Getting REAL About Mental Health

Episode #049: Ryan Bonnici, CMO, G2

Most of the episodes on Mobile Matters so far have been focused on hearing from B2C marketing and tech leaders so it was time we hear from a few B2B marketing rockstars. And Ryan Bonnici definitely fits that definition. Ryan is the Chief Marketing Officer at G2 (previously known as G2 Crowd), one of the World’s Most Influential CMO’s in 2019 according to Forbes, and a keynote speaker. Prior to G2, he’s held leadership positions at HubSpot, Salesforce, ExactTarget, and Microsoft. In this episode of Mobile Matters, we getting real about mental health, being your authentic self in both your personal and professional life, and sharing career advice.

Key Takeaways

  1. The stigma around mental health needs to continue to change so more people feel comfortable about sharing their own mental health challenges and seeking help. 
  2. Technology can be a crutch for all of us to avoid dealing with a project, difficult situation, etc. 
  3. You won’t get promoted for doing your job. You get promoted for exceeding expectations in your job. If you want to grow, then you have to do more than what’s asked. 

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Episode Transcription

Stephanie Cox: I’m Stephanie Cox and this is Mobile Matters. Today I’m joined again by Ryan Bonnici, Chief Marketing Officer at G2, previously known as G2 crowd. One of the world’s most influential CMOs in 2019 according to Forbes and a keynote speaker. Prior to G2 he had leadership positions at Hubspot, Salesforce, ExactTarget and Microsoft. This episode Ryan and I are getting real and I’m talking really real. We’re talking about mental health and being your true authentic self and the impact that can have on your life and career as well as hearing Ryan’s advice for marketers. It’s one of my favorite parts of our conversation because Ryan and I are both sharing a ton from a personal perspective and make sure you stick around to the end. We’re I’ll give my recap and top takeaways. Welcome to the show Ryan. 

So one of things that you know you start talking a lot about obviously is been mental health and the role that plays in your life and going to a therapist and really you’ve been open about that which I personally love because I think for a while you know there’s been a stigma around you know talking about that. So for you, why did you decide to start becoming so forthcoming about what you’re going through. What was that kind of journey into that decision to start sharing it more. 

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, so that’s a great question. I think for me I just has such a… I just had.. I just had overcome so much in therapy that I didn’t realize I needed. And I think like coming out the other side. And I just felt so I don’t know I think I felt so re-energized and I had seen firsthand just like how valuable therapy could be and is and it’s not like a it’s not like a you know you do it you solve your problems and you’re done right. The things that happened when you were a kid and the you know the relationships you build with your parents and your family and everything like that. Kind of sets in stone some like pretty difficult behaviors to change when you start to go down to like why do I do the things that I do and so I still have heaps of challenges every now and then and big things that come up that I need to work through. But if anything it’s taught me that kind of not not ignore my feelings and not pretend and tell myself that everything’s everything is okay when it’s not. And so yeah if I got so much benefit out of it that I just was so I felt like a new human being and it was quite eye opening for me and so I kind of just wanted to share that and I mean you know for anyone that follows me on Instagram or something would know I am I don’t really hold back. I’m super authentic like I share the happy crazy moments and I share the sad moments. Like I posted a photo of me crying on LinkedIn last week or something after therapy and it was like happy crying in the sense of like we went for some really good stuff but I was so happy I was kind of proud of my crying face which is a weird thing to say but I was so proud of myself for crying because like I am just I typically don’t get in touch with my feelings and so I don’t know I think I’ve always been one of those people that like when I have a happy moment or a sad moment or a learning moment like I want to share it because you get so much like validation from it when people then respond to you and say you know I had a day like that yesterday. Like or I started seeing a therapist last week because I saw what you wrote and it’s already been amazing thank you. That just makes me feel so good because you know when you look at the stats around mental health it’s something like something like eight out of ten people will have you know low mental health at some point in their life right.  They will have a depressive episode or anxiety episode or and by the DSM kind of manual for like the technicality of what it means right. You know we all have like happy days and sad days but like will you know most people will have like and like a depressive episode for a period of time at some point in their life or another kind of mental health condition. And the craziest thing for me was it A) so it’s like such a high number but then it’s such a small number for the people that get help it’s gosh I did butchering these numbers. So they’re just directionally accurate but you know maybe three out of those eight people will then actually get help. But the crazy thing is of those people that get help. The average time to get help is ten years after the onset of the mental like that lower mental health condition. I want to call like a mental disorder for some reason I’m not sure why. But that’s just bonkers for me and so I think around that time at the start of the year I also joined the board of a non-profit that was started by Glenn Close. She’s the president of the organization it’s called Bring Change to Mind. I’m on the board of directors there that bring change to mind is all about you know ending this. Excuse me I’m ending the stigma around mental health because we believe that the biggest problem is like the stigma that people have and that’s what stops most people from getting help. And so that’s where we felt like there was a real opportunity in the mental health space to try out more impact.  

