Since college, Senior Manager of Growth Marketing Meshach Cisero has advocated for the Black community by building awareness of and inclusivity for underrepresented people. Below, Meshach discusses how he’s brought that advocacy to the tech industry at Confluent as one of the leaders of the Blackfluent employee resource group (ERG), as well as the learning and career opportunities he’s found in growth marketing.
What brought you to Confluent? What opportunities did you see for yourself and your career?
I’ve always worked in marketing, and across a number of different functions. My career began in consulting, and I then worked for a couple of agencies. After spending some time as a vendor for marketing services, I wanted to go in-house, so I began working at Marriott. This is where I started to get an understanding of the technical side of marketing and the impact data has on the way we market to customers and consumers.
I developed my skill set in SQL (database programming), and I would digest all sorts of data. I wanted to take that raw data and create a story. I’m very analytical and intentional with how I invest my time, both in and out of the workplace, so I thought that was a natural next step in my career.
When the pandemic happened, it devastated the hospitality industry, and I was laid off. Luckily, I got a contract job at a luxury bed-making company based in Sweden to help run their digital analytics and strategy insights for marketing campaigns. I was living in Washington, D.C., but I really wanted to be part of the Silicon Valley tech workforce, which is growing and where cool, dynamic things are emerging. I thought this was the perfect place to begin my search for a company that would allow me to grow my skills and challenge me.
As an outsider looking in on that field, I found it very attractive. I thought to myself, “I know I have great ideas. I know I could really add value and impact to an organization, but I know, too, that there aren’t a lot of people of color in tech.” I wanted to be a part of that change as well, knowing I could be a person of color that can bring in more people who look like me. They would do the same, and then we would have a more equitable makeup of what Silicon Valley should look like.
Since joining Confluent, what has your experience been like?
Confluent has definitely been the best place I’ve ever worked. The people are really, really intelligent, but also very personable. At other companies, it was one or the other, but never both.
I also feel like I’m more than just my work product. I’m a human being, and people treat me like that, which is very refreshing. I was a little worried I was on an island by myself because I was joining remotely, and I’m in a different time zone than most of my team. But they made sure to make me feel like I wasn’t alone and that felt really good. It made it easy for me to get my work done and to go above and beyond. As a result, I got promoted in my first year, which was a very positive sign they recognize and reward hard work. It also keeps me motivated to show up and continue to do great things because I know I’m going to be rewarded.
I’ve also contributed a lot to the Wakanda group, which is a subset of the Blackfluent organization. It’s a safe space for Black employees to come in and just talk and relate to each other, decompress, or strategize. I compare it to the barbershop. Growing up at the barbershop, you talk about anything and everything that might be affecting the community, and the Wakanda group is just like that in the workplace. It’s just a great place where you feel like you’re not judged and people really understand your perspective, identity, and where you come from. I’ve never seen that in any other organization I’ve worked at in the past 10 years. It’s something that’s extremely special to me.
Tell us what Blackfluent does for its members.
It provides a forum to talk about issues outside of work that might impact how you show up to work. It’s critical to have an affinity group officially supported by the company, and that allows and facilitates those types of discussions. In the mindset of a Black employee, it feels like my employer cares about me as a person, not just, again, what I’m able to produce on a day-to-day basis. That does matter, but that’s not the only thing.
There are also more lighthearted activities, like the Zoom cookout, where people can come and go. We have a playlist, and it’s like a happy hour opportunity for you to network within the company and get to know people who might be in your area. We’re all remote, so it’s great to know if I have employees who live 10 miles down the road from me. We can schedule a working session together or something like that, even if they’re in different parts of the company.
Can you elaborate on what you do as the Blackfluent ERG leader? Why did you want to serve in that role?
I think it started way back in high school. Transitioning into college was a bit challenging for me. I grew up in a predominantly minority neighborhood that also had a predominantly minority high school. I went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and being on a predominantly white campus made me feel very different. It was hard for me to deal with socioeconomic differences, being a first-generation college student, and being a Black male at a predominantly white institution. I felt different, and often alone.
I yearned to be part of a group, so I joined the Black Student Union, the Multicultural Business Student Association, and Alpha Phi Alpha—the first Black fraternity. Through those types of groups, I really found my voice and opportunity to lead, which I expected would end in college because I didn’t really know about affinity groups within the corporate workforce. As I grew into my career, I joined an affinity group related to multiculturalism at every company I worked for. To be the one who really wants to see change in the world, you have to be that change yourself. I can’t expect fair, equitable workspaces if I’m not willing to do the work. I can’t rely on someone else to do it. I need to be a part of that change.
When I came to Confluent, I already knew I would want to join the Blackfluent group. With the work, I was already doing and the feelings I had toward everything happening around the world, I decided to join the leadership board.
What challenges do you face in your growth marketing role?
I think growth has a unique challenge because it’s all-encompassing. We’re not just running campaigns, paid ads, or an email marketing program. We’re doing all those things. We touch so many different pieces of the marketing ecosystem, and we’re always thinking about how we can improve the current state. You have to come to the table with ideas all the time to be able to get your job done.
In my growth marketing role here, I started off working primarily on a signup acquisition part of the funnel. Since then, I’ve moved into improving product activation, which includes conducting pricing interviews, developing net-new programs to ease onboarding for customers, and working with our Product teams to enhance the user experience. I had no idea when I applied a year and a half ago that I’d be interviewing customers and then presenting my findings to the CEO.
The uniqueness of growth marketing is you make it into your role. You have key metrics and KPIs that lead your team, but what we do to get there is by engineering a good strategy in order to meet the goals, which I think is great. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I found a good place here in doing this type of work.
What are you most looking forward to?
I think Confluent has a very promising future. The company has developed a world-class product and a world-class way of connecting data differently. Not to sound cliche, but as someone who has fundamentally done his job around data all his career, I really do think the solutions Confluent provides are a game changer.
Because Confluent is in a position of growth, it allows employees and colleagues like myself to really capitalize on the ability to be challenged intellectually on how to come up with better ideas to push a product even further. As a testament, I’ve been promoted for not only having great ideas but executing them along with awesome team members. I’m looking forward to more of it.