Dave Gerhardt graduated from college in 2009 during a global economic crisis, with no clue what he wanted to do. Fast-forward 7 years: Dave runs marketing at Drift, one of Boston’s fastest-growing startups, and is a figurehead in Boston tech. The last time I caught up with Dave, we talked about how he got introduced to Drift's Founders, David Cancel and Elias Torres.
At Drafted, we love a good team origin story, so we talked about Drift, and how his career path helped guide that introduction. His career is a great example for recent grads and millennials. Through determination, curiosity, and introductions to great people, Dave has shaped an astounding early career. Here's his story.
Like many students who joined the workforce in the late 2000s, Dave graduated in a rough economic climate. While searching for a job, it seemed like every “entry-level” position he saw needed 3 years of experience. So he took a job that was available and one he knew well: His old summer job at his hometown golf course where he could make money while he searched.
Between golf balls and Gatorades, Dave poured through job boards and applied to 100s of jobs, including internships. The first team to say yes was a Public Relations agency in Boston, which offered him a 6-month internship.
He took it.
Dave turned that internship into a full-time role. The agency exposed him to local technology companies, and he got familiar with the Boston tech scene. After another year, he decided to make the move from agency to in-house and took a PR role at Constant Contact.
"I was so excited. At the time Constant Contact was one of those cool tech companies where there was beer in the office, and people wearing jeans,” Dave explained. He joined to run PR and generate buzz for a new suite of social media tools that Constant Contact had recently acquired. Along with successfully launching their new product, Dave became fascinated with social media and the Boston tech scene during his time there.
After another year and a half of working and learning at Constant Contact, he knew he wanted to try his hand at a startup. “Being outside the city, I may as well have been 1,000 miles away from the Boston tech world,” Dave shared. So he started looking for a role in the Boston and got connected with Privy through an introduction from his cousin. There, he took a role as an Account Manager and loved the hand-to-hand combat of an early stage company. Everyone was trying to make sales, keep customers happy, and grow as a team.
During this time, Dave started sharing an idea with close friends: He wanted to start a podcast. He loved listening to them but realized that no one was covering Boston Tech companies. After getting positive signals from his network of tech friends, he began “Tech in Boston” as a side-project. He ran it on Friday nights out of the Privy office and invited friends and Boston tech leaders.
As the podcast gained popularity, it took on a life of its own. Friends introduced Dave to founders, who introduced him to VC’s, who introduced him to other tech leaders. Suddenly he was meeting face to face with the major players of Boston's tech economy.
Dave’s network + Boston tech community for the win!
Soon, Dave was introduced to the team at Hubspot, including Mike Volpe, who wanted to start a podcast to reach new audiences. After meeting with the leadership team there, Dave realized that this was a huge growth opportunity for his career. He decided to join the team to help them build and market what would become The Growth Show, now the most popular business podcast on iTunes.
Dave nailed it, and within 9 months, the podcast had gone from idea to reality. It received hundreds of thousands of downloads, accolades from the Content Marketing Institute, and top-rankings in iTunes. This time, Dave interviewed some of the most interesting business minds in the world.
During this era, Dave got a note from David Cancel on LinkedIn. David wanted help promoting a campaign for Drift. Dave wanted to interview David for Tech in Boston, so he saw this as an opportunity and asked.
Dave and David ended up meeting to record the podcast, and Dave left that meeting thinking, "That guy is great and really knows his sh*t.". Shortly after that meeting, Dave found out they were looking for a marketing person and sent David a note. Dave was itching to get back to an early stage startup, and he knew that The Growth Show was at a point where he could hand it over. When things got serious, David introduced Dave to Drift co-founder, Elias Torres
.His intro email read: “You two need to meet. Can you do it tomorrow?”
Dave didn’t know what to expect when Elias walked into the conference room the next day. He definitely didn’t expect Elias to ask such a direct question right out of the gate, “Why are you a better marketer than me?” the Founder and CTO asked.
Dave admits he was a little thrown, but must have succeeded in answering Elias’ question, because he soon received an offer to come work at Drift.
Since joining the team, Dave has built the Drift blog audience from 0 to 60,000 readers, driven 10,000 Drift signups, 500,000 views on Slideshare, and 15,000 downloads/month from the Drift podcast, Seeking Wisdom. Not bad for a guy working at a golf course less than seven years ago.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Dave whether he had any advice for people just getting started with their careers. He had an interesting take: “Don’t be afraid to change jobs frequently. You shouldn’t stay somewhere because you’re afraid how leaving looks on your resume -- if you’re not learning, there’s no reason to be there.”
]He’s had 5 jobs in 7 years and thinks that you shouldn’t say no to new opportunities because you’re worried about what other people will think.
Plus, he thinks you should have a superpower, a concept that Elias introduced him to in his interview. Whether you’re a marketer or an accountant, if you don’t know what your superpower is find something that interests you and become the best at it. Once you know your superpower, hire people who have superpowers in areas where you don’t.
About Dave: Dave Gerhardt is Director of Marketing at Drift and started TechInBoston. He became a marketer because the NBA wasn't accepting 5'8" guys with moderate athletic ability when he graduated in 2009.
At Drafted, we believe that your company network is your single biggest competitive advantage when it comes to hiring. Our mission is to make it easy for you to leverage your network in the hiring process to find the best candidates. Your network is already powerful, it’s just too much work to make it a priority over the day-to-day of recruiting. Companies that use Drafted see their employee referral numbers go up by 2x, their time to hire drop by 30% and their overall hiring efficiency increase significantly within just a few months.