Running a marketing department might not be rocket science but it takes a lot of innovation skills to supercharge an effective marketing strategy for a growth-oriented startup like oVice. That’s why our team decided to aim for the best and hired a former aerospace engineer specializing in spacecraft design to turbocharge our marketing strategy. Our global marketing manager Aroua has an inspiring journey – she graduated from California State Polytechnic University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and was part of innovative projects at SpaceX and JPL NASA.
Now she’s bringing logical thinking, problem-solving, research, and creativity to oVice. For the interview series, she gave a sneak peek into her daily routine, shared her vision for the project and the future of the workplace, and delved deeper into the lessons she learned at oVice, her role models, and goals for the future.
Tell us about yourself and your role at oVice.
My name is Aroua and I’m a marketing manager at oVice. I oversee all marketing activities for oVice’s global branch. I manage the global design and marketing team. We work on content marketing, PPC, community management, and leveraging distribution channels. Our goal is to raise awareness about oVice and share our vision of the future of hybrid work. As one of the pioneers in the virtual office space, we focus on introducing teams to the concept of spaced-focused online communication and its advantages.
What kind of background did you have before joining oVice?
My background is very far from what I do today. I graduated with an aerospace engineering degree from the California Polytechnic University. I specialize in spacecraft design. In my aerospace career, I was part of amazing projects at NASA JPL, and SpaceX – really exciting stuff. But I always had an interest in marketing – that’s why one day I made the decision to flip the switch, and here I am.
I enjoy what I’m doing right now – as much as I enjoyed aerospace engineering, it’s not what I see myself doing long-term. Marketing is something I’m passionate about in the long run.
How did you join oVice? What attracted you to the project?
I was scouted by the members of the global team. We had a collaboration between their company and my non-profit organization.
We co-hosted two fundraising events where I met Jung-san (the CEO of oVice), Young (operational manager at oVice), Maya (CS lead), and Jae (the head of the Korean oVice branch). We connected right away and that’s how I joined.
What attracted me to the project? One of the reasons I switched from engineering to marketing was the ability to work remotely. I was fascinated by the concept of “digital nomads” and the ability to work and travel the world. That freedom is exactly what I wanted and I could not see myself working in a physical office.
oVice not only aligned with my career goals but also represented the change I wanted to see in the workplace – what I hope to arrive at 10 years from now is exactly what we are doing at oVice.
Your Linkedin profile says you aim to bring engineering and critical thinking skills to marketing. How do you apply these qualities to your daily work?
I think that critical thinking and engineering skills go hand in hand with marketing. My background in engineering allows me to be data-driven as a marketer. By combining critical and creative thinking, I can design effective marketing strategies.
I focus on producing quantitative and measurable results. Also, my goal is to decrease the inputs and maximize the outputs of marketing operations by prioritizing continuous analysis and optimization – that is the backbone of engineering.
Experiencing oVice as a product
Since oVice focuses on reinventing the traditional workplace, can you describe your experience with different work styles? How does the way you work at oVice compare to how you worked before?
I believe I dabbled in all work styles. My first two jobs were in a traditional office. I liked the ability to get up from my desk and approach whoever I needed. I didn’t have to send emails or reminders – there were no unnecessary formalities. That being said, the routine around the office killed my creativity.
Not having the freedom to work from anywhere made me feel trapped. In my 20s, I traveled a lot – when I finished college and joined the workforce, it felt like the end of the world. I felt like I wasn’t able to do what made me empowered because of my job.
One of my jobs (still pre-pandemic) was remote – we were using Google Meet and Slack. I was part of an international team – there were people from different continents. I loved working there because, compared to the traditional workplace, I felt free and like I belonged there.
After about six months, I realized I didn’t feel connected with my team – I felt like a freelancer working by myself which didn’t resonate with me. As much as I want the freedom of remote work, I want to have people I can connect with and talk to every day.
That’s where oVice came in. I see it as a workplace that takes the best out of both worlds. You have all the benefits of remote work and the connectivity you get in the physical workplace. That’s why it’s my favorite work style so far.
Now that the pandemic is over, in your opinion, what keeps oVice relevant to team leaders?
I think oVice represents the future of work. As a team leader myself, I feel like oVice combines many things at once – efficiency, flexibility, and employee satisfaction. Both in a remote setting and in a physical office, a lot of that is lost.
I think that oVice gives remote and hybrid teams a way to connect easily while also focusing on increasing productivity.
Will working from home fade into the background after the pandemic? I think we are at the point where no one can deny the benefits of remote work – employees are satisfied with it, there is the opportunity to work without distractions, and it’s cheaper than having a physical office. Also, it gives teams the ability to hire people from all over the world.
The freedom of working remotely (or in a hybrid environment) is something we can’t take away from the post-pandemic world. We can’t go back to what the workplace used to be. I feel like, given the choice between remote and physical office, every employee out there would choose remote work.
Even now when the pandemic is over and people are back to interacting in the physical world, there will be many ways for leaders to use oVice. The platform is really flexible because it can be whatever you want it to be. Companies with strict corporate cultures use it, and so do teams with more experimental approaches.
