Life after brand management: Melissa MacDonald
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?
Melissa MacDonald – now mother and author
When and where did you work in marketing?
In the commercial property industry for one of Australia’s most successful design firms – Rice Daubney. I spent ten years as a marketing and communications manager.
Highest marketing level reached?
Masters of Marketing at University and a marketing and communications manager by trade
What do you do now?
I am now an author and released my first book on breastfeeding in April 2010. I am overwhelmed and humbled by its success already and am excited to be taking it to the USA and Canada in 2011. After returning to work when my first child was four months old I found that I was trying to do a five-day a week job in three-to-four days and was missing my son’s milestones.
After my second baby was born I saw a gap in the market for a publication that dealt with encouraging and supporting women, whether they choose to breast or bottle feed their babies. So I researched and spoke to hundreds of new mums about their experiences feeding their babies and the highs and lows that came with it and I put them all into a book. My research told me that around 80% of women experience problems breastfeeding, yet when you are pregnant nobody seems to tell you that, in fact it’s quite a taboo subject. I found that women who were used to being successful and competent in the workplace were perplexed as to why they were failing at breastfeeding, when it is supposed to be such a natural thing to do. This new path has certainly given me a new purpose and the emails that I receive thanking me for writing the book and how it has helped people make it all the more worthwhile.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
I had a fantastic teacher at University who really inspired me to do marketing. At the time I worked in the advertising industry so there was a bit of crossover. I was then offered a job in the commercial property industry which was very different but really challenging and enjoyable (in an industry full of males). If five years ago someone had told me that my career would take a turn and I would be an author, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would definitely say that this new path chose me.
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
Seeing the big picture idea and working back from that. The mentality of seeing what I wanted my book to look like and its message were important to nut out first, and then I worked on the detail. I am so glad that I addressed the look and feel of the book as being fundamental – it’s what makes the difference as to whether someone picks your book off the shelf or not. So many people have commented how my book is beautiful and that makes me feel like I really achieved that big picture goal. Today that is why all the bookstores have it facing out, and that contributes to more sales.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
I will never say never but I am really enjoying what I am doing now. I think I probably have another book in me and I am currently working on a TV pilot so who knows where I will even be next year.
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
The hardest part was the fact that the commercial property industry is full of males and that mateship is often hard to crack. However if you prove yourself there is an amazing amount of respect. The best part of marketing I think is that it’s a multi-faceted role – you constantly have your hands in a lot of pies – which is what I love.
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
Get a mentor.
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 my current role as a mother and author but there are always occasions when I miss the rat race.