Read Time: 31 min

Delivering Episode 18: An Interview with Kait Creamer on Career Transitions and Emotional Intelligence

In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez interviews Kait Creamer, the CRM Marketing Manager at Framer, about her recent career transition, being an email marketer on a new team, and how email marketers can leverage emotional intelligence to improve their work and everyday lives.

Episode Transcript

Jason Rodriguez: Welcome to Delivering, a podcast about email design, strategy, copywriting, development, and the email marketing industry. I’m your host, Jason Rodriguez. Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’ tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Head over to litmus.com to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.

Today, I’m joined by my friend and fellow email geek, Kait Creamer. Some of you might know Kait from her talk on emotional intelligence at Litmus Live last year. Kait recently moved from Colorado to Amsterdam to join a new team, and she’s now the CRM marketing manager – I think I got that right – for a company called Framer. In this interview, we’ll talk about what it’s like to be an email marketer on a new team, the challenges of growing an email program, and how emotional intelligence can help email marketers, especially as we face unprecedented challenges in 2020. So welcome to the podcast, Kait.

Kait Creamer: Thanks Jason. I’m excited to be on.

Headshot of Kait Creamer
Kait Creamer, CRM Marketing Manager at Framer.

Jason Rodriguez: I’m excited to talk to you. It’s been a while and I know you’ve been up to a ton in your life and professional life as well. So I guess let’s start with just telling everybody who you are and what you do right now.

Kait Creamer: Yeah, man. 2020 has been a wild ride. So, who I am, like Jason said, I’m Kait Creamer. I am a woman of many interests and many hobbies, but most of those, involve in some capacity, creating and communicating, which obviously, makes me a perfect candidate for being a giant email geek.

I love making things, telling stories, building relationships with people, things like that. So, my journey as an email geek has basically led me, from Georgia to Colorado and now to the Netherlands where I work with Framer, which is a design prototyping company with a really awesome team. I’m so glad to be here.

They took a chance on me, obviously, bringing me onto the team and I’m super excited to have taken a chance on them because I have this awesome opportunity to work with brilliant designers from all over the world building a tool that makes prototyping collaborative and innovative and really engaging and it kind of scratches the itch of doing something with people who I love for a thing that I love.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome. So you’re the CRM marketing manager. I did get that right. What does that mean? What do you do on a daily basis?

Kait Creamer: Man, herd cats, which I think most email and CRM people will agree they’re in similar positions, but my job at Framer is mostly just figuring out how the communication with our customers or users or subscribers, how that all works.

So that involves, you know, things like transactional emails that are coming from AWS, that are things as simple as like password resets from the Framer app, and invitations to teams and things like that. And also, you know, similar to what Litmus does for email, we tried to do that for the design and prototyping communities, so webinars around how to get into prototyping and design and UX and things like that.

So it’s a really cool community. And my job is mostly just helping with the communication around that education, helping people learn how to use the Framer app, and just bringing all that community and communication together.

Jason Rodriguez: Cool. So I know prior to this, you worked at a company that was in the music space. You were doing email there as well but it seems that – it’s still in your wheel house – but it’s definitely a big change because you’re going from, you know, not only one team to another but one country to another and kind of like upending your life in a lot of different ways. What’s that change been like for you? Have there been any specific challenges? Anything you’re super proud of so far? Just kind of walk us through transition.

Kait Creamer: Yeah, so I mean, everybody knows starting a new job is hard. Like you have this adjustment period of just kind of figuring out, okay, what is my company? What is the current state of things? What’s all this like historic background around email or the things in my role before I got here and you start at a new company and you have the few months to kind of figure that out while you’re also starting to do work and starting to kind of learn and improve at the same time. Jason, you know me, and you know a lot of my email geek friends would probably vouch for the fact that I love change. I love growth. I, I love trying new things and experimenting. And I think a lot of that is just coming from my background as an artist and a musician. I’ve found that I’m not afraid to be really bad at something the first time.

So I’m, I have kind of a higher risk tolerance. And I think that came into play when I joined the Framer team. I wasn’t even looking for a new role when I saw that the Framer team was looking for a CRM marketing manager, and I just kept coming back to it and I kept looking at the company and I knew they were doing amazing things and I really admired how all the work that their designers, their product team, and their marketing team had done in the past.

