lots of tech companies are finally waking up to the value of good writers. They’re seeing the benefit of hiring someone who has the power to craft a few lines of language (not code!) to convert someone from a casual internet browser into a paying customer. I feel lucky to have worked both in San Francisco and Vancouver in this time where tech is booming. I want everyone to see that a booming tech industry isn’t just for developers. Us English majors can get in on it too!
What frustrates me? I want to see more opportunities for women in tech. More than that, I want women to know that there is a space for them in this industry, even if it seems daunting. I have seen some brilliant women face adversity in this industry, and it did nothing but fuel their fire. I feel lucky to work at a tech company with an almost 50/50 split between men and women, with opportunities across the board. I want to see that happen everywhere.
BC Tech: What advice would you have for young people who are really hoping to get into tech but just don’t know where to start?
Marika: Tech is NOT just for 1) Men or 2) Nerds. There are SO MANY different career paths that working for a tech company can bring you. I started as a creative writer! And now I work in tech. I spent this week at Thinkific writing a video script, last week writing a children’s storybook, and the week before that writing fun in-app messages for our customers. Just find a tech company that really helps you grow, and points you at least in the direction of where you want to eventually end up. And for all the writers and English Literature majors out there, especially those just coming out of university, YES there are jobs out there for writers. There’s a shit ton of jobs for writers. Every tech company could benefit from hiring someone who understands how to use language to really tell a story, whether in an app, through a website, in a short ad, or in a video.
Want to learn more about what it’s like to work in tech? Check out our #aspiretotech page.