And so yeah I started getting really active in that and I think then I started to really want to start sharing my story and it felt good when I did it the first time and so yeah it kind of reinforced and helped me to do more I guess. And it’s really changed my relationship I think with my wife it’s changed my relationship with my colleagues my employees my peers at work like I feel like they to come to me and share with me their challenges or if I have a meeting on the calendar that clashes with their therapy session they’ll just really tell me I came up with therapy then and I’ve got some stuff going on at home I really really need to speak to my therapist about is that okay. And I’d like the fact that they can tell me that versus like you know pull a sicky or or cancel their therapy more importantly like that would be the worst. I would hate to be doing that for them and you know I don’t let my work get in the way of my health for both my body as well as for my mind and so yeah I want to be open about that. 

Stephanie Cox: I think that your point around stigma is part of the reason why a lot of people feel nervous about sharing it is not just how people are going to react to it because I do think we are thinking back to you like my parents generation. It was a very taboo subject and so you know that has carried on a little bit. So I love hearing about organizations and people that are trying to make it just really open and transparent because it does impact so many people I know like for me one of things that a lot of people don’t know is I actually had a brain tumor five years ago and had to have a craniotomy. And like yeah I’m super thankful benign which was really great. But it was like a super stressful time and I know that one of the things when I told people… I didn’t tell a lot of people because you know when that stuff happens it happens pretty fast and there’s a lot. They typically don’t let you wait very long once they find out you have one. Before you have to have surgery but one of the things that was really hard for me I know is like this few people that I did tell their reactions to it because you know and I was kind of like oh like they didn’t know what to say. You know they start to have you know you could kind of see like in their eyes like oh my gosh how do I respond to this. Like is she going to be the same person when she wakes up like that type of stuff which is why. Like for me I know like I just stopped I just stopped telling people after that and really don’t talk about it a ton because even if you tell someone five years later you know it’s yeah it’s like a war wound I went through but if I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t notice that you know for me today. And so I think for me you know even with that example which is a little different / related to mental health since it involves a brain but also different is you know why can’t people just be super accepting and supportive of what you’re going through and realize that you know you’re going to end up no matter you know kind of what you’re going through a better person in the end and not to have such a strong reactions around it. Because then I think it makes people afraid to share and afraid to be like their true authentic self when that’s really, I know like what I would rather get from people. 

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, totally. You know I think it, you know kind of changes by having one conversation at a time, right? And allowing folks and I think by just doing it and by doing just what you want them to do. So by me being vulnerable and sharing my challenges has meant that folks have done that back to me because they know that you know I’m a safe space. They can do that. And yeah. That’s been I think that’s been really that’s that’s truly fundamentally changed kind of my relationship to work and my colleagues at a really deep level for me. And so yeah I think I kind of view people and myself less about their results at work and more about like they are a whole person there are so many facets and layers to them. And I think I’m more compassionate with others because I’m more compassionate with myself right. And that’s the reality where it comes down to like whenever someone is angry at someone else it’s because they’re angry at themselves for probably the same thing that that person did and they’re deflecting or kind of like focusing on what someone else did because they are so ashamed of themselves and they hate that part of themselves so they push it elsewhere. I mean that was so true for me and so you know I think it’s been it’s just been life changing. It sounds really like woo to say life changing but it really has. 