And it was just kinda one of those like, wow, that is such an amazing mission and they’re doing stuff that I really believe is good for the world and I want to give what I can give to that. So it was a combination of interest and excitement and also my high tolerance for risk. And, beyond that, like this is kind of a weird personal thing, but my mom’s family going way back, generations and generations, they’re all Dutch. So I always had a vested interest in the Netherlands long before I ever considered moving here. And, so all the reading that I had done about it years and years ago, all of a sudden, you know, when working with Framer was presented to me as an opportunity, it just, it felt like all of the right stars were aligning for me, and I just had this moment where I was thinking to myself, you know what? I don’t think I would regret anything more than not taking this chance.

And so moving across the world was big and scary. And if anybody has the opportunity to move internationally, I would say take it. And also it will be one of the hardest things that you ever do because logistically it’s insane. But yeah, it’s, it’s been a really cool opportunity. It feels like I’m on this super fast moving train and everyday I wake up and I think to myself, oh my gosh, is this my real life? Do I actually get to do this.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. Was there, I guess within your new team and your new responsibilities, was there anything that struck you as really surprising or really challenging when you start looking at their emails or like how Framer’s communicating with customers currently? What struck you as the most surprising thing that you weren’t expecting at all?

Kait Creamer: Yeah, this is so exceptional because I’ve heard from a lot of different companies about the way they do email and of course worked for a few different companies and I’ve consulted a little bit. And so over and over again, I had the experience of coming into a company and looking around and saying, okay, what fires do we need to put out first?

And I had sort of the opposite experience with Framer where I came in and it looks like everything was so simple. They’re so mindful of how frequently they were communicating with people and what they could do to help. I walked in and I kind of was looking around thinking to myself like, oh, this is really good.

I get to build on this. This is awesome. It was more excitement and a lot less panic than I expected to experience,

Jason Rodriguez: I feel like that’s a rare position to be in as in the email world, so that’s awesome. All right. One thing you recently mentioned to me was that you got buy in for an email design system for Framer. Which is awesome. Congrats. How did that actually come about and what was that path to buy in? What did that actually look like?

Kait Creamer: Oh, man, it was so easy. It shouldn’t, again, it shouldn’t have been as easy as it was, but part of that is because we are a design prototyping tool, so our entire company is vested in the future of design and design systems and design tools. So I think I had an inherent advantage there but it was really cool to be able to go through our emails and say, okay, well here’s what we are doing and here’s where I think we can take this to the next level.

But first we have to set up a foundation for it. And basically just coming to the team and saying, okay, here’s everything. Here’s what we could do in a future state if we clean everything up first and then give ourselves a plan for the future. You know, we work in longer sprints, so agile-ish. So our design team basically just looked through this document that I put together and I had written out, okay, well we have transactional emails that look like this. We have promotional emails that look like this. We might want to do newsletters or webinar emails or things that have these different components. And of course I was using Litmus and Really Good Emails and all sorts of resources from the community along the way to basically give examples to our design team of what we might want one day and how we could do that our own way. I was presenting them the state of here’s how things are today and here’s how we would like them to be in the future. It was really easy to get their buy in from there.

Jason Rodriguez: Nice. So one thing you mentioned was that it’s agile-ish. I guess I misspoke a little bit earlier cause I know you were at Make Music before. But right before Framer you were at Scaled Agile, which is obviously very agile and like take all those principles to heart. So I’m curious like, what does that agile-ish process look like at Framer? What does it take to actually get an email strategy in place, the copywriting and the design, the build, and out the door and into subscribers inboxes?

Kait Creamer: Yeah, it’s definitely a night and day difference from working at the company that basically teaches agile to enormous enterprises, moving from that to a much smaller company who uses agile in some ways and doesn’t use agile in other ways.

So, I’m technically, I kind of straddle the marketing and the growth teams and we also have, you know, product teams, design teams, et cetera, et cetera. So our product and our design teams, they really work in sprints. And then we’ll do like a two week cool down period. So they have a six week long sprint and then a two week long cool down and basically, those are just periods for those teams to set goals, checking on those goals, and do daily stand ups. It’s just kind of a way to check in on progress as you go. Now, because I’m sort of on two different teams that don’t necessarily live and die by those sprints the same way , my role in that is just kind of keeping an eye on what the rest of the company is doing and when, and making sure that my goals in terms of communication line up with them.

So my production process is, because we’re a relatively small company, it’s not necessarily as regimented as a lot of bigger companies would see. So generally what happens is, you know, if we, if we have a webinar coming up, like I’ll work with the CS team and growth team and marketing team. And we’ll kind of brainstorm, okay, who do we want on this webinar? What’s the content? What’s the value that we’re giving to people and how do we structure this message? And then it’s just kind of a matter of getting the right five or six people rallying around that. So usually one of our designers will happen and they’ll, once we have the content for it, they’ll share some assets with us.

