Carla McCord is a veteran of the cycling industry. Now the marketing manager at Pivot Cycle, she’s been a bike shop salesperson, a mechanic, and a graphic designer. She was even there when the first woman-specific Terry saddle was introduced (more on that in a bit.)
Named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in the Industry by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News in 2014, Carla has been helping various companies in marketing and communicating products to customers. Call it the bridge between you and [insert your favorite bike company here]. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s easier said than done really, as you’ll read in the following interview.
On top of it all, Carla is one of the nicest and hardest working people I’ve had a chance to meet since I’ve started shooting/writing cycling stuff. Oh, and I hear she’s blazing fast on the bike, too.
So what do you really do for work?
Well, the official title is the marketing manager for Pivot Cycles. The unofficial title would be more interesting. You know, it’s a funny combo, marketing is a lot of things to a lot of people and I think there’s an impression out there that you’ll spend a lot of time bro-ing down … I joke about it all the time that I am at these events just to give free stuff and hangout.
And the reality is that is actually a very tiny part of it. The biggest part is you’re trying to think about what is it you do and how that is going to be interesting to people. You’ll spend a lot of time strategizing, you’ll spend a lot of time planning one year, two years down the road. I am in a really privileged place in a sense that my job is to essentially make people happy.
It’s a huge responsibility. We think about this, the stuff we make at Pivot, these bikes, when someone decides to buy one of our bikes and that’s going to be the thing they ride. For most people that is a significant thing—that’s going to be their fun budget for a while. So it’s a huge responsibility to make sure we communicate in a way they get the real one, it fits them perfectly, it’s set up perfectly so that six months from now, heck, we’re responsible for their fun. They believe our stuff is going to help them to go out and to enjoy the trails, the mountains, the desert and we‘ve got to make sure we hold up to our end of the bargain. So we work really hard to do that.
Were you always in marketing?
Oh gosh that’s the funny one. I have a painting degree. I have a BFA from the University of Washington and I was really serious about it for a while. And then I realized I can pay my bills if I’m employed. At the same time I had worked my way through college at bike shops as a mechanic and salesperson.
The wrenching was an accident. And honestly I wasn’t that great of a wrench. Though if you’ve got a 20 year-old, one-inch-threaded-everything beater old road bike and a campy tool set, I can fix the hell out of that bike. Since then, there are other mechanics that are better than I am.
But I was actually really good at helping people find things and helping people solve their problems. I started working at bike shops pretty much exactly the same time the first women’s saddle was introduced. It was about ’91-’92.
Georgena Terry should be in the cycling hall of fame for that saddle. It really was that one product. For years it was like you had to know that in order to make your saddle comfortable as a woman means you go to the bike shop, borrow the dremel tool and dremel out the plastic in the inside of the nose of the saddle. For beginner cyclists, that was completely inaccessible. They didn’t even know what to ask.
Being a woman in a bike shop in the ’90s was really, really rare. I happened to work at a woman-owned bike shop in Seattle so it was even more rare. I learned a lot of cool stuff about how to talk to different demographics of people not as demographics, and that’s one of the things that was really important.
How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?
I’ll just guess: 567,000
Uphill or downhill?
First thing you’d do as a captain of a pirate ship?
I’d probably make sure everybody has really frilly blouses because I want a really picture-esque pirate ship that’s aesthetically pleasing. I would design the pirate ship experience to make it visually impressive.
A friend’s coming over, what would you cook them for dinner?
That’s pretty easy. That’s all about getting some really good Mexican food going. That is just my home food. Awesome guacs, good skirt steak, and some homemade tortilla if I am really adventurous but honestly my tortillas are really bad. More guac because I am an avocado addict. I used to live in LA and that is definitely something I miss about LA, just the nonstop availability of a Mexican butcher shop.
Describe your idea of a perfect holiday.
I am kind of a sit in one place kind of person so when I go on vacation what I like to do is to find a spot and basically live there as long as I can. Honestly my vacation I usually try to turn into something I can also get a little work in so I can stay for a month. The cool thing about that is you get to know the local restaurants, bakeries, the food, the people and you’ll start to see the stuff you don’t see otherwise. Always got to have a bike on hand cause you’ll see so many more things on bike than by car. I walk everywhere, always with a loved one, so I’d definitely go with my husband Cam … and our baby on the way … it’ll be a family vacation.
If you were a stalker would you be good at it?
Yeah I’d be awesome at it actually. I am really good at getting information. It’s part of being a good marketing manager. You have to be able to do your research, to do your Google things. You’ve got to be able to come up with ideas and figure things from what you find, so I think I’ll be pretty kickass at it.
Most embarrassing story?
I don’t know. I got myself tangled up with some packing tape this morning.
I’d like to be a Google billionaire so I can give all my money away to all the schools. I think it’s something that’s really important that we don’t do enough of.
Choose a car, any car, to represent yourself.
Exactly the car I drive. It’s a Subaru Outback with all kinds of things attached to it. It’s got a rooftop box, a Thule rack, and special shocks so I can run a 4 banger Thule rack and not bottom out my rear suspension.
It’s filled with Border Collie hair at all times. You can’t get into my car without getting coated in dog hair because I always have a dog. There’s probably one snow shoe and some camping gear.
If you were an animal in the wild, what would you be?
Ravens, because they’re super smart. They remember everything and they know you. If you’ve got local ravens they see you. They’re gorgeous that there are lot of beautiful colors in their feathers. Ravens just seem like they kind of have it together. They’re always out there doing interesting raven stuff that they seem they’re smart enough that they have plans.
Any advice for those looking into breaking into this sport industry?
You can’t just think it’s a bro thing. And by bro I mean all these folks want to come in thinking it’s super easy, fun time thing that they get to be a cool guy.
I spend a lot of time in front of Excel, work really hard, think a lot about what I am doing and I also have a lot of folks who work really hard around me. It’s awesome and I try to be respectful of that.
At the same time, it’s a small industry and the most important thing is to have integrity around what you do because if you don’t, man, first of all, what are you doing for yourself, and in the end, that’ll come back to you six months or six years down the road. Somebody’s going to remember and you’ll see the same people over and over. It’s important that you treat them all very well.