Nani Jansen

May 23, 2016 Mark Emmons

“Data is nothing unless you tell a story with it.”

Nani Jansen

Age: 26

Position: Senior Manager of Marketing Operations at Demandbase, which recently was named as one of the Top 10 best small and medium companies to work in the United States by Glassdoor.

Home: San Francisco, Calif.

Education: Graduated Summa Cum Laude at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies.

Career: Communications and Social Media Specialist at digital textbook company CourseSmart before joining Demandbase

Favorite movie: Jansen said she can’t be limited to a single film. “I’m all about the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, that kind of stuff. I guess I’m old-school.”

Favorite books: She’s a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, especially “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.” “He writes about the information that gets overlooked and yet is really useful in everyday life.”

Interests: Cooking, the culture of food, running. Her personal best marathon time is 3 hours, 48 minutes. “The great thing from my perspective is that you just never know what’s going to happen to your body at that distance. I kind of like the idea of not knowing and having something completely out of my control.”

Fun Fact: Nani is short for Nanneke. The name is Dutch. Her father is from The Netherlands and came to the U.S. to earn his doctorate in applied chemistry.

SAN FRANCISCO – Nani Jansen’s life had never been confined by four walls.

Growing up, she was encouraged to just go outside and play. Summers were spent on long camping adventures. Her chosen sports of running and rowing could take Jansen into the heart of nature. At the University of Pennsylvania, she majored in environmental studies. She even came close to joining the Peace Corps.

Sense a pattern?

“My big fear always was being inside,” Jansen recalled. “I wanted to stay away from desks and offices. For some reason, that actually was scary to me.”

Then she laughed at the irony of saying that while sitting in a downtown San Francisco conference room. Today, Jansen is the senior manager of marketing operations at Demandbase, a leader in the fast-growing Account-Based Marketing industry space.

It turned out that Jansen was just as adept navigating cubicle jungles as wide-open spaces.

“I’ve been amazed at how much I love being involved in marketing operations,” she said. “I’ve learned that data is nothing unless you tell a story with it. You can’t just take raw numbers and expect to ‘wow’ somebody or change their behavior. But I’d like to think that data allows us to make better decisions in the business. That’s what motivates me and why I love coming to work every day.”

In many ways, Jansen epitomizes the new frontier of modern marketing – the bringing together of both a human touch as well as an understanding of data science.

“She’s incredibly smart and is someone who is going to bring a strategic eye as well as being very tactical,” said Allen Tsai, senior director of sales operations at Demandbase. “She really thinks hard about challenges. Nani is only 26, but she sure doesn’t come across that way.”

But it still surprises Linda Jansen to see her middle child now so completely immersed in the business world. She admits to not seeing that career path coming.

“I think we’ve all been a little surprised that she ended up in an office,” said Linda Jansen, the vice president of workplace services at Lending Club. “But I think the important thing for her has always been if she’s doing interesting work that challenges her. She loves the problem-solving element and the ability to see things in new and different ways.”

Raised in the Bay Area, Jansen doesn’t remember watching much television as a child. She didn’t have time. Her interests were wide-ranging. She played the flute and was knee-deep in extracurricular activities at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto. Competing in crew, track and cross country also instilled an athletic discipline that still drives her. (Jansen recently completed her fourth marathon.)

Her father, Wally, is originally from The Netherlands and ran his own satellite imaging company from their San Mateo home. That gave him the freedom to take Nani, older brother Alexander and younger sister Christina on extended camping trips throughout Europe to countries like Switzerland and France.

“Nani spent most summers in a tent,” Linda Jansen said.

She chose Penn because she wanted an Ivy League education . . . but without the pressure that can come with attending the more high-profile Ivy schools. Initially, she majored in classical studies.

“I thought learning about Greece and Rome was amazing,” she said. “But I remember having a conversation with my dad who said: ‘That’s a good hobby.’”

Jansen saw the wisdom of what her father was saying and switched to environmental studies. In fact, she describes her life as a pendulum that has swung back and forth between the arts and hard science. After college, she was accepted into the Peace Corps and was scheduled to be placed in the West African nation of Mali before having a change of heart.

“I ultimately decided that it wouldn’t be the right decision for me,” Jansen said. “But then Mali erupted into civil war two months after I would have gone. So they would have had to pull me out anyway.”

Instead, she returned to the Bay Area and took an even bigger detour by heading toward an indoor career.

Jansen went to work at the digital textbook company CourseSmart, running the marketing programs as well as handling communications and social media roles. When her colleague Tsai joined Demandbase, he recruited Jansen to join him in a sales operations role. From there, she moved into marketing and dove head-first into the expanding world of MarTech.

“Sales ops has been around for quite awhile – at least since sales folks started using systems like CRMs,” Tsai said. “But marketing traditionally didn’t buy a lot of software. Now they buy a ton, so the role of marketing operations is newer in the industry. In Nani’s case, it was pretty obvious to everyone here how she would be perfect for that role.”

She thrived in a position where the goal is helping to keep the sales funnel healthy. And because Demandbase, in Jansen’s words, “sips its own champagne” with Account-Based Marketing strategies, there is an expectation that their marketing team will have a direct impact on revenue.

That role fit Jansen’s make-a-difference personality. Also in the marketing ops position, she found the perfect combination of her left brain-right brain abilities.

“Throughout my whole life, I’ve gone back and forth between the arts and needing answers from numbers,” Jansen explained. “It’s like switching between Skittles and M&Ms. Do I want sugar or chocolate? In my heart of hearts, I’ve always felt safe with numbers. I like that certainty. At the same time, I also like the creativity that lends itself well to marketing. Being able to blend the two has been a great experience.”

And along the way she has discovered that working in an office doesn’t have to be confining.

About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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