On this week's episode we chat to Dhriti Shashikanth, Account Executive at Mindshare London, about starting out in the SEO industry after graduating from university.
Where to find Dhriti:
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Sarah: Hello and a very warm welcome to the Women in Tech SEO podcast, I am Sarah McDowell, SEO Content Executive at Holland and Barrett, and I am your host for today. Joining me on today's show, I have Dhriti Shashikanth, Account Executive at Mindshare London, who is going to be talking to us about starting in SEO as a beginner and graduate from university. So welcome to the show.
Dhriti: Hi! Thanks for inviting me.
Sarah: Thank you for joining us. How are you doing? I mean, it's Thursday evening, Friday tomorrow. Have you got the Friday vibes going on?
Dhriti: 100%. It's been such a long and busy month so far and it's only the 8th. It's been a long, busy one but looking forward to the weekend.
Sarah: Well, it sounds like you pretty much deserve this weekend that's coming up then. To kick things off and to start this podcast, can you give our wonderful listeners a brief overview of yourself, what you do tell us a bit about you.
Dhriti: Sure. My name is Dhriti and I'm an account executive at Mindshare UK. So, I've been at my current agency for a little bit over four months, just past my probation, which is great and currently living in London. And I'm quite excited that COVID has finished or like sort of finished, but it's lovely to go out and meet people as well. So, I'm enjoying that side of things. Would you like to know anything more?
Sarah: I do have some quickfire questions.
[Quick Fire Questions]
Sarah: Well, I mean, I'm going to be Googling that after the show. I'm imagining our listeners will be as well. What would you say empowers you to be the brilliant woman that you are today?
Dhriti: I think it has to always be my role models. Definitely. I've been around so many strong women in my life. And I would probably say my mother and my grandmother are probably at the highest on that list. And I think my mum is just so hardworking and she's such a strong woman herself that I think it's inspired me to sort of getting to where I am in my career and work as hard as I've been working, so I would say, yes, it's my mother and other inspiring women in my field as well. My previous boss, Becky Simms, and of course, the Directors that I'm working with now in Mindshare as well, 100 per cent.
Sarah: What one bit of advice would you give women starting in the industry?
Dhriti: From my experience anyway, there seems to be a lot of women working in SEO. And I think it's just reaching out and speaking to people and joining the community and not being afraid to voice their opinions and challenge. I think that's the best way you can learn. So, I would say, yeah, not to be afraid of doing those things.
Sarah: It's time to get into the meaty topic of this episode. And at the beginning, I said that we'd be discussing starting in SEO as a beginner and you'll be sort of like sharing your experience of being a graduate to having a career in this wonderful world. So, I just want to start things off. I did do some research before this episode. I hope you're proud of me. So, on Twitter, I asked the community, when deciding to carry on with their education, e.g., college, university, etc were you aware that SEO was a career option? Now the results were pretty clear cut. Only 4.3% said yes and a whopping 95.7% said no. Are you shocked by that?
Dhriti: Not at all. I feel like it's a role that not many people have heard about or a line of work that not many people have heard about. How many people responded to this?
Sarah: 47 people.
Dhriti: Wow. OK.
Sarah: So, it's a decent amount of people, and it does lead me into my first question nicely. How did you find out about SEO after graduating from uni? Was it something that you were aware of before or something that became apparent after?
Dhriti: So, I knew nothing about SEO. I'm sure as many other people. And at my previous university, we had this wonderful scheme called the Employability Point Scheme. And essentially what the scheme was, as you would work towards contributing things within the university or doing extracurricular activities. And by doing those activities, you would earn a certain number of points. And at the end of the year, they would sort of collating all these points and you would be able to apply for different internships or training sessions, that kind of thing. So, I was able to apply for an internship at my previous agency, Reflect Digital through the Employability Point scheme. And previously during my final year, I was doing social media marketing at the university. So, I thought, oh, I mean, I want to try a career in marketing, so let me apply to Reflect Digital. And of course, working in SEO is quite different to doing social media marketing. So, I think it was quite a shock when I joined because I knew absolutely nothing about SEO. But after the end of my internship, I was sort of kept on as a full-time employee, which was great.
Sarah: So obviously hosting a podcast for a few years and getting to talk to different people. Whenever I ask the question about how do you get into SEO or how did you get your first job sort of thing? With many people, it never seems to be like a plan. And it's more so just something that's happened. I know that that was me. I studied Dance and Culture at university. I didn't know SEO was a thing. I heard about marketing, but the actual specific channel of SEO, I didn't know until I was looking for reception roles at companies near me and this opportunity came up. So, do you sort of getting that same kind of vibe that people just sort of like fall into this industry rather than it being like a plan?
