According to Girls Who Code, 74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields but only 26% of computing jobs are held by women. In our Women in Tech series, we dig into what drives some of our most driven employees to lead successful tech careers.
Carolyn Lyden commutes more than an hour each way to work. After driving 45 minutes to the nearest MARTA station, it then takes another half hour to reach CallRail’s downtown Atlanta office in the Equitable Building. Why does she make such a strenuous commute? The answer is simple – she loves what she does.
“I went specifically into SEO three or four years ago,” Carolyn shares. “At one point I was the marketing department for a funeral home management company. A large chunk of my job was developing websites and optimizing them for the kind of terms that people looking for funeral arrangements will search. Before that, I did everything from social media to writing. I feel like I’m the kind of person who can’t do one thing for too long. I like SEO because it’s always changing and there’s always something new. That’s both exciting and a burden at times. When you think you’re caught up, you’re behind. But it’s also fun to think about how technology will affect what your job will be.”
Carolyn joined the CallRail team in March as in-house SEO Manager, and since then has quickly dived into creating an extensive SEO strategy and offering insights for data-driven marketers on breaking industry news, like the recent release of Google’s GMB Messenger.
Throughout her career, Carolyn has curiously pursued knowledge of new subjects. A graduate of Maryville College in Tennessee with degrees in both English Literature and Communications and a minor in Psychology, she went on to earn her MBA from Kennesaw State University while working full-time.
“I was interested in learning how other parts of businesses work. I wanted to learn how everyone can work together cohesively. A lot of times marketing sees sales as an adversary, and finance sees marketing as a burden. I think we can do a lot more together if we spend time learning what everyone’s priorities actually are,” Carolyn’s holistic approach to marketing and SEO impacts her day-to-day workflow. After starting out as a marketing assistant at her first company, she taught herself SEO as she took on an increased number of writing projects.
“I was writing for digital marketing agencies, and I taught myself SEO through trial and error. I had a few people who taught me how Google Analytics worked, and then I went and got my certification. At my last job, I focused specifically on SEO and led a team where I had to learn to develop local strategies.”
As a sharp, ever-willing to learn SEO pro, Carolyn made the transition into the tech world when she joined the CallRail team. “Since we are a tech company, everyone is more acutely aware of the future of technology, whereas, at a lot of other companies, especially agencies, the focus is on what works here and now instead of planning for the future. On the demand generation team here, we’re really forward thinking and like to hypothesize things, and it’s ok if they don’t come true. We’re in touch with what’s happening.”
She’s referring not only to constant Google algorithm changes that demand strategy adjustments, but to the fast-paced environment of a company that is experiencing rapid growth and learning to scale accordingly.
“I’m very personally motivated to achieve good things, write good pieces and be a good human. But I think at CallRail that’s encouraged even more. When my boss suggests that I write a piece for a third party, I’m trying to lean into feeling more confident in my knowledge and not pass that opportunity off to someone I view as more of an expert. I need to accept that I’m an SEO expert. The team here seems to make you feel better at your job than you are. But maybe that doubt is something that women struggle with more.”
Carolyn stands out in both a profession and industry that are traditionally male-dominated: SEO and tech. As a result of experiencing pressure in the past to be the “mom” of her department, Carolyn has strong views on how women should be empowered to work in STEM.
“I think that the push for women in tech should start super young, like in elementary school. I think as more and more kids have access to technology it will start to happen. There are some areas where access to tech still isn’t there – like urban and rural areas – where some people don’t even have broadband internet. They can’t Google resources to learn about SEO, and the nearest library requires a bus pass. But those people have great potential for tech positions in the future. Once we get women and people of color in these positions, more of those people will start to think ‘that could be me.’”
Her drive to help others succeed comes with practical insights. “The great thing about SEO is there are a lot of free resources. Our job is essentially to figure out Google, and then tell other people how to figure it out. All the SEO people I talk to on Twitter will message each other about new things. You can get Google Analytics ID certified for free. You can get an Google Ads (formerly AdWords) certification for free. A lot of people see PPC and SEO as adversarial, but a really good marketing strategy requires both. There are many SEO guides that are free. There’s a forum called Webmaster World. People will talk about specific SERP fluctuations and algorithm changes. Every day I go to Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Roundtable. Twitter chats that are great to join are #semrushchat and #seochat. There are so many good people to follow on Twitter like @gary and @rustybrick.”
Refining skills in SEO takes time, persistence and flexibility – things Carolyn has leveraged over the past several years to grow herself into an SEO maven. As she points out, things are always changing. Google is constantly releasing new algorithms that require the hard work of relevant optimization.
Yet, despite the constant immersion in the world of SERPs and backlinks, her educational roots in English literature still shine through in her downtime. “I’m on my 100th readthrough of the Harry Potter series right now. Because I’ve read them so many times, I feel like I pick up on the lessons you’re probably supposed to get the first time. No matter how many times I read it, the sense of wonder you get when Harry first gets to Hogwarts never gets old. I like to believe there’s a little magic in the world somewhere.”
Whether building innovative SEO strategy or leading a team to success, there’s no doubt Carolyn will keep creating that magic through her hard work and passion for inspiring others.