As a marketer, how do you find oVice helpful in managing marketing projects? What tips would you give to fellow marketers who are considering the platform?
Before, I talked about the way oVice connects team members. Unlike in my previous jobs, having a virtual space allowed me to get closer to team members. I think the same principle should be applied to brand-customer relationships. Closing the gap between the company and the prospect is essential – that is the ultimate goal. These days, marketing trends are about connecting with the customer on a human level (both in B2B and B2C).
I think oVice allows you to bring customers to your virtual space and instantly connect with them. Being able to have the customer go through our marketing funnel and, at one point, connect with them directly, is extremely beneficial. This allows people to not only experience oVice but to build a 1-on-1 relationship with the team.
I believe the toolset oVice offers marketers is revolutionary. I’ve seen people use oVice to create unique shopping experiences for customers – we had a client open a mall in oVice, where customers across the globe could do shopping.
Our clients also use oVice to create brand communities where thousands of people can gather. Being able to create this environment in seconds is a goldmine of opportunities for a marketer.
Tips for marketers on using oVice? Keep an open mind to what you can do with the platform. Since oVice is fully customizable, you can bring whatever you would do in a physical space (and more) to a virtual space. It allows you to connect to people across the world. Don’t limit yourself. Just go for it.
What are the most impactful oVice use case studies?
A specific case blows my mind so I bring it up to our clients all the time. One company was able to replicate their physical offices across the world into an oVice building with over 80 (!) floors. Any time I describe this and I hear people’s reactions to what I’m saying, I understand this is not something to take for granted.
Also, our data shows that, in Japan only, over 60,000 employees log in daily to work from oVice workspaces from 9 to 5. That number still feels surreal and hard to grasp but it proves how impactful the platform has become.
Our clients are very creative. I’ve seen people use oVice as a virtual bar, a concert venue. I’ve seen people get married in oVice, some are breaking Guinness World Records in oVice as well. The freedom that oVice gives you is unlimited – there’s no way to create a full list of use cases.
Comparing the process of working with and without a virtual office, what differences do you feel?
I’ve been asked this question before, and I like to keep it simple. To me, working in a virtual office feels like working in a team. Working remotely without a virtual office feels like working by yourself. Working in a physical office feels like you are trapped somewhere. oVice is an in-between between working by yourself and being trapped in a building.
One of the key complaints about virtual office tools is that they distract people from work. How does oVice strike a balance between playfulness and productivity-driven design?
I think oVice is really adaptable: you can create an office that will be playful and full of fun activities. If your culture is strict and limits playfulness, the office space can reflect that as well.
At the end of the day, virtual offices are what you make them be.
A healthy and balanced workplace is not defined by a tool but by the team itself. That definition varies case by case – it depends on the type of team, leader, activities, and so on.
What is the most underrated feature of the platform you would like more people to know about?
I think adding interactive elements within the space was a game-changer. This was a game-changer for me when I joined oVice.
When I was first introduced to the feature, my reaction was: “I can be talking to someone from a company I want to partner with while sitting at my virtual desk and I can tell them to click the LinkedIn icon on top of the desk to automatically send me an invitation.
Then we could walk to a reception, and they can have a pop-up to send me an email right away – all in one space, while I’m speaking to them and sharing multiple screens”. It’s still crazy to me – and saying this now makes me feel like I’ve been taking that for granted lately.
I think that interactive elements give the space another layer – literally and figuratively.
Marketing at oVice
What does your typical workday look like?
It is very hectic and changes depending on my priorities. In the mornings, I connect with the Japanese team members and whoever is still awake on the North American side. Then I try to get as much off of my to-do list as I can – usually you’d find me in a focus room around this time so I don’t get interrupted.
Then I have lunch and I try to study Japanese for a little bit. In the afternoon, I connect with partners or agencies we are working with – this is when I’m either at my desk or in a private room depending on the information we are discussing.
Later in the day, which happens to be the start of the day for my team members, I hold marketing and design scrums – we go over to-do lists, what’s been done, and the blockers teams have. I take notes of what my teammates share so that I have a head start the next day.
What challenges have you discovered in bringing oVice to market? Which strategies did you use to solve them?
My biggest struggle is explaining oVice to someone who hasn’t experienced what virtual spaces are. I think the backlash that came with Zuckerberg’s metaverse shaped the public opinion around virtual spaces negatively. That’s especially true in the North American market.
At the moment, we are distancing ourselves from the metaverse concept and re-introducing ourselves as an all-in-one remote and hybrid solution to eliminate all negative connotations that come with the metaverse keyword.
You are actively implementing automation. How did you get into marketing automation? What are the tools and practices you use for optimizing workflows?
Since I come from an engineering background, minimizing inputs while maximizing the output is my number-one goal. I achieve this through automation because, at the end of the day, there’s only as much I or my team can do.
