2020Shift’s More Than Code series highlights technology and digital media professionals that are rising in ranks in the space…but not necessarily hacking or coding away on the daily. These techies are excelling in today’s top hybrid, or “non-technical,” roles.
At 32 years young, award-winning content creator Claudio Cabrera has made an impressive name for himself in the digital marketing and journalism world. In addition to being a self-employed SEO strategist and CBS Local audience development and engagement manager, he has increased traffic at Black Enterprise, built partnerships between businesses and won the 2006 IPPIE Award -just to name a few of Cabrera’s accolades. From taking new angles on Beyonce’s latest video to reminiscing on his early days as a professional, Cabrera is a mecca for sound, professional advice.
What does a typical day at CBS Local look like?
At CBS Local, I run audience development and social media, so it’s looking at divisions of CBS as a whole. There’s a CBS in L.A., D.C., Miami, Chicago, and so on, so looking at analytics may mean looking at what happened in Vegas yesterday that caused them to have such a great day or what happened in Detroit to make us drop our numbers. It’s really just diving deep into analytics, talking with my team about it and reporting back to the local markets to gain insight and suggestions. Outside of that, it’s working on partnerships. We share stories on this tool called OutBrain and with partners like HuffPost and AOL.
Every day is sort of different, but it really focuses on making sure our audience grows. When we generate ideas at meetings, I try to make suggestions at our meetings that might seem a little left field to some people in the corporate world, but I’m more of the ‘ask for forgiveness later’ person.
How did you find out about your position? Why did you choose to work for CBS Local?
I was working at Black Enterprise, which is a historic black magazine, when I was actually recruited [through LinkedIn]. I had been doing black media all my life, so CBS Local was really my first ‘mainstream’ job in a sense. I was pretty comfortable in the black space, and I don’t mean that in a bad way -I really enjoyed it and loved my team. I had all these African-American companies under my belt, so I felt like I needed a major, major brand under my resume to kind of differentiate it. I decided to leave Black Enterprise, which was tough, but I felt like I really wanted to make a change. I felt like it was the right opportunity. Every job has its pluses and minuses; no place is perfect and I do enjoy myself -I think I’ll be with CBS Local for awhile.
How does working at CBS Local challenge you?
When I initially arrived to CBS Local, I wondered ‘how the hell am I supposed to help you guys grow from your already-large footprint?’ It was daunting because when I was working for publications, they did well on a visitor front, but there was always room for improvement. With CBS Local, I wasn’t sure that I could improve them any further.
What I found out was when I got there, I found opportunities to grow their space with their SEO (search engine optimization) and search traffic. I went in with this perception that it would be perfect, but every place has its issues and has a hole in terms of knowledge. There’s always opportunities to kind of fill it. What I learned is, don’t ever go into something thinking you’re not going to be able to improve it in one way, shape, or form.
What's the best part about working for CBS Local?
I really love the people. One of the main things I advise people, whether they be professionals or undergrads, is that when you go somewhere, relationships do matter. It’s extremely important to stand your ground, but also make sure you’re an individual who is well-liked in your office. At CBS Local, I’ve had opportunities to leave, but at the end of the day, they met what I wanted them to meet, and at the same time, they manage to show me they really want me there. I think it’s two-fold. If you really like a place, it makes your job easier, but you have to make sure that people also really like you.
Also, I really like that I have some level of freedom -a level of experimentation. Obviously, not in the beginning because I was new and maybe there was a different cultural approach two years ago, but I think the reigns are loosening and people are willing to try new things and be creative within the walls of CBS.
How do you serve as a leader In your current role?
Our social manager director left in September of 2015, and she recommended me for the position, so I went from having no team to managing a 4-5-person team. I think it’s important not only to trust people, but also to delegate. As a leader, I am able to say ‘you know what? I think this person is stronger than me in this specific area, I’m going to give them the task.’
You kind of always want to be in tune with how people are feeling because it could directly affect their job. I have weekly one-on-ones with my team not only to check in, but to talk to them to find out what they want to do and to find a way to get it done. They may be interested in trying to do something that might ruffle some feathers on the corporate level, but it’s something I’m willing to explore for my team.
How do you stay creative, innovative and focused while you work?
I started off as a content guy, so I encountered thinking on a creative level [through my experiences] in black media. Sometimes, people will look at stories and just see it how it is. For instance, they’ll see Beyoncé released Formation and mentioned Red Lobster and that will be the story. That will be the end of it in most publications. For me, it doesn’t end there. Think about how you can flip this story in other ways…’Why Red Lobster?’ ‘The five times Red Lobster was mentioned in a rap song.’ What’s really important is not looking at the story as a finished product, but as something you can take apart and create other products from. Just because you weren’t the one who created it, it doesn’t mean you can’t add an extra layer and advance it.
How do you recharge from a demanding workweek?
I’ve been reading a lot more lately. One of my good buddies introduced me to this book, and it basically says that instead of trying to read a book all in one day or reading 60-70 pages a day, commit yourself to 5-10 pages per day. You can really concentrate when you have a goal, even with just a book. I’m also a slave to my computer, I like to keep up on what’s happening in my field on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on because that’s an ever-changing landscape. I used to go out when I was a little younger, so I try to chill in now -I’m kind of an old man.
What has been your biggest career lesson to date?
The biggest lesson for me has been that when you know you’re doing good work, the best things you can do as a young person (especially in a place like New York) is go somewhere. Kill it for a couple of years, move on, and then do it again. It’s extremely important to not only learn as much as you can, but be able to jump around. I’ve learned that it’s important to give yourself an opportunity to explore new places, try new things, get in a new environment, and see how you fit in.The lesson here is bet on yourself -know when you deserve more.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself to slow down. One of the main things I see in millennials nowadays (I manage a few) is that they want everything right now. I think I had that attitude, too... I’m kind of trapped in the middle of two eras. I usually put it like this - I’m apart of the Jay Z era, but I’m also part of the Future era. When I was younger, I was in a position in companies where I wanted things too fast and was comparing myself to others in the professional environment. This can lead to bitterness and gossipping at work, so be a little less worried about what others are doing and what others are making, and be more concerned with what you are producing.