And, because everybody’s working, we’re all pretty scrappy, and we keep very open communication, which is very cool, very helpful. But because we work that way, things get done very quickly. There’s not a long wait time because you don’t have to wait for things to go up through the ranks and then back down.

It’s kind of everybody’s on the same page and where we all jump in and work on the same stuff while we can because it gets it done faster.

Jason Rodriguez: So obviously we’re all in murky waters with this global pandemic. And you moved halfway around the world for this like in-person and office gig and now you’ve been forced to work remotely.

How has that changed things? Obviously it sounds like you’re all on the same page and there was a lot of that open communication, but have the tools changed that you’ve been using, has that process changed at all, or just what’s that dynamic feel like now when we’re all contending with this new remote first landscape?

Kait Creamer: Yeah, this is, they’re definitely trying times and being involved in the community. I feel so much for so many of the, you know, geeks who are, you know, their worlds have been really turned upside down and mine certainly has too with moving to the Netherlands, but obviously not in the same way. And I think I’m lucky in a couple of regards.

First, that Framer is a design prototyping tool and we’re making prototyping collaborative. So inherently, it’s a tool that works well in a time when people have to be remote. So, lucky for us, you know, it’s, it’s kind of business as usual in that we get to keep doing our jobs and trying to make this awesome tool that makes everyone else’s jobs easier.

And then beyond that, Framer has a lot of remote employees and it’s a really international company, which is one of the big reasons why I joined. So while most of us are, well, are normally working in the office in Amsterdam, we have employees all over the world. And so we work really hard to keep open communication.

And this is a thing that I’ve taken away from even early on in my time at Framer that I think every company should do, is that we try to make communication very open and very democratic, always. So that hasn’t really changed that much with coronavirus. But, the ways that I see that play out… So one of the things that our leadership team really impresses on us is to use open public Slack channels for all communication instead of like DMing someone to ask a question and if you have a question, just ask it in a public channel because chances are somebody else might have that question or that answer. It could be valuable for a variety of people. And so it really forces people to be mindful of including the right people and asking the right questions and asking questions frequently and communicating openly.

So, fortunately, we already had that set up really, really well before we went under lockdown. And then after lockdown, it’s just kind of like, okay, well now we’re doing a lot more video chats, and I don’t necessarily get to see people when I’m making my latte in the mornings. But, our HR team has been absolutely brilliant.

They did this cool thing last week where they randomly scheduled 30 minute coffee chats between two Framer team members. So, there are people who I don’t talk to nearly as much now just because I don’t see them in the office and we don’t necessarily work closely together. But I have the chance to catch up for 30 minutes with a buddy of mine who I really haven’t talked to since quarantine started, just because we had a coffee time scheduled and we’re, you know, talking about music and parks and the things we’re excited about, you know, most for when this is all over and the things that we missed and all that good stuff.

So that’s really nice.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. Yeah. We do something similar at Litmus. So we use a tool called Coffee Coworker or Coworker Coffee, which is an actual tool and it has a Slack integration, all that good stuff. It’ll just randomly, yeah, pair you with somebody and it kind of leaves it to you to like set things up and how you’re going to do that but it’s nice because it exposes a bunch of people that in my day to day work I never, never interact with or like only when they join the company. That’s kind of it, you know? So it’s great to help build those connections, which is awesome.

Kait Creamer: I’m so excited to hear more about Litmus and the way you guys are handling it, knowing that so many of you are remote to begin with.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, well, we kind of joke that for a lot of us, it doesn’t feel super different. Like, which is good and bad. Like there, it’s kinda like, I hate using the term business as usual because it shouldn’t be that because this is something that the world, in our lifetimes, we haven’t really faced. But functionally, my day hasn’t really changed that much. And I know a lot of other people’s haven’t changed other than those of us with children have our kids around all the time. And so there’s, there’s a few more like interruptions and meetings and, all that stuff. But it’s nice that we have the ability to keep being remote first and like we’re, we’re just comfortable with that. And just really comfortable with asynchronous communication in general that there’s that expectation that you can get up from your desk, you can spend time with your family, you can take a walk in the middle of the day and do these things that help manage that underlying anxiety that everybody has with what’s going on in the world.

