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Alice Roussel

Host: Isaline Muelhauser

Guest: Alice Roussel

In this week's episode, Alice Roussel, Growth Marketing Manager, shares how she quit manager roles for operational roles and discusses how what can be seen as an unconventional career path brought her. We also find out what inspires Alice and what empowers her to be the brilliant woman she is today.

You can connect with Alice through her LinkedIn and Twitter and her website MerciLarry.

Follow Women in Tech SEO on Twitter.

Episode Transcript

Isaline: Unconventional career path. Quitting a manager role for an operational role is not a crazy move with Alice Roussel. 

Hi, it's Isaline. Today, we are talking about career path with Alice Roussel. I'm your host today Isaline Muelhauser, and I'm really happy to welcome Alice. Hi, and thanks for joining us. 

Alice: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Isaline: Today, we are discussing our career path. Alice is sharing with us an unconventional step she took already twice. Let's rewind a little bit. 

Alice Roussel works as a growth marketing manager at Pictarine, where she manages a team of three. Pictarine is a U.S. startup specialized in the photo printing industry. Alice is passionate about growth topic such as SEO, and she runs a personal blog. It's merci-larry.com since 2018. So go head up to her blog. There are lots of resources as well. 

Alice, preparing this interview, you mentioned that switching from a managerial role to an operational role can be seen as moving backwards. Why is that?

Alice: This is because this is not something that we are accustomed to see. I mean, in general, once you are a manager, you stay a manager and you don't go backwards. You don't jump from a manager position to an IT role. It's pretty rare. When I did that, as you said twice, many people ask me the question like, "Why are you going backward? Why are you giving up on your responsibilities?" for instance. That's why I like to say that this is something that can be seen as going backward than moving forward. 

Isaline: Were there more like work colleagues asking you these questions, or more generally, also family and friends? 

Alice: Actually, from colleagues, it was mainly the team I manage. The first time I announced that I was leaving my job at the web agency I was working for, I remember that someone from my team asked me, "Did we do something wrong that you then maybe you want to give up on your responsibilities? Because maybe you don't like managing people. Maybe we did something wrong." It was not the case, actually. From a family perspective, the question was more about the financial status it can bring, than questions about the work itself. 

Isaline: Once as SEO manager to SEO strategist, and the second time as head of SEO and customer success to search acquisition manager. How did you make that decision? What's happened? If it was not your team making a mistake or doing something wrong, what was the reasoning? 

Alice: The first time, it was pretty simple. After four years working in that web agency, I wanted to learn more because I had a lot of clients, a lot of different topics to work on. But somewhere, I knew I was missing something. It was back in 2018, if I'm not wrong, at that time, I was reading a lot of Google patterns. I was passionate about select file analysis and I wanted to learn more about it. I had two choices at that time, joining Google or joining a log analyzer actually to be on the side of I have all the data I want access to, to learn more about how to run a log file analysis, et cetera. 

That's why I joined OnCrawl. At that time, there was not an open position for a manager. I said to myself, "That's okay because what do I want right now? I want to learn something new." I can't do it by being a manager again at that time. That's why I chose to move from a managerial position to an IT one at that time. One year after, they asked me to move from my current role to a manager position. 

The second time, after two years at OnCrawl, I had a lot of log files, actually. I wanted to go out of my comfort zone. I was like ultra-specialized into SEO. I am still passionate about it, but I wanted to learn more. I wanted to have like a bigger picture of all the ecosystem. And then, I had the opportunity to join Pictarine to take care of both the paid search and organic search. Again, that was a very good deal for me because I was able to go out of the SEO. They gave me the opportunity to manage the paid research with a 5 million budget a year. It was crazy. At that time, again, that made sense to move from a manager position to an IT position as well. Yes, that's why.

Isaline: I hear it means that when you were the manager in the agency, instead of thinking, "Oh, I'll do a training class in the evening and start doing things on my own," you leaped right in the role and worked for a tool. But how did it go? Because you went from a position, as you said, in your comfort zone and you ended up in a new company with new tasks. How did you manage that huge change? 

Alice: Well, I would like to say that at that time, it was easy because I was in my 20s. Somewhere, I was taking a big risk. Somewhere, I was not. Because I think that this is the kind of thing that you can do when you are in your 20s or 30s. It's more difficult in your 40s or later in your career. So somewhere, the risk wasn't that big.