Stephanie Cox: No. I totally get that because sometimes I think just being more of yourself and realizing that that causes other people to be more of who they really are and you can have then I think real connections to me is like where the magic really happens. So thinking about this idea of being constantly connected and you know obviously social media while there are so many wonderful wonderful things about it not everyone is as authentic as you are on social media. A lot of times you see just the good times right. And these perfect, You know Instagram esk type photos and videos. How do you think that combined with you know we’re constantly being marketed to as consumers and saying you know like ten thousand plus messages a day. How is all that influencing you know, us as individuals our mental health and our ability to be able to like disconnect our minds and focus on absolutely nothing to actually recharge. Because one of the things, that for me, I didn’t know until I went through everything that I did medically was that your brain actually doesn’t heal unless you sleep and rest. And a lot of times you can work you know you could be you know working a ton and if you aren’t getting enough sleep or no matter what you’re doing right your brain doesn’t have time to truly recoup. So as we’re constantly on our phones are constantly our computers or TV’s etc. All of that is maxing out our brain capacity even when I’m just like bingeing Netflix and doing nothing else. How do you think about the impact technology, marketing, social media has all had on individuals and how that driving… potentially some of the mental health issues we are seeing today?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean I think for the technology piece we kind of touched on right, in a sense. I think it can definitely, I mean there is no better device to give you an illicit, you know, those little pops of serotonin and dopamine then a mobile phone buzzing you know we feel needed. We feel wanted. We feel love. We feel like cared about people with texting me etc. or if it’s work related right. Like if I respond to this person I will sweat that off my to do list. Nice and quickly I’m crushing my job. So again with the technology it’s kind of like I said before I think ultimately you just really need to be intentional about how you control your devices vs. allowing your devices to control you. So I think that’s the technology part. 

I mean to the social network side of the house. Like again. You know I kind of sit on the fence here and like I don’t think it’s their fault. I think that ultimately humans like want to avoid dealing with hard issues and social media TV etc.. Anything really like drugs, alcohol, food, if it takes you away from you know being present and working through what you’ve got to work through. It’s not good for you. Exercise even can be that, right? Like you know everyone thinks that exercise is a good thing. But actually if you are using exercise to stop yourself from accessing emotions or like that’s the way you get out you know like anxious energy it’s always going to kind of function as a band aid whereas like if you actually learn to accept the anxiety sit with the anxiety you would get less anxiety. You would learn to work through it. And that’s not to say that the running piece shouldn’t be additive to that but you know where we love a good quick fix. And so I think social media is no different really because when it’s you know people will scroll endlessly and you know naturally they are incentivized to give you more of what you want and if you keep scrolling you know you’re telling them you want more. And so I don’t know, I struggle with kind of that in terms of you know their role to play in that. 

And then on the marketing side I mean again you know as a marketer I don’t and I’ve been predominantly B2B marketing right.  So you know in your marketing business products to people that work in businesses you know you’re the value prop that they get out of the thing is quite different. Right. It’s way less connected to their core identity as a human whereas business to consumer products on the other hand. Right. Like the way they market is to to kind of like your anxieties oftentimes are your dreams right. And so I think that’s where I struggle because I like let me give you an example. So like I follow Kim Kardashion because I am just like fascinated by that family and what they have created. They are just wow. What I mean don’t necessarily agree and like all of it but wow. Like impressive as anything ever. And you know she launched her Kim… it was called Kimono. I think at one point and then the whole cultural appropriation folks called her out and then she changed that into Skims and I feel so torn because you know I watch these she post videos and you know I’ll give her credit and then she uses totally different models of different body sizes different skin colors of different hair colors of all all the people are in these ads. And they are all beautiful in different ways that I love but I struggle because like at the core of it though I think like it’s telling you that your body isn’t right.  The way it is. And you should change that and that s**** me to tears. And I am not even a woman that this is targeting and it offends me because I feel so s*** that like women are being felt s*** about these things and you know. You know she launched I think like a month before that like her body makeup line. Like who the f***. Like seriously are we telling kids you should be putting makeup on their bodies now. That is insane. And did she use like all different kinds of models excetra? Yes, but I think that just kind of plays to insecurities and I just really feel like yeah… and maybe this is like too high horse of me but I feel like there needs to be like better ethics around marketing and advertising especially in the consumer space. Like when I was in London recently, I saw an ad which literally said like “should you like do you wish your boobs will one size bigger?” like. And it was a plastic surgery ad. And I’ve never seen that in Australia or America. And I’m guessing that that’s probably because there are some rules around like how the health sector can advertise potentially or maybe maybe not. I don’t know. But I’d never seen that before and it just shocked me because you know I didn’t. I didn’t love that. And so yeah I think there is a bit of a responsibility to play there. But it’s tough. 