So that’s been super nice, but I feel like, functionally, a lot hasn’t changed because we’ve been set up like that from day one. But yeah, it’s definitely interesting to see how different teams are handling this and dealing with everything. And it’s interesting talking to you… Like some of my friends were, or my wife’s friends, they are office workers or like work in retail and have to deal with this, and it’s a completely different world. So I, I count myself as very, very lucky and very fortunate for being in the situation that I am in.

Kait Creamer: Definitely right there with you.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about something you’ve spoken about both at Litmus Live and in other talks recently, which is the idea of emotional intelligence. So, obviously, I’ve sat in your talks at Litmus Live, but just explain a little bit for everybody what emotional intelligence is and why it’s so important, especially in email marketing.

Kait Creamer: Yeah. Emotional intelligence is something that I get so excited about mostly because, I think I really started getting into it when empathy started becoming sort of a buzzword in marketing. And I say that specifically because I think it really was a buzz word. I think people were using empathy as sort of a crutch, like just telling them, well, feel empathy for your customer is, but if, if you don’t have the context that your customers have or your subscribers have, if you don’t, if you don’t have the ability to have their background or perspective or anything like that, it’s really hard to just force yourself to feel the same thing you’re feeling.

So, I started learning a lot about emotional intelligence, partly because of that, weirdly, partly because I geek out of her dog training, and that’s a big thing there. But emotional intelligence really is… So there’s a psychologist, Daniel Goleman, he talks about emotional intelligence being really the key to anyone’s success in life.

The thing there is that, you know, people assume that it’s just their like talent or their IQ or whatever that makes them either successful or not. And that’s not the case at all. That accounts for like 15% of your success anywhere. Whereas emotional intelligence, which is your actual ability to relate to other people or understand their motivations or try to put yourself in their shoes and like unpack their background or what makes what makes them think the way they think or do the things they do, that’s the thing that causes true connection. And so, where I think that comes into play is, you know, as email marketers, we’re constantly sending messages out and we don’t take a lot of time as an industry, we don’t take a lot of time to think about what people might be feeling when they get that or, because we can’t always get messages back from people, there’s like this, this disparate, like the message is out, but then you don’t know how it lands. So emotional intelligence is really the practice of training yourself to understand how messages might land or how they might actually affect people.

And even when you’re trying your best, you’re still always operating from your own perspective. And so it’s a hard thing to do to force yourself through the exercise of constantly putting yourself in someone else’s shoes or asking questions to poke holes in the messages that you’re sending, or like just trying to be more thoughtful and understanding about what you say.

Jason Rodriguez: So what are some, I guess, practical suggestions for people that want to grow their emotional intelligence? What are some concrete steps that email marketers could take or anybody could take to become more emotionally aware and emotionally intelligent?

Kait Creamer: Ask questions, ask all the questions. That’s, that’s the thing. One conversation I have over and over again with people is, you know, they’ll, they want to send a particular email, but they don’t know the best approach for it. And, over and over, I’ll tell people, well, have you asked your audience what they want? And it can be as simple as, so like a perfect example of this: So The Daily Carnage is this awesome newsletter that I really enjoy reading nearly every day, but almost every edition they have like a poll in the top that says, okay, next time with this newsletter, do you want to read about this thing or about this thing? And literally all you have to do is click a link to tell them.

So it doesn’t, you don’t have to do these, like really advanced psychometrics or anything like that. There’s a danger in making too many assumptions about your audience. And so the simplest way to, to kind of practice your emotional intelligence is just start asking more questions of your audience.

And, you know, in my talk at Litmus Live, one of the things that I mentioned was like you can practice emotional intelligence everywhere. You don’t just have to do this with your subscribers. Like if you practice your emotional intelligence with your subscribers, you’re not just going to get better at your emotional intelligence with your subscribers.

You’ll get better at it generally. That’s a cool thing about psychologically, you’re actually training your brain to work a certain way, and you’re training your brain to be a little more flexible and trying to see things from other people’s perspectives. So, I imagine it’s awfully difficult during quarantine, but it’s like a perfect time to practice with your family.

Just, if your family is driving you bananas and somebody putting the dishes away, the quote unquote wrong way, instead of just like jumping on their case, just ask with genuine curiosity, not with like an eye roll or anything like that, just ask with curiosity, hey, what motivates you to do this this way?

And by asking the question, you get feedback and you get in that habit of closing the feedback loop and learning and growing.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. Are there any specific resources out there or books that you’d recommend people check out to learn more about emotional intelligence?