Isaline: You mean "big," uncomfortable? It was a risk. 

Alice: Yes. 

Isaline: That did not seem big for you, 

Alice: It was like a challenge, and I wanted to scare myself. Especially the second time when I chose to run paid campaigns coming from a full SEO position. Here, that was a very big challenge. I remember that at the very beginning of me working at Pictarine, during some meetings, some colleagues asked me questions about the bidding strategy. Specific questions about the paid search. Sometimes, I was like, "I don't know. I need to look for the information and I will get back to you." 

This is not something I was used to in SEO. Let's say 95% of the time, I had the answer. There, it was different. Yes, it was very challenging. Today, I'm super happy to make that move because I was able to learn a lot from that move. This is a big risk, but you have a lot to learn from this kind of move. In terms of career path, it's super interesting to be a manager, to go back to an IT position, and then to learn new things, to be afraid sometimes on specific topics.

Isaline: It reminds me of something a colleague told me once that in a career, you have the choice to specialize in one field more and more and stay in that field. Or you have the opportunity to cover more fields to have a better understanding. Did you have that in mind or did you just do it sort of spontaneously? Do you have a plan? 

Alice: That's a very good question. I don't think I had a plan at that time. The question is very tricky because I think that somewhere, it can be like very interesting to be fully specialized into your own field, like a web developer that is specialized on iOS, for instance. But at that time, from my end, I think that I was considering the picture of SEO plus paid search, like search as a whole. I guess that those things that made me think of, "Okay, I can like move to this new," new topic being paid search. Yeah, I think so.

Isaline: So, not really a plan. I mean, it was kind of spontaneous. It's interesting that you took this leap of faith even though maybe it was sort of like not what people would've expected, but you did it anyway. Tell me how did the first move, going back to doing log analysis, very technical stuff, how did it benefit you?

Alice: I think that I gained a lot of confidence first, in what I was able to do, that I was able to learn again. Because when you trust specialized, there comes a time where you can't learn as you learned before. You know what I mean? This is not the same learning curve. You are like at the end of your learning curve at some time. For the log file analysis, I mean moving to OnCrawl, I gained a lot of confidence. And also, I think that I felt more legitimate to manage the team on I had that learning with me.

Alice: Did you need to be more legitimate? 

Isaline: I think so because while I was working at the agency, I became a manager after one year or two years. So, it was pretty soon in my career, and I didn't have a mentor at that time. Sometimes you are promoted manager but nobody is going to tell you, "Okay. I advise you to manage this way," or "You need to schedule one-to-one meetings," that kind of thing. I didn't have all of that in mind. 

Going backward, I was able to on one side, learn new things. On the other side, I was able to take a step back on my manager role and to reflect on my strengths and also on my weaknesses. Above that, I was able to ask myself what kind of manager do I want to be and what do I need to do to be a better manager. I felt that, for me, I needed to feel more legitimate. I needed to learn log file analysis, then a few about data science, et cetera, to run my own Titan Scripts, for instance, to be able to speak to a data analyst, et cetera. Some things that I do today. But if I didn't do that at that time, then today, I wouldn't feel legitimate to talk about that kind of topic.

Isaline: In a sense, you took the time. You were promoted really fast. And at some point, you decided to take the time to do each step and learn the nitty-gritty of the job. It's really very interesting how you framed -- you said at some points, "Oh, I saw a search as a whole, like SEO and paid and this is a whole end." What would you say to people who are like, "But which direction should I go, now that you have this understanding? 

Alice: You mean between the two fields or --?

Isaline: Yeah. What did you prefer in the field? Do you think specifics, like not behavioral, but preference would be better for a specific job?

Alice: Both are super interesting. While you work in SEO, you tend to speak more to web developers, for instance. When you work in paid search, you will collaborate more with financial teams, partnership teams, for instance. So, it's different. 

I wouldn't advice to follow a specific path, I guess. Both are super interesting. You need to find your added value in either SEO or paid search. You can do both. I mean, somewhere, you need to be specialized in SEO or paid search. You won't be able to be specialized in both, of course. Being able to work on both topics, it's super interesting because it brings new ways to reflect on the business on the way you work. 

