Meet Our Fellows: Alexander Becker T’21April 21st, 2021
I’m a transplanted New Englander and Boston is home these days.
What did you do prior to Tuck?
I’m a (borderline obsessed) B2B product marketer and found my path by doing two things: studying how enduring technology companies are built, and selling and marketing software products that improve users’ working lives.
As a Dartmouth undergrad I found a strange knack for cold-emailing my way into interesting startups, and interned everywhere from a seed-stage consumer app developer in San Francisco to a Series A digital media company in NYC. As a History major (seriously, it’s the most useful degree in the world) I focused on the history of corporate innovation and wrote my thesis on the rise of the modern American newspaper industry.
Coming out of undergrad, I knew I wanted to work with early and growth stage startups and I landed a role in tech banking at Silicon Valley Bank. SVB let me “open the hood” and analyze the teams, products, and business models behind some of the fastest growing B2B SaaS companies in the world.
I’m a builder at heart and left the finance world to join Catalant Technologies in Boston right after the company’s Series D. At Catalant, I had the opportunity to lead strategy and ops for a brand new enterprise sales team selling into ice cold Fortune 500 prospects. After winning a company-wide pitch competition, our VP of Product Marketing brought me onboard as Catalant’s first PMM and I fell in love with product marketing as a craft and a career.
Why did you choose Tuck?
I’ll admit that leaving Catalant for an MBA program was a tough decision for me. I loved my team, loved my work, and wasn’t looking to switch industries or change careers. But I chose to pursue a Tuck MBA (and am beyond glad that I did!) for three reasons:
- I’m a MASSIVE business nerd and I wanted to work with specific Tuck professors and Centers to research the forces that drive the B2B SaaS industry (more on that later).
- I’d spent the core of my career selling and marketing to senior executives at massive enterprises, but I had one big problem…. I’ve never actually been a senior executive at a massive enterprise! Business school is an incredible way to reverse engineer how executives and the consultants they work with think.
- The tech industry is great at growth and innovation, but we are not always good at building companies the right way. I wanted to study how companies across industries have built inclusive and enduring businesses that lift customers, employees, and communities up. From its teaching to its culture, Tuck emphasizes not just what business leaders do, but why they do it.
After two years at Tuck, I can happily confirm that we’re 3 for 3 on these goals.
Do you have any post-Tuck plans yet? If so, what are they?
I’ll be working with an incredible team to lead Product Marketing for Toast’s Mid-Market business in Boston.
What made you want to be part of the CDS MBA Fellows Program?
Coming into Tuck, I worried that business school meant sitting on the sidelines of the tech industry for two years. When you love what you do it can be really hard to step off the field!
I knew I needed a community at Tuck to bridge the gap between academic work in the classroom and the conversations and issues taking place on the bleeding edge of the tech space. The CDS Fellows Program is a unique place for tech operators who happen to be in school to think deeply about what we do and geek out together.
What is the best part about being involved with the CDS?
The list is long! But it all comes down to the people and the work. On the people side, my co-Fellows and the faculty and staff at the Center are some of the most diverse, deeply experienced, and thoughtful humans I’ve ever met. Where else can you talk about the future of streaming media with a peer who worked at a major network one day, and dive into digital health with a classmate who helped build the ops team at a major healthcare startup the next?
CDS has also supported the most important research and writing I’ve done at Tuck. During my first year, I did an independent study with CDS Faculty Director Alva Taylor and Professor Steve Kahl, which turned into my first ebook, Forget Frameworks: Why B2B SaaS Needs Product Engines. My second ebook, The PMM Field Guide: 11 Predictions for the Future of B2B Product Marketing would not have happened without support from the CDS team.
What other activities are you involved in at Tuck?
I try to spend as much time supporting B2B startups and founders as possible. Nothing puts big MBA ideas in perspective faster than working with an early stage team to hit growth metrics with zero budget or raise a round to make payroll.
I also consult on product marketing and go-to-market strategy and tackle freelance projects for B2B SaaS startups as an InSITE Fellow and through my own network.
Working with founders and writing two books in two years has kept me pretty busy!
What has been the biggest growth moment or moment where you stepped out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?
I’m naturally curious and love building things. It’s how I learn best! Over the past two years, I’ve made big bets on brand new work experiences and ambitious projects off the beaten path.
I bet that I had the skills and focus to help lead a remote team of nine people each week during a global pandemic.
I bet that interning at OpenView Venture Partners (with limited prior VC experience) would make me a better thinker about the future of B2B SaaS.
I bet that sinking six months and hundreds of hours into a new book about product marketing wasn’t a totally foolish use of time!
None of this work came with a class credit or a grade and there was no guarantee of success. It took a lot of juggling and a lot of faith, but these decisions defined my Tuck experience, changed how I think about building companies, and made me a better product marketer.
Don’t be afraid to do something different and go all-in!
What speaker(s) have you learned the most from in your time at Tuck?
Technically before my time at Tuck, but Patrick Wheeler’s 2019 interview with Drift CEO David Cancel on “The End of Software” might be the most important guide to the future of B2B software ever recorded. No joke, it’s life-changing!
Writing The PMM Field Guide gave me the opportunity to interview 23 CMOs, marketing leaders, and product marketing experts at some of the most interesting SaaS companies around. It’s hard to beat sitting down (virtually) and learning 1-1 from your professional heroes. The CDS community and Tuck network played huge roles in making these interviews happen.
What books are you reading, podcasts are you listening to, or shows are you watching?
Inspiration and great learnings come from all sorts of places that have nothing to do with tech, product marketing, or the SaaS business. I try to learn from as many incredible stories and storytellers as possible.
Lately that’s meant rewatching “The Sopranos,” which is not only a great story but in many ways created the multi-season binge-worthy TV format way before the streaming era.
On the podcast front, I’m a huge fan (and honored past guest) of Self Control & Cheese, a show about navigating life and a tech career in your twenties.
I love learning from entrepreneurs and builders who are way outside the tech space and recently finished Setting the Table by Shake Shack and Union Square Restaurant Group founder Danny Meyer about the power of hospitality.
Lastly, I have to plug Casey Neistat’s work on YouTube. Centuries from now archeologists are going to find his vlogs and get hooked on his storytelling.
You wrote two books in two years–all while pursuing your MBA. How did you find enough time to write? What was your writing routine?
Writing for me is all about consistency. Waking up every morning and waiting for inspiration to hit usually leads to a lot of waiting and not very much writing, so I push myself to write and revise at least a little bit every day.
I’m also a big fan of writing how I talk. It’s easy to assume that great business writing needs to sound like a “business-y” WSJ article or McKinsey white paper. Not true! Most people want to feel like they’re reading unique ideas from a real person who’s passionate about the work they do. There’s no point trying to sound like someone else.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Running and being outside are happy places for me!
I also try to–as much as possible–try to work on fun, creative projects that have nothing to do with work. That process is really important to keeping me creative and original.
I love art, design, and photography. I’m naturally really project-oriented, but doing things that are purely creative is fulfilling for me and helps balance me out.
What is the last song you sang aloud to? No cheating!
Is it possible to listen to “Defying Gravity” from the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Wicked and NOT sing out loud? I. Think. Not.
What ability would you like to turn on?
I’d love to know or have a strong inkling of what would make every person I meet the happiest in any given moment. Maybe it’s intense empathy, but having the ability to know the “thing” that a person really wants in a given conversation would be amazing!
Any other big announcements?
My latest ebook OFFICIALLY launched April 21st in partnership with the Product Marketing Alliance. Check it out here!