Kait Creamer: Yeah. Oh man, that’s hard, I have so many, so many good ones, but the one that comes to mind, I’m actually gonna walk over to my bookcase cause I’ve got like a thousand that I’m really excited about. But the one that comes to mind that I really enjoy it, it’s like a great starter course is, Harvard Business Review’s, like 10 best reads on emotional intelligence.

I really like that because they’re all essays, so it’s super easy to get into. You can just read one at a time. it’s really fun and easy. another one that I like a lot is by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, it’s called The Courage To Be Disliked. And it talks a lot about Adlerian theory and basically understanding other people’s motivations without taking things personally.

So I like that one a lot. And also, I think the, the last one that I would recommend is a recommendation from The Logan Baird himself. It’s called Nonviolent Communication. The title is a bit of a misnomer, but it’s a great read and it’s a really informative book on learning to build better relationships with people.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome. That’s the Logan I need to get on the podcast at some point here too, and he’d be a great guest. So let’s kind of wrap things up by, I, I’d love to talk tools with you and just get some insight into what tools you use to get your work done. Whether that’s, you know, ESPs or, you know, things like Litmus, too. How do you manage your to do list and tracking priorities in your work?

Kait Creamer: Yeah, that’s changed a lot over the years. So, Litmus, obviously. This is actually a fun fact. When I was interviewing with Framer, our CEO Koen, he asked what are the tools that you need to be most successful in your job? And I told him, if you get me Litmus and Taxi for Email and Iterable, I will be the world’s happiest email marketer.

So that’s very exciting. We just signed with Iterable, so we’re getting up and running with them, which is, I’m sure, as everyone knows, like ESP migrations are absolutely bananas. So my life is exploding right now, but for all the best reasons. Yeah, so there’re those three obviously. I really like Asana for task management.

I’m not really a tool junkie, to be honest. Like I, I keep so much information just in the notes section on my phone. For better or worse, it becomes really difficult to manage sometimes, but basically like Asana, Slack… I Slack myself things all the time. Yeah. I live and die by Google sheets, embarrassingly. But yeah, it’s a pretty low tech stack to be honest. But those things keep me happy and productive

Jason Rodriguez: Sometimes easier and simpler is better. It’s less data to get bogged down with.

Kait Creamer: It works for me.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. Any last tips for email marketers? Anybody that’s facing their own career transitions or thinking about one?

Kait Creamer: Yeah. Communicate. Take the risk first of all and communicate, ask lots of questions. I find over and over where people get hung up is when they feel like they don’t have enough information and then they forget that they can just ask for more information. So that applies both in just day to day work and when you’re working with somebody who can be particularly tricky, a lot of times you might assume that their motivations are different than they are. And if you just ask more questions, you can learn a lot about where they’re coming from and how you can meet in the middle. And then same thing for like career transitions.

I mean. I, of course, for me, I’m very risk tolerant. I, I think it’s, it’s important. Life is too short to not take risks. So if there’s something that you want, just knock on the door. I think there’s a famous quote that I would botch if I tried to actually say it, but it’s something to the effect of like, there are so many times where you’ll spend years and years and years looking at a door waiting for it to open, and then if you just knock, you realize it was open the whole time.

And I think that’s the case for so many people. Just try the things that you want to try and ask for the things that you want and be willing to contribute and ask questions and it’s, life is what you make of it. That’s like very, I don’t know, millennial of me. But try other things, do other things.

Jason Rodriguez: I think it’s good advice. I like that. So where can people find you online and see what you’re up to these days?

Kait Creamer: Yeah. So, for email marketing and like really bad dad jokes, mostly Twitter. So, my Twitter handle is just @KaitCreamer. It’s said exactly like the word for the thing you put in your coffee.

And then, on Instagram, you can always find me on WanderingKait. And that’s like a weird mix of like artwork and dogs and the occasional email thing. Otherwise the Email Geeks Slack or at wanderingkait.com. I’m all over the place, pretty easy to track down.

Jason Rodriguez: And Framer of course is framer.com if anybody wants to check out Framer and all the cool prototyping tools they’ve been putting out in the world these last couple of years.

Kait Creamer: Yeah. Just wait in the next couple of weeks, they’re going to be bananas.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome. I’ll definitely have to keep an eye on that. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kait. I’m glad you were able to join me. I definitely have to have you back on maybe in a year or so, as you get down farther into this transition and get kind of settled in and see how things have changed.

But until then, you know, stay safe. Wash your hands, don’t get too close to anybody.

So, that does it for this week’s episode of Delivering. Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast and be sure to head over to litmus.com to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Cheers.

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