Perspective is everything. For an international company established since the 20th century, celebrating someone’s 5-year anniversary at the company might not be a big deal. But for a relatively new Egyptian startup that was founded in 2013, it’s a great achievement and a chance to reflect. Yasmin Helmy, our Growth Marketing Lead, was the first to celebrate 5-years at Instabug during a very different looking year in 2020. And since we couldn’t celebrate and have cake at the office, I took the opportunity to (virtually) sit down with her and discuss her journey at Instabug so far.
Hi Yasmin, let’s start off straight away with how exactly did you come across Instabug and choose to work here back in 2015?
I actually joined Instabug by coincidence. A friend of mine was in the MIT Arab Startup competition that Instabug was in and won. There, he met Omar (our Co-founder and CEO) and found out that they were looking for a marketer to join the then all-engineering team. And knowing that I was interested in startups and technology, at the time, he connected us.
I was still a junior in college, so I joined as a part-time ‘Marketing Wizard’ (yes, you read that correctly) and once I graduated, I continued as a full-timer. I still can’t believe it’s been 5 years already!
Tell us more about how you joined while still being an undergraduate?
During my third year, I was studying business administration and attempting at a second major in integrated marketing communications and a minor in political science and economics.
I was actually selected for a semester exchange program in France at the time I got an offer to join Instabug. I felt really torn between traveling and working at Instabug. I still don’t know how Omar decided to take a chance on me and agreed that I would start working in the summer and then resume remotely while doing the semester abroad. It was bold of him to do so and that made me extra motivated to take the chance and prove that if he believes in me then I definitely could.
To be honest, it wasn’t easy moving into a new country, a new university, and working with the team remotely. I struggled at times and didn’t do the best I could, but having a supportive manager and a core value like “Make it happen” helped me push through and persevere. Another huge factor why this worked out is that another great team member joined (now part of the People Ops team) and together, we started working on building the first growth marketing building blocks at Instabug.
Sounds like a great opportunity at the time. But obviously, you joined a very different looking company than the one I did. How do you feel the company has changed over these 5 years?
If I would sum up the difference between 2015 and 2020 in two words, it would be growth and scale.
Product-wise, we have grown from being a bug reporting tool to a comprehensive platform that is currently helping 30,000 of the top mobile teams to ship and maintain quality apps, worldwide.
Team-wise, we scaled from being a team of 10 to 100+ across product, engineering, design, and business. It was just me in June 2015 and now I have a great team of growth marketers and business developers, working on bringing in new customers and further developing our brand equity.
Office-wise, when I started out, I had a designated bean-bag as my desk given how small the office was at the time. Now we have expanded to accommodate the ever-growing and always hiring mode to continue our growth and scaling efforts.
The company wasn’t the only thing that went through a huge change. You went through your own journey from being the only marketeer to leading the Growth Marketing and Outbound Growth Engine teams, how was that for you?
I consider myself very fortunate for the fact that I kick-started my career in a startup environment that has a growth mindset built in its core like Instabug. Many might see that joining a startup is a risk as opposed to having a secure corporate job, but if I could go back in time, I would do the same exact thing and join Instabug.
They always tell you when you’re an undergrad that the best thing to do to start your career is to gain hands-on experiences and work on real problems. And Instabug was that for me. It had all the right ingredients: a product that is solving a real-pain for a specific target, a super talented and smart team, and an environment that fosters hard-work, self-development, and ownership.
Personally, my Instabug experience is like a catapult that helped me gain experience and skills in many different aspects. Getting to see and work on building a company from the ground up and scale it with the same values, customer experience, and growth is priceless.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you joined?
Instabug is a tech startup and its core and I had no technical experience when I started out. That was one of my biggest challenges! I actually wrote a blog post about this a couple of years ago on how I suffered a bit of Imposter Syndrome.
What helped a lot is not shying away from asking a lot of questions. Developers are known for being extremely smart and that was quite intimidating for me to ask questions that might come across as dumb or weird. To the team’s credit, they really helped me out and were very open-minded and tolerant of my non-techie, extremely cringe-worthy questions.
I also started bringing in talented people to the team to cover the exact skills needed to experiment and scale.
As a marketer, talk us through how different the growth challenges you faced starting out, and now that Instabug is an established name in the market?
Every phase came with its own set of challenges. The first phase was about experimentation and reaching a positive ROI in terms of acquiring new paying customers. It included figuring out the user personas, buyer journey, and potential channels and messages. The team grew to include a growth engineer and growth marketers to design, run, and iterate on the experiments.
From 2017, we began to build a scalable and repeatable engine for the experiments that worked. This included a bigger team, budget, thinking on a strategic level, and collaborating with the entire company to double down on our targets.
What was consistent throughout the phases was the growth mentality of always experimenting and learning, while being data-driven and analytical, which is the core of the growth team.
Okay, now I’m going to ask you a couple of quick-fire questions, so tell me whatever you come up with from the top of your head.
What keeps you going?
What keeps me going is the set of beliefs I have about Instabug and how it’s related to my personal values and life goals.
I believe in Instabug’s mission of helping mobile-teams build and maintain quality apps. I believe in the product and how powerful it is. I believe in the idea of building something from the ground-up and then scaling it consistently. I believe in the team’s core values of ownership, hard work, and growth mindset. I like seeing results and progress while knowing that I had a direct impact on the bottom-line goals. Most importantly, the challenge keeps me going.
Favorite Instabug memory?
My favorite instabug memory lies in the entire experience. From the countless brainstorming with the team to launching new products and expanding to other verticals, to the retreats, hack weeks, coffee errands, and simply getting to work with amazing people. It’s the feeling that comes with having built something from the ground up on both professional and personal fronts. I am so lucky to have seen Instabug’s growth from a team of 10 members and 0 users to a team of more than 100 and 30,000 customers and counting.
Best advice you’ve gotten at Instabug?
Don’t be afraid if something fails or doesn’t work out. As long as you learn from these mistakes, then it’s not a failure, it’s a learning opportunity.
What advice would you give someone that is just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions people are here to help and want you to be the best version you can be.
If you weren’t a Growth Marketing Lead what else would you be doing?
If I wasn’t in Growth Marketing at all, I’d live by the sea and travel everywhere; exploring new places, people, music, and food. I think working in growth marketing and traveling the world is the best of both worlds. I’m lucky because working at a startup like Instabug enabled me to travel often (before COVID-19) and I am looking forward to traveling again when the world is back to normal.
What do you do to keep things interesting (extracurricular activities)?
I am into exploring new things and staying active, so one thing that I really like is afro and hip hop dancing (I still have a long way to go) and another new hobby that I recently got myself into is music mixing. I am really inspired by performing arts of all kinds as it sparks creativity and brings people together. It also balances between focusing on work and not taking everything too seriously.
Since we’ve been away from the office for some time, what’s the thing you miss the most from the office itself?
I miss the BugSquad.
There’s this quote on whether a person should care about the journey, the destination, or the company they’re with. And in my case, I’d definitely say all three. So not seeing the team on a regular basis is a bit tough, but I am glad we’re on this journey together. I wish that when things get back to normal, we’ll be able to bring the BugSquad adventures back.