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?


Taryn James

When & where did you work in marketing?

I started my career in Sales & moved into the Marketing Department at Simplot Australia in the mid 90’s starting as an Assistant BM, then BM. The company wisely preferred their Marketers to have Sales experience first. Then I did some contract Marketing work with National Foods, before moving into the Health & Beauty industry with a company called Cher International in 2002. I set-up their Marketing Department, manning it with a plethora of very talented part-time Mummy Marketers! At the time I knew heaps of girls that had been forced to shelve their Marketing careers in lieu of Motherhood as part time Marketing work was so difficult to come by. It didn’t make any sense to let all of that valuable Marketing experience go to waste, so we employed them on a project by project basis on an hourly rate. They could either come into our offices or work from home, or both. We were completely flexible. I ultimately credit my entrepreneurial boss for having the foresight to tap into this talent pool…a big corporate wouldn’t have gone there.

Highest marketing level reached?

Marketing Manager

What do you do now?

CEO – Domestic Services! I’m a full-time Mum looking after my family – Sassy Belle 4.5 years, Digby 3 years, a needy dog & extreme-sport-collecting husband.

Did you choose your path or did it choose you?

My Dad was in Marketing & I (along with my brother) have continued the family ‘trade’ – so you’d have to say it was in my blood. Dad was a self-taught Marketer & I remember sitting around the family dinner table when at Uni discussing various Marketing theories with my brother & my Dad going “Ahhhh, that’s what you call that!”.

What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?

Being resourceful. Even though working on a brand with a multi-million dollar Marketing spend looks good on your CV, temper it with the complete opposite. It is far more challenging (& dare I say rewarding) working with not much, as you really have to think outside the box, take risks & get your hands dirty. 

If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?

Yes, but I would have found a job to satisfy my creative side sooner. In my last job, I wasn’t actually marketing the products the company manufactured, but the company itself. So I spent 80% of my time on creative projects (& 20% on internal Marketing) & loved it that way!

What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?

Best: the camaraderie of working in a large Marketing department & for a big company; working on an iconic brand (Four’N Twenty) with so much history.

Worst: having your Marketing budget cut mid-project; production line checks at 4am in the morning – really anything to do with production scheduling, product costing, product specs etc…I’m yawning just thinking about it!; writing monthly reports.

What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?

• Starting your career in Sales first gives you the respect of the Sales Team, who are ultimately the ones you need on board to champion your brand.
• A good Marketer makes decisions based on 50% fact & 50% gut instinct…if all the Market Research etc. is pushing you in one direction, but the little voice in your head is saying “I don’t like it”, it probably isn’t the right path to follow.
• Write everything down in a notebook – any follow-ups / outcomes that effect your brand transpiring from meetings, conversations etc. It saved my backside many times when people conveniently couldn’t remember!
• Do live your brand, but don’t sacrifice your life. Put it in perspective…you aren’t after all curing cancer, you’re basically chasing market share.
• Don’t take things too personally (unless you’re being bullied or harassed I guess) – be professional, let it wash over you & get on with your job.

Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?

Being someone’s Mummy has been an amazing journey, but truly a lot more difficult than I ever imagined. I did have hopes of returning to Marketing sooner, but feel I wouldn’t have done either job justice. I really envy those working Mums that can juggle both. If I went back into a corporate Marketing environment, I wouldn’t be the same type of Marketer…Motherhood has made me far more decisive & far less tolerant – I now value my time so much more! I did however make a promise to myself that I would never work as hard as I did for someone else ever again. I have the Kikki.K. “3am” notebook on my bedside table that is filled with many Marketing ideas I one day hope to bring to fruition. 2013 is the year…when my little boy starts Prep!