I automate funnels that follow PPC ads – for example, leading clients from social media to HubSpot and automatically sending them email sequences. The automation is connected to the oVice API so that, when someone is interested in oVice and they submitted a trial form, we have a workspace ready for testing.
Most of the time I use Zapier to create automations because it connects with all major tools out there, requires no coding knowledge, and is accessible to everyone on the team.
Building a marketing team is part of your responsibilities. Tell us about your approach to hiring. Who is an ideal candidate for marketing positions at oVice?
I like to see people who take initiative – when I am doing interviews that’s usually what I’m looking for. I like people who are passionate and enthusiastic. oVice is an innovative and unique project so it requires a lot of thinking and a lot of trial and error.
I’d love to work with a marketing team member who is patient and creative at the same time. I also like candidates who are not afraid to communicate their ideas, because back-and-forths and brainstorming sessions are crucial to me.
What is your vision for the future of marketing at oVice?
I’d love to see marketing and sales teams use oVice more. I want to introduce it as a tool that connects not only teams but customers and brands. I think there’s a lot of value and potential there. We are all looking for unique and personalized experiences before making a purchasing decision – in my opinion, oVice is key to creating an environment for consumers.
Personally, I believe it’s time we kill chatbots. Instead, I wish clients would create customer support spaces like our oVice tour space where customers can talk to real people. For us, the ability to connect with customers human-to-human drives a 98.7% customer retention rate.
You’ve recently relocated to Japan to continue your work on the project. Tell us more about preparing for and going through with the relocation.
Honesty, I prepare for a three-day vacation more than I prepared for this. I did not prepare much but I do have a fun anecdote.
Before my move, my family was going through some old boxes in the attic and they found my diary from when I was 15. In that diary, the first page was about the goals I wanted to achieve before turning thirty – one of them was relocating to Japan. I completely forgot about it but, in a way, I like to see it as the Universe helping me achieve that goal whether or not I still remembered it.
Now that Japan is still closed, did you face any obstacles?
Not necessarily. You have your typical paperwork but, other than that, it was a smooth transition. I already have three shots of the vaccine – in Japan, if you have three shots, you don’t have to quarantine. It was smooth other than the fact that I don’t speak Japanese.
I feel like it’s part of my duty to speak Japanese because I’m the one coming to the country. Now I’m over there using whatever words I remember from the time I was still learning Japanese. Somehow I make it work.
What are your strategies for keeping a work-life balance?
I struggle with keeping a work-life balance but one thing I did to help me detach myself is having a separate work phone and work computer that I turn off on weekends or after working hours. I try to not go to the virtual space, I snooze notifications, and I try not to look at my phone until I finished my skincare routine, had my breakfast, and my morning walk.
Otherwise, I’ve seen myself get burned out and it’s not worth it.
Has working at oVice changed you on a personal level? What valuable lessons have you learned after a year on the project?
What I value the most at oVice are the people I met. Our team is spread across the world and different cultures blend together in all departments. Our team-building activities are extremely interesting because of that and I love hearing about people’s journeys.
As soon as there is a new member on the team, I jump right in and try to get to know them and find out what they have been doing so far. I always learn something in these meetings.
I think I developed as a marketer as well because there were quite a few challenges but, for the most part, I grew a lot as a person over this year because I got to know so many amazing people.
Valuable lessons? Delegating. Before joining oVice I struggled with delegating. I would take on more than I’m capable of doing. I’ve learned to give some of that up at oVice because, at one point, I was on the verge of burnout. Now delegating changed the way I work. I have led teams before but I used to see what is bothering my teammates and do it myself.
Now, if there’s a task I know how to do but it’s a good learning opportunity for someone on the team and it falls within their scope, I give others enough time to work on the task and learn from it.
What motivates you? Are there people you admire and consider role models? Tell us more about them.
It’s going to be the typical answer you give in an interview but challenges are actually my main motivation source. I am very competitive so, if you give me a goal that doesn’t seem achievable, I will make it my life goal to achieve that. I like to exceed expectations so this is my biggest motivation.
People I admire? I don’t technically have role models but I like people who started from zero and made it to wherever they are. I like seeing the struggle, the journey of going from zero to one hundred. People who have made that journey successfully are the people I admire. For example, I listen to BTS because I’ve seen them grow from nothing into a pop culture phenomenon. Also, I like listening to Rowena Tsai.
What are the skills you would like to learn in the future (not necessarily work-related)?
As for not work-related, I have two things on the top of my head. One – Japanese because I used to be able to communicate almost fully in Japanese. This was years ago and I want that back. Another thing I was able to do and lost because of engineering school is I used to play the bass so I want to do that again.
Work-related? As a marketer, I struggle the most with writing. I want to develop my writing skills because the fact that I didn’t have a marketing degree doesn’t give me the ability to express myself the way I want to. That is something I should work on for sure.
Though Aroua joined oVice a little over a year ago, she quickly became the centerpiece of the global team, a marketing visionary, and an inspiring leader.
To see the updates Aroua shares with her network, follow her on LinkedIn. To get to know other members of the oVice global team, take a look at other posts of the series.