You are the Chief Marketing Officer at Squarespace. It’s a big title and we’re keen to know what your role looks like in a practical sense. Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ day in your world?
I have the incredible opportunity to help empower millions of entrepreneurs and creators to build their brands online and make their mark on the world – so I try to bring my best self to work every day to ensure I am not letting them down.
Marketing can often act as the glue that connects all different parts of the organisation ensuring we’re solving the right problems our customers are facing and connecting with them in a real way through our solutions. Whether it’s collaborating with the creative team to align on the concept for a marketing campaign, meeting with the product team to review what’s next for Squarespace’s platform of products, or whiteboarding go-to-market strategies for new countries with my marketing team – each day is different, intense and thought-provoking.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe in fostering an environment of empowering all of our team members to create impact, just as we empower our customers to succeed in their own journeys. I push my team to think about impact in terms of the legacy they want to leave during and after their time at the company. When put into that context, I find team members push beyond the bounds of their individual remits and drive harder towards innovation.
How did you find leading a team through a pandemic? What did the experience teach you about yourself?
The pandemic turned all of our lives upside down. As we transitioned to remote work, we learned so much more about our colleagues where the lines between work and home were blurred more than ever before. I’m so proud of the team’s resiliency, patience, and ability to show up with grace throughout all of these macro challenges impacting the world. I’ve always worked to hone a mindset of adaptability while showing up with empathy, and the pandemic pushed these leadership principles to the forefront even further.
Jobs these days are about so much more than the shiny corner office. What was it about Squarespace that attracted you to the role?
I joined in 2017 and I remember being struck by the meatiness of the role as both a marketer and an executive. The combination of building an integrated marketing team from the ground up in a high-growth company at one of the most beautiful brands in tech created an opportunity that I was drawn to at my core. And of course, the mission which hits home hard for me as a first-generation immigrant that was raised on the guiding principle of making your dreams a reality. If that wasn’t enough, there was a moment of serendipity in 2016 when the Women’s March decided to use Squarespace as their website platform and reached out to me for help with the build. Of course, it was unbeknownst to them, but I was in the middle of my interview process with Squarespace and seeing the power of the product to help amplify much needed voices and help push an entire movement forward was a pretty powerful selling point for me. The combination of all of these ingredients cemented my decision to join this dynamic team.
Let’s talk about International Women’s Day – how important is the day to you and to the team at Squarespace?
The majority of our customers at Squarespace are small businesses and creators, many of which identify as women, so our continued democratisation of accessible and affordable online tools to enable livelihoods of women is incredibly important and always inspiring to me. Personally, I see the responsibility I have as a leader and woman that I hold the door open and help empower women where I can and make sure that translates into the work, we do every day. One of the major milestones in my early Squarespace days was on International Women’s Day. We launched a pretty ingenious campaign for Equal Pay Day to help raise awareness around the gender pay gap which led to the single highest sales day in Squarespace history at that time. We believe everyone deserves an equal shot at success, regardless of gender identity.
How do you make sure the women of Squarespace are empowered and limitless in their careers?
I want everyone, including women, to feel encouraged to bring ideas to the table, speak up, and know they can and will make an impact at Squarespace. I aim to have active conversations about the hurdles that exist, and mentor and educate any way I can.
At Squarespace, you talk a lot about the idea of ‘making it’. How has your initial idea of having ‘made it’ evolved since you’ve taken on the role of CMO?
I think ‘making it’ is a forever process and impossible to truly feel, especially if you’re full of ambition and obsessed with what you do. To be sure, we are all unfinished works-in-progress, and so ‘making it’ can simply be that you are always taking the next important step in the exact thing you should be doing. While I cherish my role, it’s only part of a broader set of things I do and who I am. What I’d like to accomplish personally, professionally, or as a contributor to society is an ever-evolving project, full of struggle and achievement. As a brand, in our messaging and storytelling with customers, there’s a similar nuanced spirit. We endeavour to inspire in everything we put out into the world, but we know our role: we are the enablers to a vast collection of inspiring doers and dreamers every day who take that first scary step towards discovery. ‘Making it’ is a daily commitment, a success not because it’s an end point, but because it’s a realisation that the reward is in the doing.
You made Vogue’s list of “49 incredible Indian women who are creating legacies across the globe”. Do you feel a sense of pressure to have the position to represent Indian women around the world or has it become something you embrace?
I completely embrace it now that I have a better understanding of what representations means. Rupi Kaur says it best “i stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking what can i do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther.”
A quick Google search reveals interviews with you using headlines like “in her shoes” and “What I Wear to Work.” Do you think we should embrace this aspect of our professional career that these types of questions are interesting or fight to focus solely on your career?
Embrace, always embrace when given a mic. Also, I’ve always loved art, design and fashion, particularly in the social commentary it often can provoke. There are a lot of parallels you can draw from my approach to style and the work I do at Squarespace where we support people who depend on the impression they make online.
Your motto is ‘you may be too much for some people. Those are not your people,’ and we love this. How did you come to the point where you stopped giving a shit about how people felt about you?
I very firmly believe that once you find your people and you feel their love through all your flaws, your cup is full enough to stop caring about the noise or the peripherals. I now have my tribe of family, friends, colleagues, mentors, peers, and creators that keep me focused on the onward and upward.
The Squarespace customer could be just about anyone. How do you approach a new campaign to ensure you’re catering to everyone and anyone?
A rule of thumb is that you have to be able to connect with your consumer and be empathetic to their needs. Many of our customers depend on our platform to stay in business and look to us for creative solutions on how they can constantly adapt.
Our customers are often the face of our creative campaigns because the best way to be empathetic to the entrepreneurial journey is to highlight people who have done it and we hope that serves as an inspiration and a motivation to other small business owners and creators.
You’ve said you’re industry agnostic, can you share what you mean by that?
I’ve talked about being industry agnostic in relation to my career choices. Personally, I’m more interested in ensuring the challenge I’m tasked with tackling is incredibly thought provoking vs. pursuing specific verticals.
Given the state of the world right now, what are the skills you look for when you’re hiring for new roles?
The dream candidate is someone who brings passion to the forefront with fresh and innovative ways to bring our message in front of consumers. The best candidates are ones that are quick to adapt, empathetic, purpose-driven, and socially conscious, and can bring a brand’s message to life in a non-opportunistic way.
What’s the thing you’re most excited about doing in a post-pandemic world?
The pandemic has accelerated and fostered the adoption of ecommerce, entrepreneurialism, creativity and community building. From Unfold’s social media tools, to our Member Areas product, to Scheduling, Squarespace’s offering has evolved to offer a solution to these new business challenges, so I’m particularly excited to enable our new and existing customers’ ideas, services or products to thrive online. We’ve also expanded our marketing efforts into new territories around the world, like Australia, so I’m personally looking forward to travelling again and meeting our customers face to face.
So, what’s next for Kinjil Mathur?
A complex, beautiful, new creative project launching in July — baby boy #2.