Dhriti: I think so. But I think it's quite interesting that you end up working in the line that you do because I feel like everyone has very interesting stories. I mean, in my previous agency, the old head of the department was working on photography. And I think a lot of people that I have spoken to have not even had a degree in marketing, they do all sorts of different work and then somehow, they end up in SEO, which I think is fantastic. It just means that SEO is accessible to people from all sorts of backgrounds, which I think, you know, it's great. You can learn about it, and you can learn while you're on the job, which might not necessarily apply to a lot of other occupations.
Sarah: Definitely. And it's an industry where experience is definitely like if you've got experience in something related to SEO or around this sort of area, then that's great and it's going to help you. But at the same time, it is very accessible. And I get the vibe that when people do sort of fall into it, they just fall in love with the industry. That's the vibe that I get.
Dhriti: Completely. I think some of the Directors that I've worked with have been in SEO for 10 years. Some of my ex-colleagues have been SEO for a long time as well. So, I think it's a happy accident. You end up in the career and then you stay on.
Sarah: So, when you first started in SEO, can you give us, like, a few issues that you encountered and how you overcame them?
Dhriti: So, I would say that starting in SEO, I think everyone will agree that there's so much lingo and so many abbreviations and, you know, and so many words that honestly could be explained far easier than you just have to search it up. And I think it words like metadata. I know it sounds because now we've I've been doing SEO for a few years. And, you know, it seems simple when you say that, you know, metadata or page title, whatever it is. But when you're starting, it's so disorienting to just not know what these things are. And I think there's a lot of things in SEO as well, for example, keyword research where you can read about it and you can search what is keyword research, for example. But we don't know what it is until you've done it yourself. And I think it's that practice of some of the things you read about. You won't truly know about SEO until you've tried it out. And yeah, I think for me, I had so many instances where I got panicked because I didn't know what a certain thing was. And, you know, everyone else around me seemed like they knew what it was like, whether it's canonical or structure data or whatever it is. There's so much in SEO and there are so many small technical aspects of it that I think can be quite difficult to understand very easily. And for me, just reading things off a page, sometimes my eyes slide off the screen. I don't know if you're like that. And when it comes to like long technical content pieces, oh, I can't concentrate. So, yeah, I would say those were my initial issues.
Sarah: Yes, I am definitely with you on the lingo. I mean, I even struggled to say canonical. I'm even struggling now. There are so many ways I just can't even say. And I also think an added issue with that lingo is that because SEO is so broad and especially when you're first starting in it, it can be hard knowing that you're not going to know everything, are you. Bec you're not going to know something until you've had the experience of it. And if you haven't had the experience of it, you're not going to know these words, you're not going to know best practice.
Dhriti: Oh definitely. I think what I've come to learn is people who've had ten years of experience in SEO sometimes come across issues that they don't know the answer to. And I think because sometimes issues can be very website specific or client-specific. And, you know, I'm sure I've asked some of my ex-colleagues questions and they've been like, oh, actually, I don't know what that is. And I think that's something that we all you know, when you're starting, it's great to just not to worry about it and not to worry about asking for help as well. I think I felt very awkward or kind of shy to ask for help because I didn't want to seem like someone who didn't know things. But normally I found any way that people in our field have been so wonderfully helpful and so keen to explain things. I've never come across someone who hasn't made the time for me to tell me what you know, what it is that I'm asking or to show me. Definitely.
Sarah: I felt it as well when I first started in the industry, you think, oh, I've been hired for this role so I can't ask questions because I need to know everything. But once you sort of gets away from feeling that way. I do think asking questions makes you look inquisitive and makes you appear that you want to learn, you want to know, sorta thing, and it's much better being able to talk to someone about a word that comes up, some lingo that comes up, a best practice that comes up it's much better to talk to someone where you've got a back forth conversation rather than just go in and Googling it later. You Google it later. But I do think conversations are better if you can.
Dhriti: Oh, I think so. I mean, I've appreciated that, especially in my current agency, my line manager and I have that back and forth and speaking to my manager and my line manager and coming together and collaborating on ideas has been fantastic. It's been an amazing learning experience for me, I think, because it's not just necessarily being told to do a piece of work and completing it, it's that back and forth and it's challenging someone because sometimes in SEO there isn't always a right answer. In some instances, there is a right answer. In some instances, especially with bigger websites, there's a variety of ways you can tackle a subject. Right. And I think having that back and forth has helped me learn a lot more than I knew before. So, I completely agree.
