Sarah Stockdale On Creating Inclusivity In Growth Marketing

This profile of Grow Class’ Sarah Stockdale is part of Street Meet, FLEETSTREET’s series, where we meet up with trailblazers and thought leaders to deliver unique insight and inspiration into issues we all care about.

The struggle for diversity in high-powered marketing roles in Toronto’s tech hub is all too real. That’s where Sarah Stockdale comes in – a marketing professional who, after facing her own challenges, founded the marketing course Growclass. This initiative wouldn’t be just any educational platform, but a beacon of hope for those who, like Sarah, yearned for a space where women and underrepresented people could master the marketing prowess necessary to propel them into higher-paying careers.

I personally find her story inspiring. In 2022, amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic and the early days of venturing into my own business, a friend recommended Growclass. I registered for the course. Little did I know, that this decision would usher me into a community that, two years later, remains a cornerstone of my marketing experience. This network has been supportive, serving as both a sounding board and a springboard for ideas and strategies for my business.

But recently, the impact of Growclass has been magnified by a whopping $1.7 million in funding. With this, the Growclass team is committed to the goal of training 500 students by March 2025, focusing on those from underrepresented communities Canada who are most in need of this empowering knowledge.

Why should Growclass’s mission resonate so strongly in today’s job landscape? Look no further than LinkedIn’s 2024 Canadian Jobs On The Rise report, which underscores growth manager as the fastest-growing position in Canada – a title that’s been defending its rank for two years running. And yet, it remains in the firm grip of gender imbalance at workplaces. To break barriers and gain access to lucrative marketing careers in Canada, initiatives like Growclass’s scholarships and grants are essential – they’re the key to unlocking a future where talent from every background has equal opportunity to succeed. I spoke with Sarah Stockdale to learn more about her journey with Growclass and its ambitious vision for creating a more inclusive industry.

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FLEETSTREET: What happened in your career to make you realize you wanted change?

Sarah Stockdale: I remember it so clearly. I was working at a high-growth financial technology startup. I’d been working incredibly hard to get a promotion to take over an international growth team. I was sitting in one of those glass boardrooms when my boss told me I got the job and that I’d be flying to San Francisco to take over the team. It was what I’d been working so hard for. I started crying, which spooked my boss, who thought I’d be elated. I was confused and embarrassed, so I thanked him, accepted the job and booked my flights.

My body knew I was burning out before my mind did. Four months later I’d quit my job to start my own business. 

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FS: What are your top tips for someone looking to get into growth marketing?

SS: The big things you need to break into a growth role are education, network and experience. If you have education or experience without a network, it’s hard to land a good job. 

There are a lot of marketing courses floating around. What you need to look for are teachers who are practitioners. A lot of colleges and universities have folks who teach who haven’t executed that kind of work in years. You want to learn from people who are doing the job now because then you’ll learn practical, applicable skills, not just theoretical strategy. One of the reasons I built Growclass was that I couldn’t find the kind of education that I wanted to put my growth team through. 

Apply what you learn to a real project. It’s nice to go into an interview and tell them what you know, it’s powerful to show them how you applied what you know. Use what you learn to grow your newsletter or side hustle and prove you can get real results.

Then, to be successful, you need to build a network. Helping our students connect with the industry is a huge focus of ours at Growclass. Who you know is almost as important as what you know. So, look for local marketing communities, masterminds and events – and focus on building real relationships with people doing work that interests you.

FS: Can you tell us about your journey in getting the Upskill funding?

SS: Darian, the founder of Jelly Academy called me and asked if Growclass wanted to be part of “something big” At that point, it was still an idea. We would apply as a consortium with The Canadian Marketing Association, Jelly Academy, and Growclass to the Upskill program. I was immediately excited. Growclass’s mission is to help equity-deserving people build lucrative businesses and careers – and this project lets us do that at a huge scale.

Together, we will award 1,200 incredible Canadians with scholarships to the three programs, and support their career journeys. 

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FS: How do you feel about the fact that growth marketing is more of a male-centric industry?

SS: It sucks. The current gender breakdown is 23 per cent female and 73 per cent male. When I worked on growth teams and advised companies, I noticed this pattern all the time. The people executing on product, support and marketing teams were often women and underrepresented people. Still, the six-figure growth jobs and management positions were all white men. That’s bullsh*t.

We have a talent shortage in Canada (for growth managers), and women and underrepresented folks need to be in those high-paying positions. What if there was a no-fluff training that included a lot of professional support and networking designed to help solve both problems? It’s why we built Growclass.

FS: That can be disheartening. How do you manage feelings of stress or frustration?

SS: Anger and frustration are helpful indicators. If we can tune in to what makes us angry, then we have a map that guides what work needs to be done. So, I use that frustration as a guide. It tells me what needs to be changed so we know what to build. 

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FS: What’s next for you and Growclass?

SS: We want to expand on the incredible work we’re able to do with Digital Marketing Skills Canada (DMSC) and Upskill Canada. The demand for this has been overwhelming, and we want to make sure we can offer this experience to as many equity-deserving Canadians as possible.

Marketing is rapidly changing, so we’re always working on ways our students can have an edge in the market. Everyone is going to need practical AI education. We’ve been offering this to our closed community for a year already, but we will be opening it up soon.

Also, our online community is incredibly warm, engaging, and helpful. A lot of us work remotely, and loneliness is not a small problem – so we want to bring a sense of community and belonging to both online and now in-person spaces.