Double Down on Your Strengths: Elena Verna’s Playbook for Leveraging What Your Good At

If you were to identify and harness them, your unique capabilities can be a key to unlocking new opportunities.

And if this seems too good to be true, the more attainable reality is that they can assist you in shaping your professional identity, positioning you as an expert in the field, and help you establish and grow your personal brand.

So start with what you know

Ok, it sounds easy, but it’s actually harder for some to know what they’re good at.

To figure out what your strengths are, reflect on your professional journey and identify the skills that come naturally to you.

What tasks do you find yourself excelling at and is it market-fit? 

Elena Verna’s success, for example, began when she realized she’s really good at growth and sales strategies and when companies wanted to incorporate the product-led growth model.

Once you identify your unique strengths, it’s time to shape your career around them.

Because starting with what you know can be more than a simple starting point. It can be a guiding principle in your journey.

Recognize your strengths, embrace continuous learning, and align your journey with your passion. 

In doing so, you pave the way in a purposeful and impactful career in whatever you choose.

Who is Elena Verna?

Elena Verna likes to think of herself as a Growth Hobbyist—basically, she just really enjoys geeking out about anything and everything related to growth.

She is currently the Interim Head of Growth at Dropbox, and was previously Head of Growth at Amplitude.

She was previously SVP of Growth at SurveyMonkey and CMO at Miro

As she advanced into leadership roles, her focus shifted from personal execution to coaching and guiding the team which led her into advising.

She dedicates a lot of her time advising different companies such as Clockwise, SimilarWeb, and Veed, and the list can go on and on.

Besides this, she is a Program Partner at Reforge, Board Member at Netlify.

In the time left, Elena engages with the community she built on LinkedIn where she has a following of 96,773 followers writing about growth goals, creating memes, and talking about product-led growth approaches.
Elena also has a newsletter called Elena’s Growth Scoop which is sent out depending on the subscription plan you choose where she talks about career and growth hacks.

How does Elena build upon her strengths and why is she a B2B creator?

  1. Building on what she’s good at
  2. Structuring her advising work 
  3. Taking on full-time roles, but on her terms
  4. Creating her newsletter and posting on LinkedIn
  5. Creating courses for Reforge

A. Building on what she’s good at

With an experience of more than 15 years in tech, Elena has discovered her proficiency in discussing and implementing growth and sales strategies.

In her newsletter she talks about how she transitioned into a full-time growth operator specializing in B2B within a product-led growth model.

She says that suddenly companies actively sought her expertise, propelled by the rapid expansion of the PLG.

That’s when she also found her market’s problem: the lack of understanding around B2B PLG in scaling companies.

So in 2019 she decided to advise companies to operationalize product led growth.

By assisting companies in comprehending, implementing, and optimizing the PLG model, she wanted to empower organizations to leverage the benefits of this growth strategy.

Everywhere on her newsletter, LinkedIn, interviews, and in the podcasts she’s invited to she discusses her matter of expertise.

She’s telling and showing everybody everywhere what she’s good at and why they should collaborate with her.

In Lenny’s podcast, she talks about product-led sales and product-led growth. 

These subjects reflect areas where she actively applies her expertise when providing advice to the companies she consults with.

In the Product State newsletter, she also discusses the importance of product-growth saying that the B2B made a shift in decision-making power from enterprise buyer to end user.

Since she’s so good at what she’s doing, more and more companies reached out to her. 

Now if you look on Elena’s LinkedIn you will see that she works as an Interim at DataBox, but also advises eight companies. 

In her newsletter, she says due to her courage of focusing on her matter of expertise, many opportunities came her way such as creating and monetizing her blog from $0-30K in 6 months, paid speaking gigs, LinkedIn post sponsorships, and paid workshops. 

Plus, she daily receives 5-10 pings from companies wanting to work with her.
Now she even has a dedicated pricing page for companies who want to work for her.

B. Structuring her advising work 

Elena structures her advising work to maximize her learning.

And she says that the advantage of advising is that it allows for more extensive pattern recognition compared to a single job.

By advising multiple companies simultaneously, she gains insights into almost ten companies concurrently, which helps her see the frameworks, patterns, and outliers more clearly.

Plus it makes her feel she has a bigger impact in the industry.

“I feel good knowing that I’m not just helping one company but hundreds of companies through my content.”

But how did she find her first clients as an adviser?

In the Creator Economy newsletter, Elena says that she tried to make the change from a full-time job to an adviser by de-risking it.

How?

She met Casey Winters, who was already a successful advisor, and sought insights into the practical aspects of advisory roles, including compensation, contract structuring, and even obtaining healthcare.

Elena also had a proactive approach to converting job opportunities into advising roles. 

When offered a new full-time job, she would express her unavailability for a full-time commitment but propose advisory roles instead.

But to establish herself as an adviser she added all her advisory roles to her LinkedIn profile.

This showcased her expertise and signaled the market about her shift in focus.

Elena also believes that founders can more easily access specialized knowledge, especially now with platforms like Reforge or LinkedIn.

Companies realize that certain specialized knowledge may be too specific, expensive, or impractical to bring in on a full-time basis.

So they consider alternative models to have access to a portion of that specialized knowledge, creating interim or adviser roles.

