Right after his first “awesome” Pragmatic Institute training, Ryan Crochet, PMC-III, jumped at the chance to be one of the founding members of the Pragmatic Alumni Community (PAC).
“Product marketing has been around for a while, but it is still early in its development for most organizations. We’re helping mold what it looks like. That’s part of what’s exciting about product marketing.”
The affable 37-year-old recently took time from his job as manager, product marketing, and financial merchandising for Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas Inc. (MLA) to talk with The Pragmatic about advancing his career, participating in the PAC, leaving Houston to attend Notre Dame, undergoing life-changing surgery and spending time with his family.
Describe your involvement with Pragmatic and the online PAC.
Crochet: About a year ago, I took my first Pragmatic training. I absolutely loved it. Sometimes marketing struggles to find a home and philosophy. The training reinforced and solidified a lot of my thoughts about marketing. I knew instantly that I wanted to send my whole team to the same training.
Shortly after that, I had the opportunity to be a founding member of the Pragmatic Alumni Community, which is open for any Pragmatic alum to join. It has been a great opportunity to connect with people in similar roles. It also can be very humbling, as you’re communicating with people who are well-versed in product marketing. It is a great place to interact and learn from other professionals in the field about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Sometimes, it’s just a place where you can vent about the obstacles that we all face regularly.
For almost nine years you’ve been with Houston-based Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas (formerly MCFA), which many people may not realize is as big as it is (it employs about 1,200, plus an extensive dealer network, and can produce 25,000 forklifts per year). Tell us about your career there.
Crochet: I have worn a few hats here. I started as a product marketing specialist with zero industry experience. I never imagined that I would end up marketing for a forklift company, but once I got in the door, I fell in love with the company culture and industry. It’s a big, small industry. Everyone knows each other. And, people don’t realize how big a role material-handling equipment plays in their lives.
After about three years as a product marketing specialist, I asked my mentor what my next move should be. He said I should get into the dealer side of the business. I became the sales training manager. It was a good combination of product and dealers. I was also assigned financial merchandising, which handles things like lease promotions and providing finance=based solutions to the market.
Next, I moved on to be manager of corporate planning and strategy, which was also a great chance to work on some high-level project management that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
I got my present job as product marketing team manager about a year ago. I have a team of four product marketers and am also in charge of sales training. Hopefully, we are providing a bridge between product and sales that was missing. And I still manage financial merchandising.
How has working from home during COVID-19 been?
Crochet: I find that I am working much more. But I had an hour and a half commute each way to work, so I have three more hours each day to be productive, but I also have a lot more flexibility. It’s been a great thing for me. This (remote work) has opened the eyes of a lot of companies. It shows what employees are capable of.
In your LinkedIn profile, you describe yourself as a collaborative problem-solver. “Collaborative problem solving” are three words we don’t hear a lot these days. How does it work?
Crochet: In product marketing, you work with so many different teams—engineering, sales, parts, executives, and dealers. I learned very quickly not to BS anybody because someone will call you on it. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about knowing where to find the answers and who to build relationships with. And when there’s a problem, I want to make sure I have the right team around me.
Part of my job is to help my team become better product marketers. It’s all about being collaborative and helping make people better. If everybody is trying to help everyone succeed, eventually you will find success.
You describe marketing as storytelling …
Crochet: We are all trying to tell a story one way or another. There are brilliant people who can’t communicate that brilliance. You need to know who your audience is and connect with them so they will listen to your message, not just hear it. If you are not connecting on a personal level, you won’t see results despite your hard work, which is a shame.
One element a lot of people don’t understand about storytelling is the importance of preparation—planning and rehearsing what you are going to say. When I have a presentation coming up, I practice and practice. The secret is making yourself so comfortable with the material that it looks like it’s not rehearsed.
You grew up in the Houston area and went to college at Notre Dame. How did that come about?
Crochet: I liked Notre Dame’s football team when I was growing up. Then I found out that Notre Dame was a school—a really good school. I decided that’s where I wanted to go. I didn’t apply anywhere else—no fallback schools (which worried my high school guidance counselor). Once I was accepted, I focused all my spare time on working on getting scholarships, which ultimately paid for half of my tuition. I started out in biology but wound up majoring in marketing. It was a great experience, to go away from home for college. Plus, I still have some of my best friends from there.
What is your life like away from work?
Crochet: In December, I had gastric sleeve survey and have lost 160 pounds. It’s a new lease on life. I’ve taken up mountain biking again, riding about 25 miles three times a week. And I enjoy spending a lot of time with my family. I coach little league soccer and baseball for our sons (Camden, 9, and Brady, 4). It’s entertaining to watch 4-year-olds playing soccer. I also like reminding the boys every now and then that Dad is a lot better at video games than they realize. And my wife, Shawna, is inspirational. She is an HR manager for an energy company. I wish I had half of her work ethic and kindness toward other people.
Before we go, I have to ask about your beard. It fits your personality.
Crochet: I have grown it every winter for about four years. To be honest, I regret not growing one when I was younger. It’s a great conversation starter. I usually cut it in the summer because it gets so hot in Houston. But this year, I decided in April just to run with it. Plus, it gives my wife the opportunity to tease me about all the beard-grooming products I have in on the bathroom vanity.