In today’s Meet The Team, we hear from Helen Xu, Global Account Director, about her journey at Catchy and her role in managing our client accounts at a global scale.

A graduate of Fudan University, Helen grew up in Shanghai, China. Before moving to the Greater Seattle Area, Helen had over 10 years of management experience with Frogdesign and R/GA in APAC, leading agency operations and service delivery. Helen brought in her international agency and account management experience to Catchy. She’s worked on managing and growing one of Catchy’s largest accounts in the past two years and worked side by side with product and marketing executives from the US, EMEA, LATAM, and APAC. Now, Helen oversees several of Catchy’s key accounts and is working to grow the agency's client services. She also works behind the scenes of Catchy’s internal marketing. Helen enjoys applying her strategic thinking to delight, surprise, and deliver additional value to Catchy’s clients.

How did you start working at Catchy and in the Developer Marketing space? 

I started working with developers and for developers when I started my professional career. I was hired as an intern at Microsoft China in my senior year at the college. My role was to assist a program in establishing a developer partner program and cultivate the Microsoft developer community in China. I worked on everything from designing developer training programs, writing PR articles, to executing promotion activities for this program. Now that I look back, I’ve realized that’s exactly what developer marketing is. I was trained on the job by great leaders to understand software development and marketing; many of these leaders had become notable figures in the tech industry in China. Prior to moving to the agency side, I spent the first 5 years at Microsoft as the business manager. Here, l learned and practiced every aspect of business operations. Then I moved to the agency side, managing creative consulting services for Frog Design and setting up the Shanghai office for R/GA.  

Catchy was the first agency that caught my eye after I moved to Seattle, simply because of the name “catchy.” and its unique value proposition of connecting tech and marketing together. I had a wonderful conversation with the founder Richard Hurring and decided to join right away. We shared many points of views in terms of how to run an agency, and I appreciated Richard’s openness.

Richard warned me that developer marketing is the most difficult type of marketing out of traditional marketing tactics. I guess now I understand, after five years at Catchy. It has been a wide but amazing ride. I am so glad I was resilient enough to stay at the agency’s most difficult time, and I could not be more grateful that I am part of its growth journey. Over the past 2 years, we’ve almost tripled the size of the agency, and this couldn’t be better and more exciting. 

Which Catchy value do you strongly resonate with and why? (Collaborative, Fluid, Inclusive, Accountable)

Fluid.

I have worked with engineers, strategists, and creatives at different types and sizes of agencies. There’s no one operation model that fits all.  Clients will come and go, you have to always stay alert, get prepared, always look out for what’s new in the market, and the unmet needs, and calibrate your service offerings. What I like about Catchy the most is that we are small enough to respond to the market needs quicker; we recruit unique talents and build a team that trusts each other and dares to take risks, trying disruptive but programmatic approaches to bring value to our clients and always looking for ways to deliver faster. 

On the other hand, generally, clients come to Catchy looking for professional services and expertise. Every day, we deal with uncertainties and ambiguities, which sparks the most joy and creativity in me. Aiaz Kazi once said, “Innovation happens when you can differentiate between customers' wants and needs.” I applied the same #needsnotwants thinking to my work as well. Regardless of whether clients ask Catchy to create a product value proposition, develop a community playbook or execute a GTM campaign, I always remind and challenge myself to come up with ideas and solutions that matter to the client. Over time, you would earn the trust and establish a true partnership with your client. 

What are some of the most important qualities for an account director to have?

I love this question, as I always self reflect on what areas I can improve in.

1. Business Acumen and Strategic Thinking

You can say that a successful account manager’s job is to keep your account happy, so oftentimes, they will encourage the team to deliver more than the asked SOW. A successful account manager must be your client’s most trustable business partner outside the company. You should be able to see the bigger picture and understand the business problems your clients are trying to solve (as sometimes they don’t tell you directly). It requires both strategic thinking as a marketer and a deep understanding of how businesses operate as a business leader, forging a mutually-beneficial and strategically viable partnership rather than just fulfilling clients’ demands. 

2. Be Empathetic and Put People First

If you are at the direct level, you already have all the essential communication and leadership skills. But it’s not about skills; it’s about how and why you practice them. Put people at the center. For example, account management 101 is to keep all the stakeholders informed, but you can repeat or select information to communicate concisely, clearly, and be more convincing. My personal learnings are:

  • Be a great and proactive listener; 
  • Work hard to read people and situations; 
  • Try to understand people, take the lead when you need to, but also empower the team lead, 
  • Empower your team to sell their ideas, motivate them to go the extra mile when they need to; 
  • And finally,  get your client open-minded and excited by what’s possible.  

 3. Keep Learning

Many people say account managers do best if they’ve been in and around the industry, But I don’t think it’s a job that can be successful only by experience. Experience matters more on soft skills, but you would always need to learn the ever-evolving hardcore knowledge, keep the pace of change, and constantly accept, absorb and adapt new perspectives. It’s a job that always requires learning and flexibility. 

What things are you most proud of in your professional career and personal life so far?

  1. A truly global perspective. Working for global agencies in China and now at Catchy, gives me authentic experience with two very different markets. I experienced cultural conflicts, the business dilemmas, which gave me a much broader perspective to be pragmatic and empathetic to make a meaningful impact. 
  2. Led Catchy’s internal marketing effort to showcase our amazing work. My biggest pride in 2022 is launching the Meet the Team content series, because it sets up the stage for Catchy employees to shine.
  3. Raised a good child. I’m proud to see my daughter excel and find her way in pursuing her journey. I don’t tell her what to do; I show her how to be responsible for her life. 

Want to work with Helen and the rest of the Catchy team? Well, you’re in luck - we’re hiring! Check out our Careers page for our current openings.