Sarah: And it's not a one size fits all at all, is it? Like you say, obviously, sometimes there is a right answer, because if, like best practices or how search engines work or how search engines crawl and come onto your website and stuff, but sometimes it isn't a one size fits all and it depends on your industry, your website, the number of pages that you have, the type of pages that you have, your competition, you know what I mean? There are so many variables. And that's why because there's the meme, isn't there, that all SEOs will always answer with 'it depends, but it does depend on many different factors. Now, you transitioned in your career from working for a small digital marketing agency with the majority of SME clients, to working for a big media agency working on enterprise clients. I mean, talk to me about that. How did you find that transition?
Dhriti: I think it's been amazing. I think there's just so many different things to learn. And I didn't know how it would work from the other side, as it were, because I think working with SME clients, you have the opportunity to get stuck on when it comes to implementing things. So, for example, if you would do a backlink order or if you would do an internal link, for example, internal link recommendations, and we've had the experience previously in my other agency where you would get the document signed off by the client and then you would go on the CMS, and you'd implement it yourself. And what I've come to realise is that it doesn't work that way in my current agency with big clients, because they have a multitude of teams handling a multitude of different things internally. And I think it's learning all about that process, which has been completely fascinating. And I've loved every minute of it. Really.
Sarah: Wow. I mean, I can tell by how you talk about it that you do enjoy it. Would you say it's important when someone is starting in this industry you can decide to work in-house, or you can decide to work agency side? You can decide to work for a small company. You can decide to work for a big company. Do you think it's important for people to get experiences in these different areas?
Dhriti: I think so. I think it helps you become well-rounded. So, for example, in my previous agency, I wrote a lot of copy and I think the kind of tasks you get involved in are so varied and so different. And I like that because? I got so much industry exposure and working across, I think I counted probably 40 different client websites or maybe even more by the time I left Reflect digital I'd worked on so many different clients. And I think, you know, although that's the small agencies are a hectic life and you're working very, very hard. But I think that the exposure you want, I don't think you would get anywhere else because just working across different clients helps you understand the different kinds of tasks they may need. You get to try out working on different CMS's or I think there are so many different variations of tasks you can do when you're working across the board like that. And I think when you're working with big clients like we are currently, you do work for obviously just one or two clients, but then you get to know the client well and you get to learn their processes very well. And for example, I'm working on one site migration at the moment, and I just never knew how complicated site migrations are. I mean, when it's when enterprise clients where we're sitting on the call and there are about 30 people on the call and everyone speaking about different things. And I'm just thinking, wow, I never knew it was that big of a process. And of course, it's completely understandable now that I'm working the side of it. Of course, you can't have, like, big e-commerce sites run by one or two people. That's insane. But now there are so many challenges and there are so many small steps that you have to take. It's never the case of handing over a document and having that document implemented right away. There are always these small processes, and I think it's learning that, and it helps you get a well-rounded experience. I don't think it's necessarily a good thing or a bad thing to start in one particular area. I think there's so much you can learn and so many benefits from working in different areas, like different types of companies. So, yeah, I think if you get the chance to try different, you know, of course, work for a big company, work for a small company,
Sarah: And I suppose it depends where you see your career progression as well, doesn't it? Like you might decide that you want to specialise and be a niche in an area of SEO or maybe you want to be more of an allrounder where you know about lots of different elements of SEO, but you want to manage and oversee, so I suppose it depends on where you want to end up.
Dhriti: Sure. Oh, definitely. I think work in my previous agency helps me with that because we got a lot of exposure to sort of content writing and then technical SEO and you'd learn all these little bits. And then now I've come out to realise that I quite like technical SEO and it's just learning those different areas that help you come to that decision. But I think, yeah, it's great.
Sarah: I don't know if this is an easy or hard question to answer, when you first started to know about SEO and you decided, right, this is the career that I'm going to explore and get into after working in it, for however long that you have done, is it is what you expected?
Dhriti: I would say, is not what I expected at all, because when I started, I didn't know a thing. And, you know, I think, yeah, I feel like it's so different to what I thought I would be doing because I did social media marketing. So, I was like Instagram stories, making content. Yeah. And it's not that at all. But it's been a welcome change. And I think, you know, I feel like for me anyway, my career, I want to strive to push myself and learn even more and learn more about strategy and learn more about managing clients and that side of things. But I would say the reason why I stuck out with SEO after a year is I spent so long learning the lingo, I was watching videos, I was listening to your podcast. And, you know, I was following you and following all these people for so long. And I feel like, oh, if I dropped out, you know, that was so