Journalism Grad Karen Datangel Talks About Her Career at Salesforce

August 21, 2018
Karen Datangel standing in the street

Karen Datangel (B.A., Journalism, ’11) was born in San Francisco to Filipino immigrant parents and raised in the surrounding suburbs of South San Francisco and Daly City. She is the first in her immediate family to graduate with a university degree. Datangel is a writer and marketer and, as she explains, a connector who is always seeking to bring people together.

In this Q&A, she talks about the professional strides she has made since she graduated and how she is working as a developer marketing coordinator for market leading software-as-a-service provider Salesforce.

Why did you choose to study Journalism at SF State?

As a shy kid, I always enjoyed writing and telling stories on paper. When I was in high school I wanted to combine my passion for pop culture with my writing ability. So I decided that I wanted to become an entertainment journalist. I became an editor of my high school newspaper and then declared Journalism as my major when I enrolled at SFSU. Originally, I had wanted to write for magazines but then pivoted towards online media, which worked out because the majority of journalism is digital nowadays.

What memorable experiences can you remember as a student? Are there any professors or faculty mentors that stood out for you?

I was so fortunate to have had a rich academic experience at SFSU. The journalism curriculum was so well-rounded. If I had to choose one memorable experience, I’d choose being a part of Jon Funabiki’s Ethnic News Service class. We had the chance to work with local publications in the Mission and in the Tenderloin and report on the work and the people in those communities. The class gave us valuable experience in reporting and writing, and it was very eye-opening to truly immerse ourselves in those neighborhoods.

If I had to choose a memorable experience from my non-journalism curriculum, it would be the final presentation I gave in my Women in Media class. I chose to talk about Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in mainstream media, and I put together slides and it went something like “Did you know Tim Lincecum and Darren Criss are half-Filipino?”

Some of my early post-college work in journalism and media was about examining minority representation in mainstream media and amplifying that representation, so I felt that that presentation was a catalyst for that work.

Can you tell us about your career trajectory since you left SF State?

I’ve been working as the developer marketing coordinator at Salesforce since January of this year. Before that, I was part of social media teams with Google and the San Francisco Giants. While my career trajectory did change from journalism to user support and marketing, I have been able to build a portfolio through freelance writing, blogging and internships. My work has appeared on websites such as Pop Sugar, Fandom, Bustle and Hollywood Life.

When I’m not working or writing, I love exploring San Francisco and any place I’m at. I am fond of the food, drink, sports, pop culture, animals, fitness, books on self-help, spirituality and philanthropy.

What is your job description at Salesforce?

I mostly work on programming for the Salesforce Developers blog by creating content and monitoring the Salesforce developers social channels. I also help create website content and resources for our developer website and provide support for our signature events, which is TrailheaDX and Dreamforce. It is a very dynamic and evolving role. ... I’ve been loving every minute of it!

You also have another career as a writer, marketer and connector. Can you describe what you do and how you are able to merge all these dynamic roles together?

Haha, those titles are mostly just for the business cards I pass out when I’m not at work events. But I truly do have passions for writing, marketing and connecting with people. Being a marketer is pretty much what I do on a day-to-day basis, but I will always consider myself a writer first and foremost. I not only do writing in my day job, but I write in my spare time. I blogged and wrote for years even when I had jobs not related to writing, and I just recently started blogging again.

I call myself a connector because I always want to help people. I go to a ton of networking and social events and I always want to see what I can provide to the people I meet, whether it’s telling them about an organization that they should be involved with or telling them about someone in my network that they should be in touch with. I feel like so many people have helped me throughout my personal and professional journey and I hope that I can continue to live my life in paying it forward.

What advice do you have for students looking to work at tech companies in non-technical roles?

Just think about what you’re skilled at and what excites you and put your best foot forward. Get involved in a non-tech company first if you have to, in order to build your skill set, resume and portfolio.

If there’s a specific company you want to work for and there are no roles pertaining to your skillset available, try to see if you can get an informational interview and just chat with a hiring manager over coffee to see how you can work together (though this probably works better if you have your eyes at a startup or mid-sized company rather than -- let’s say -- Apple or Facebook).

Also, you may not necessarily start at the place you want to be, but sticking with it for a bit will pay off. I started in the tech industry by writing customer support e-mails, and eventually I moved to creating content and answering questions on social media channels.

Stay humble, be flexible and see how you can apply what you’ve learned to various opportunities. Finally, I’d say to immerse yourself in the product you’re working on and the communities you work with.

What are your future plans? Any five- to 10-year goals?

I don’t know if I have a plan. I want to have at least a few more years of learning and growing at Salesforce, but I also have an entrepreneurial spirit and would like to start a small business, perhaps in event planning. I realized just recently that I love bringing people together under one roof and I love entertaining. The possibilities are endless, especially here in San Francisco.

In 10 years, I definitely want to publish a memoir. Maybe I’ll write a couple more books before or after that. And I hope I have a life partner, a few pets, a house, maybe a kid or two and become debt-free.

— Ufuoma Umusu

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Photo by Jodee Debes