Life after brand management: Meike Suggars
In this careers feature, Liz Foster asks the question, with the number of corporate marketing roles shrinking as you climb the ladder, where do all the brand managers go?
Meike Suggars, financial/insurance adviser at Suggars & Associates.
When and where did you work in marketing?
I started in a sales role for (then) IT/infrastructure company, Bwired, and graduated to product manager. When I moved to London in 2003 I was marketing assistant for a webhost, and was quickly promoted to UK marketing manager when my boss resigned a month after employing me. My most satisfying marketing role was my last, at steel trade publication, Steel Business Briefing.
Highest marketing level reached?
Global head of marketing.
What do you do now?
Since returning to Melbourne last year, I’ve joined my father’s business in life insurance. It’s a huge change – new industry, new job/role and new work environment. I now work for myself and don’t have the ‘baggage’ of an office and staff.
Each of my clients has a totally different set of financial and personal needs, so my new role ticks the ‘strategy and problem solving’ box for me, which was the aspect of marketing that I loved the most. However I found that in the real SME world, there wasn’t a lot of time or resources available for this. I get to dabble in the areas of marketing that I enjoy and see as a priority for my business.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
A bit of both. I studied marketing, and knew that was what I wanted to do when I graduated, although I didn’t have any feelings about what sector I wanted to be in. I fell into the IT/webhosting/steel worlds because of the marketing roles that were available when I needed the work.
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
Being able to see the big picture, attention to detail and the ability to juggle a variety of activities at the same time.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
I never really felt I was in the corporate world as each of my employers were SMEs. I think working for an SME gives you exposure to a greater variety of work, however it can also mean that you don’t have the marketing mentor/guidance of a large department. But yes, if I had my time again, I’d follow a similar path.
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
Best: the travel, developing and managing great people in my team, the buzz of successful campaigns and those creative brainstorms where ideas fly.
Worst: the travel (I missed my own housewarming party!), spending 90% of my time putting out fires and ‘juggling hot potatoes’ (towards the end of my marketing time – but I suppose that’s the joy of management!) and unrealistic expectations of other departments in the business.
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
Don’t reject a job opportunity just because it’s not in your ideal sector. If someone had asked me ten years ago if I wanted to work in steel I’d have said “Pardon?!” but that job gave me amazing experiences, both personally and professionally, that would have been difficult to gain elsewhere because of the historical and global nature of that industry. So keep an open mind.
Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?
I love having the control over what Im doing now, and not working to someone else’s agenda. Im passionate about the products I deal with and feel that Im really making a difference to my clients’ lives. All my marketing knowledge and experience gets used every day, even when Im not doing ‘marketing’ activities.