Stephanie Cox: No, I’m similar. So thinking back to your career what is some advice that you wish new marketers, or you would give to a new marketer just getting ready to start out in their career?

Ryan Bonnici: Okay, let me try to give you like three concise things. So the first, the first thing that I would say is around interviewing. And I think it’s so important like one thing that I am really… I pride myself I think, this is like a skill I am very good at is like when I’m interviewing a company to work for them. I find most of the time I am interviewing the company vs. the companies interviewing me to join them. And so I really want and what I mean by that is like I really want to understand like what makes my boss tik, what makes the CEO tick, what makes the company tick, what are like long term visions what are our challenges. Who is the leadership team.  Where is our product that I really want to understand it really in a really lot of detail to the point where I often times before when I’m interviewing I’ll ask a company to give me access to the G.A. they Google Analytics data so that I like any data basically that they’re willing to give me so that I can do a bit of an audit and see like where their opportunities and so I think that’s like an important lesson for young marketers in the sense of like… Really get to know the business that you’re in and not just what you’re doing. If you’re any email marketer, don’t just get to know email, get to know email, do email well but now get to know social media and blogging channels and because once you learn about these other channels and you have broader context of the broader business challenge then you can start to drive impact in ways that no one is asking you. And that’s how you ultimately get promoted really quickly it’s like you do your job you do job well you hit your goals and then you start to kind of explore the business and get to know what other challenges are people facing. And then you can if you’ve got enough experience start to inject ideas to them where you can help them out. So that’ll be my first one. So that was a big one a long one.  

The second one would be around… my second will be…. my second one I think would be around like the importance of learning how to manage up. So you know I’ve always felt like for the majority of my career my gosh if my bosses any of them listen to this I’ll be like “Oh he’s such a douchebag” but I feel like I manage them as much as they manage me. Like I manage up and what I mean by that is I am you know I’m super solution focused so I’ll like tell them what I want to do and I’ll put a plan together and I’ll show them how we’ll get there.  And I’m very proactive in telling them when I need more budget or more headcount or or whatnot. So I really try and keep my boss in the loop. I really try and communicate properly and I’m super open with them. This is the other kind of key of managing up is like I don’t think I think I tell I have told all of my bosses s*** that none of their other direct reports would have the guts to say so I will. And then I and I and I say this with a bit of trepidation in that you know I’m sure. And I know for a fact I have many times gone over the line where my input is not needed but I’m really passionate I care about what I do at work…I care about my boss. I care about my career and I want our team to do the best it can. And if there are people that aren’t pulling their weight in other areas like I will call that out because if I can do a better job give me that responsibility like put their team under me and let me and let me show you me do it. And so I would just say managing up is something that people don’t do enough of. And there are so many little ways you can do if you don’t want to do it just exactly how I said in the sense of talking back to your boss or I like telling them you need more money like you could also just a simple way is you know getting into a really good habit of at the start and end of the week. At the start, tell your manager like what you’re working on that week in three bullets like what you’re going to accomplish and at the end of the week reply back to your email and say did you get them done didn’t you get them done. Because you know yes like your manager might ignore that but most likely they won’t if you keep it short and sweet and they’ll love that you are keeping them more in the loop than all of their other directs and then they’ll come to you when they need help because they will believe and know that you’re a reliable person and you’ll get promoted faster and that you know it helps you it helps the company it helps your boss helps everyone and so. 