I remember when I was working on SEO only, all the decisions I made were related to SEO. Like, the UX of the page, et cetera. Now, that I have the paid dimension, I can take a step back and have a bigger picture of the business as well. This thing that is the most interesting is that, when you reconcile both worlds, I guess you are better at taking decisions and taking the best decisions for the business and not the best decisions for your own fields.

Isaline: How interesting. The best decision for the business is not the best decision for SEO?

Alice: Sometimes, when you work into SEO, you don't want -- it's hard to say it like this. You don’t want to make a compromise. When you better understand the intricacies of paid search or other topics, then at that moment, you can start to make a compromise because you understand that some other things than SEO can be important as well. Maybe you will prioritize your tasks or your recommendations in another way than you will have done without knowing what the information on paid search or UX. 

Isaline: I love how very aware you are of each field and how they complement each other. When I hear you speaking, it's like also you understand how the fields collaborate together for success which maybe it's true, we are a bit stuck in our SEO perspective sometimes. That's very, very impressive career path. I love how you just leaped for what you thought was a success. 

Tell me now, for today, at least today, what is the vision of success? What do you want now? 

Alice: Good question. What I want now is to move forward, go the extra mile, and maybe be able to bring the business vision, as a founder of the company can have. 

Isaline: When you say "move forward," upwards, backwards. What is forward?

Alice: I guess this is learning new things. For some time, I wanted to learn more about data. I signed up on, for instance, for machine learning courses, et cetera. I don't think it makes sense to me today to move again and to not a data analyst position, or I don't know. I would say that the next move would be to learn what is not tangible. This is not something you can do from an operational role but something you have the feeling you have when you see a specific set of data related to your business. 

Like when I speak with my CEO, for instance, he of course is not specialized into SEO, paid search, web development, et cetera. But as an idea on each topic from the business perspective, like the top of the iceberg, I would say, maybe that's the thing I would like to learn today. That all I can have the same lecture of the data. I guess I would say that.

Isaline: Do you have already an idea how you'll do that?

Alice: I don't have any idea actually. What I'm doing right now is I listen to a lot of podcasts from founders, CPOs, CTOs, et cetera. I read also a lot of books about entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship as well. That's the way I used to learn that kind of things. I'm not sure this is the best way, but this is the way I guess.

Isaline: What would you say to folks who are about to take an unconventional career path? 

Alice: I would say don’t chase fancy job titles. Focus on what can benefit you the most like new skills, it can be out skills, it can public speaking, et cetera. Focus on that because you have time to become a manager, to get that fancy super title on your LinkedIn. Yes, focus on your hard skills and your soft skills. The main thing is focus on what you love the most. 

Isaline: I love that. This is so excellent. I mean, it couldn't end better. And so, we have a closing question always as we are a community and we are here to support each other. Is there one particular book, or training, or practice, something that's helped you recently grow? 

Alice: Yes. There is a book that is called "Build," by Tony Fadell. Tony Fadell oversaw the iPhone development at Apple. The book is very interesting because you have a lot of chapters, and some of them are super interesting. Like, data versus intuition. When you can rely on data and when you should rely on your intuition, for instance. Or you can design an idea from scratch. From scratch to business, actually. Like, he did for the iPhone. It's super interesting. There were a lot of ideas and you should read it. 

Isaline: I will definitely add it to the description of the podcast, of course, so everyone can find it easily. Thank you for joining us today. I really love how aware you are of each step of your career path, and how it helped you. I can see that you have something for building a company now. I wonder if in a couple of years, you'll knock at my door and you have your own project. So that could be a plan. I don't know. I'm very curious to see what will be happening.

Alice: I'm curious too. Thank you for having me. 

Isaline: Thanks a lot for joining us, and thanks everyone for listening to us. We are WTS Podcast, and we're on a mission to amplify women's voices. Join the community of course. We have a Slack channel where we discuss, and we have lots of different initiatives, and newsletter, and mentorship, and many, many different things. Do check the website, WomanInTechSEO.com. I was your host, Isaline Mülhauser. I was really happy to interview Alice. If you have any questions following up on this podcast, ask either Alice or me on Twitter or on Slack. We are really happy to answer. Thank you, everyone.