At Neighborhoods.com, we believe in helping team members learn, grow, and reach their full potential. No one exemplifies that mission better than Mike Hernalsteen, a digital marketing professional who joined our team in 2015 and has since worked his way up to the role of Vice President of Marketing. Want to know what life is like for a VP at one of Chicago’s award-winning tech companies? Read on for advice on staying motivated in the workplace, maintaining passion, and more:
What is your role at Neighborhoods.com and what do you enjoy most about your work?
I am the Vice President of Marketing, overseeing our communications, advertising, editorial, and neighborhood management teams. When I took on the role of VP, we merged our content and marketing teams to strategically align our work. I’m admittedly a big data nerd, so being able to crunch our numbers and optimize our advertising campaigns is exciting, but what I enjoy most about my role is working side-by-side with all the members of our newly merged marketing department, and finding ways we can take our combined efforts to the next level.
How did you arrive at your current position?
I've been in digital marketing for over a decade and joined Neighborhoods.com in 2015. Before Neighborhoods.com, I was managing digital programs in the agency world for clients across many different industries. While I always enjoyed helping clients reach their goals, I also wanted to dedicate my work to a single brand and have a direct impact on its growth. I'm performance and data-driven, and in 2016 I earned a Master's in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern to help build my strength in this area.
What fascinates you about the work you do?
Every day is a different challenge. I feel like I get to apply what I've learned from past experiences and by staying up-to-date on industry trends to ensure we're always striving to be in the best position to succeed. Everyone is aware that the marketing landscape is constantly changing, so being able to adapt and apply new theories to our work is fascinating and exhilarating!
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
For me, the most challenging thing is also the most fun. Neighborhoods.com is the new kid on the block in real estate tech, so coming up with ways for us to stand out from the competition is a constant challenge. I have conversations with homeowners who say they wish a resource like Neighborhoods.com existed when they bought their home so they could have learned more about their neighborhood before making their purchase. It's important for us to continue to enhance our product and get the word out there through our various marketing programs so future homeowners have all the resources they need to make the best decision on which neighborhood to purchase their next home.
How do you stay motivated at work?
Aside from waking up to Gonna Fly Now, the Rocky theme song, every morning, I strive to make each day a better day than the day before. What worked yesterday that we can make even better today? What didn't work that we can learn from and adjust so we can keep moving forward? We have a core principle at Neighborhoods.com called "kaizen", which is a Japanese word for continuous improvement. Living by this principle every day keeps me motivated.
Favorite project you've worked on so far?
My favorite project so far was when we completely restructured our paid search program for 55places.com at the end of 2016. Doing so significantly improved our performance and we have applied the same theories to continue to build and grow Neighborhoods.com.
How would you best describe the culture at Neighborhoods.com?
Neighborhoods.com is one of those places you don't dread waking up and going to in the morning. We're all working towards building it into something great, so everyone's efforts are crucial to the company’s success and knowing that our work matters creates a positive work environment. We have company outings that bring everyone together, including events like watching a Cubs game from a Wrigleyville rooftop or participating in Habitat For Humanity. Some folks in our company like to organize other events as well, such as going to wrestling events at a local bar, hosting movie nights at the office or the theater, impromptu happy hours, etc. Knowing each other on a personal level enables our team to collaborate more effectively.
Favorite area/perk of the office?
Our state-of-the-art massage chair is easily my favorite perk, second only to having a rotating selection of four craft beers on tap inside our office. I've found the occasional 20-30 minutes of relaxation during the day has great rejuvenation effects.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy trying new restaurants and spending time with my wife and our cat, Totoro. My wife and I love to travel, so we're often exploring somewhere we haven't been. I'm also a huge hockey fan and despite living in Chicago, I’m a huge Red Wings fan. Most of my nights during the NHL season I'm watching a game, no matter who is playing.
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