C. Taking on full-time roles, but on her terms

Yes, you heard that right.

Back in 2019 when Elena decided to get into advising, she started solopreneurship, but in a different way that you imagine.

She quit working the full-time jobs that we know, and accept interim roles, such as Interim Head of Growth.

Interim roles resemble full-time positions in the sense that the person assumes a legitimate membership within the team. 

But the key distinction is a predetermined end date for the contract.

She talks more about this type of role in her newsletter.

As an Interim Head of Growth, Elena structures her contracts to last for one year. 

During this time, she focuses on gaining insights, formulating new hypotheses, initiating execution, and eventually developing a succession plan.

The ultimate goal is to transition responsibilities seamlessly to a full-time hire by the end of the one-year period.

After completing the interim role, she takes at least a 6-month break to recharge, redirect her focus to advising, and explore any new opportunities that may arise.

This strategic approach allows her to bring her expertise to more companies and help her learn as much as possible about different companies and their approach towards growth.

D. Creating her newsletter and posting on LinkedIn

Even though she says about herself that she is not a writer, she realized that content creation was a must for her growth loop.

To grab people’s attention with her experience working in growth, she started to create frameworks, memes, and write personal reflections, LinkedIn posts, and launched her website in 2021.

Once people were acquainted, she offered multiple ways to work with her such as advising, interim, paid workshops, paid public speaking, and offering revenue share from courses.

Later, in March 2023 she created her blog on Substrack and by September 2023 she had 20,000 subscribers, 51.39% open rate, and over 300 paying subscribers which translated into $33.000 annual revenue.

Even though everything seems to be running smoothly for her, she has her share of struggles.

Writing on Substrack needs time and she says sometimes it takes her 2-3 hours to write her posts.

She sought help and found a great assistant, Jonathan Yagel, who helps her with the editing part and making everything sound cohesive.

On LinkedIn, she shares her learnings for free showing her expertise and that led her to grow her audience to 90,000 followers.

In one of her posts from January she says that posting on LinkedIn in 2023 helped her gain 50,000 followers.

One of the things that defines her LinkedIn is her mastery in creating memes.

Some of her meme posts reach more than 400 reactions, but others like the one below reach 3.081 reactions and 118 reposts.

Besides the memes, you can see Elena’s sense of humor in other posts as well, like the one in which she talked about how it feels to work in tech.

This trend started in videos on Reels and TikTok, but Elena created it as a text post on LinkedIn and brought her 3.174 reactions and 91 reposts.

Similar to her Substrack, she also posts on LinkedIn about her career.

In one of the posts she writes about normalizing professional failures talking about the times she was rejected by Stanford, got rejected by Netflix, messed up her first interim opportunity and more.

E. Creating courses for Reforge

Before writing about Elena’s courses, I read on the above mentioned post that she ghosted Brian Balfour once.

Brian was ideating about Reforge, and Elena and him decided to meet to chat about it.

At the time Elena was heavily pregnant and because she was not feeling very well, ended up taking a nap through said ‘coffee’ and totally forgot about the meeting.

She woke up hours later to messages from Brian saying: ‘Where are you? Are you still coming?’.

She said she apologies for everything but that she still can’t believe he allowed her to be heavily involved in his company after what happened.  

Besides being involved from the beginning in the company, she says that Reforge has always been her go-to resource to meet smart people and that Reforge also taught her to recognize patterns and come up with frameworks.

Elena currently created four courses for Reforge and also wrote articles for Reforge about freemium advantages, how to grow your career, or about monetization.

What can B2B creators learn from Elena?

1. Build upon with what you’re good at

B2B creators should learn the importance of identifying and showcasing their expertise.

Elena focused on building upon her strengths in growth and sales within the B2B product-led growth model which helped her advance in her career.

So you should actively communicate your skills through various channels, such as newsletters, social media, and industry platforms, to establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

2. Decide the best type of employment for you

For Elena it was interim and adviser roles that fit her well.

For you it might be a full-time employee and build on the side, fractional, or others.

Elena made a list of different employment engagements a person may have with a company in one of the interviews she was invited to.

She says there is:

  • The full-time role where you have full accountability for the deliverables
  • The interim as an alternative to full-time — a full-time role with a short-term expectation for your tenure
  • Fractional employment — a part-time role with a long-term tenure expectation or basically when you commit to two-to-three days a week to a company.
  • Contractual employment which is project-based
  • And finally advising which involves coaching creation and execution of the strategy.

So as a B2B creator you should consider structuring your work in a way that aligns with your strengths and choose the employment type that allows you to continuously learn and grow.

3. Create content to strategically show your strengths

Elena strategically creates content that aligns with her expertise in growth, product-led strategies, and industry insights and shares it for others to see in her newsletter and on LinkedIn.

This also helps her land new work offers as interim, adviser, or other opportunities like getting paid to participate at different conferences.

Learn the value of intentional content creation that showcases your expertise and resonates with your target audience.

Final Thoughts

Everything Elena writes helps her show her expertise, but she has written so much about her career path because she wants others to find what’s best for them.

In her newsletter she writes that “Exploring career options and taking control of how you monetize your skills is something everyone should consider.”

So find what you’re good at and start building from there.