So yeah my first one was what I mentioned and then the second one was managing up and then I think maybe like the third one is really like this is corny as hell but like dream really kind of big I think. You know nothing makes me more happier than you know when I hire a new person on my team or when I’m interviewing someone for a junior role on my team and they tell me you know in five years in ten years they want my job like that where they want to be a CMO.  Like I love that. That is so awesome. And I think it’s… not enough people do that you know tell their boss what they want to do next where they want to go. And that might be in the company or that might be outside. But if you’re really good at your job and you’re delivering for the company your boss is invested in helping you grow how you deserve and that might be at the company or elsewhere. And so that’s like a big one for me I think like I did it it worked for me and the folks on my team that tell me what they want and their big dreams is great because then I can actually say to them OK. Wow that is a really ambitious goal but hey like if you were going to get there this is what you would have to do. And I might, and I lay it out for them maybe and I’d say like I don’t know if this is going to be possible but give it a whirl like go for it and what that might be like what I might say then let’s say an example was. I don’t know say someone we know we hired an email marketing manager or something you know like hey I want to be the head of demand gen in two years. You know I’d be like Okay well well if you want to get there like let’s work back from this okay. Our revenue goal is you know one hundred million dollars for the year. And right now e-mail is driving ten of those million dollars. Like if you went I was going to promote you to run all of the manager like you would need to like four x these e-mail numbers if they’re already really good or 10x them or something you know and if you can get their wish on me you know a really meaningful way to get there we’ll get close to that. Like then I’ll give you the intermittent step of you know a director of this and then I’ll give you some new goals and we’ll work from there. But you know it’s not easy to move up that quickly right. And I think if you if you are open and honest with folks about that and help them understand that they don’t get promoted just for doing their job they get promoted for exceeding their job because they are paid to do their job. That is literally why you are paid. You know I think sometimes like mid Gen Y especially are bloody millennials and I’m one of them but we are the frickin worst. Like so much like expectation and so much entitlement without a lot of like grit and actual hustle. And so yeah I think I try to like… that would be my third piece of sort of advice for young marketers wanting to grow in their career.

Stephanie Cox: There are so many great insights to my conversation with Ryan that can really transform how you think about your own life as well as your career. Let’s dive into my top three takeaways. First the stigma around mental health needs to continue to change. An individual like Ryan, who are so open with their own mental health is exactly what will help the stigma change. What I loved hearing about Ryan’s story was how many other people felt like they could now share their story with him or go to a therapist for the first time because he helped them see that others go through it to. Talk about having a major impact, but he’s making the lives of others by just being honest with what he’s going through. I also loved hearing his honest truth about how therapy isn’t going to immediately solve your problems. You don’t go once and you’re done it takes time to uncover what experience is in your life have caused you to have certain behaviors.

Next, how often are all of us using technology as a way to get out of dealing with what’s really going on in our lives. Think about how many times you’ve aimlessly scroll on LinkedIn or Instagram to prevent tackling a challenging project our conversation or how many times you binge on Netflix rather than doing something else. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Instagram, LinkedIn, and next and Netflix as much as the next person but we can often treat them as crutches in our lives. And we need to be honest with ourselves about why we’re really using technology and watch how much time we spend on it. 

Finally Ryan’s three pieces of advice to marketers are so spot-on. I can’t tell you how many people don’t look at a job interview at the time when you’re interviewing the company just as much if not more than they’re interviewing you. Plus, I loved how he’s asking for access to Google analytics account so he can see what’s really going on with their business.

And he’s also completely right about being able to manage up. The most successful leaders I know have mastered this skill because they’re not just focused on succeeding at work, but making sure their boss is succeeding as well. Which is typically why they tend to get promoted so quickly. But my favorite piece of advice he gave was around dreaming big and figuring out a plan to make your dreams become reality. I know so many people that want to grow in their careers, but they’re not focused on a plan to make that happen and as Ryan said you don’t get promoted for doing your job, you get promoted for exceeding expectations in your job.

I’m Stephanie Cox and you’ve been listening to mobile matters. If you haven’t yet. Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast until then be sure to visit lumavate.com and subscribe to get more access to thought leaders best practices and all things mobile.