Spotlight: Brendan Baker

Brendan Baker PhotoName: Brendan Baker

Role: SEO Manager

Hire Date: Aug 2011

Fun Fact: In college, he wanted to be a writer/director like Quentin Tarantino.

“We’re already a behemoth in the education space, but I think we can be even bigger and there’s so much potential and so much runway for us that I believe we’re just getting started. I’m thrilled about the future of Chegg.”

What did you do before coming to Chegg?

I was actually part of the Student of Fortune acquisition by Chegg, which was around the same time as the Zinch acquisition. It was a really small team and I was more or less the marketing guy there, so I did SEO, social media, and a little bit of everything in between.

Why did you decide to stay with Chegg?

I decided to stay with Chegg because like most people, I really do believe in the mission. At the time I joined, Chegg was mostly a textbook rental company, but I knew that they had acquired Cramster and now Student of Fortune, so I just liked the direction the company was headed in. I actually knew a little bit about Dan too in regards to his success as the CEO of Guitar Hero so I was excited to see how the company would turn out under his leadership. He really defined that industry and I thought it was impressive. I also played A LOT of Guitar Hero in college.

What are you proud of?

Probably surviving the most recent textbook rush. This was my first textbook rush where I was the SEO lead. It was a little nerve-racking and in general it’s a pretty intense time of year for everybody involved. The long hours get to you after a while – but I made it out alive. Not only that, but everything went very smoothly and I was very proud of it. Acting as the SEO lead really brought out a lot of qualities in me that I wouldn’t have recognized or known about otherwise. There’s a tendency to be a little complacent – and not that I wasn’t challenged before – but when put into a new position where you have no choice but to be challenged and questioned… it really forces you to step up. I feel like I’ve learned a new side of myself through this experience and I’m excited to explore it. I can apply it to my career at hand.

What have you been working on lately?

The funny thing is as textbook rush winds down, Chegg Study rush winds up. We have a lot of SEO projects coming up that involve adding tons of new pages along with some image optimization projects. On top of that, we have a few massive domain migrations that we’re working on that involve a lot of work and preparation. It’ll be great to have everyone in the Chegg Student experience though. I’m excited to see how that goes. Once everything is on, there will be a lot of optimizations after that. Personally, I’m just trying to reach as many students as possible.

Has anything surprised you about working here?

Just how profoundly intelligent everyone is here. It can be a little intimidating. I knew that when I moved up to Silicon Valley of course, but there’s a lot of smart people here who are also hard-working and driven. It wasn’t until I found myself in the middle of it that I realized how on top of their game everyone was. That leaves little room for error because someone will call you on it, but it’s been a pleasure because it makes you step up, keeps you on your toes, and makes you work harder because you can never rest on your laurels. You have to be on the top of your game too. It’s been great working with everyone here.

How did you get into your field?

I actually took a funny path. When I graduated from Boston University, my degree was in advertising as a creative copywriter. I worked at a number of ad agencies in Boston filling numerous copywriting jobs before moving out West. When I was looking for new copywriting jobs in LA, I stumbled upon a few jobs that were part copywriting, part SEO because the theory is that if you can write copy for consumers, you can write copy for search engines. There’s a bit of a crossover there, so I more or less hopped around from job to job where I was doing part SEO and part copywriting and eventually, when I came to Chegg, there was a need for a full-time SEO. To this day, I still do a little copywriting for Chegg, which I enjoy because it gives me the ability to tap into my creative side.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start in a role like this at Chegg?

Specifically for the SEO team, just getting to know every department and the playmakers in those departments. Due to the nature of SEO, we work with so many different teams such as design, engineering, and product. Just knowing who to talk to anytime we have an idea, a bug to report, or if there’s something blocking us, it’s helpful because it easier to maneuver the system if you know the key players. In general, I just always believe in not only knowing who those department leads are on a professional level, but also getting to know them on a personal level too. Having that type of foundation just makes it so much easier to work with each other and if you ever do butt heads – which will happen – then it’s never anything personal; it’s just two people trying to get their opinions heard.

What excites you most about Chegg’s future?

The general direction Chegg is headed in excites me – the potential to enter any landscape in the education industry we choose. If that means more acquisitions or just new products that we launch, I’m really excited about that because that just means there are more opportunities and more things for me to work on. I like doing SEO at Chegg because I can work on so many different types of things and switch it up rather than just focusing on one project every day. We’re already a behemoth in the education space, but I think we can be even bigger and there’s so much potential and so much runway for us that I believe we’re just getting started. I’m thrilled about the future of Chegg.