Staying ahead of the game

As the digital economy comes of age and the marketing disciplines struggle to adapt, we ask four senior practitioners about their professional evolution, how they stay up to date with the changes in their respective professions and what they look for in potential hires.

 

David RedhillDavid Redhill
Partner and chief marketing officer
Deloitte

When you started your marketing career what was the digital component of your discipline and role like?

I started my marketing career in a computer company, ICL, in 1981 – before desktop computers or even word processors were available to a junior PR and marketing officer. So that meant, ironically, that I was publicising and marketing a digital product in an analogue way.

I would type up my press releases on an old IBM golf ball typewriter and hand draw my presentations on marketing strategy on plastic slides for overhead projection – so my marketing career really started in the pre-digital age. Dang, am I really that old?!

What comprised your original education?

I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in communications at the NSW Institute (now University) of Technology. It gave me a superb grounding in all aspects of media and communication – production, script writing, print, radio and television journalism, mass communication theory, and psychology, music and mass culture, professional writing, radio drama, etc etc. To this day I use just about all of those skills in my marketing career.

The funny thing is, I never actually studied marketing at university and haven’t ever taken a marketing course per se. But I have worked in journalism, PR, brand consulting, design, direct marketing, digital marketing and communications, both corporate and client side.

If that doesn’t make me an all-round marketer I don’t know what will.

What qualifications and experience do you look for when hiring for mid-level and senior marketing roles?

For mid-level marketing roles I look for a variety of experience. Perhaps the ideal profile is a mix of analytics, communication, sales and business development skills, with evidence of creativity and passion for improving models. The most important thing for me, though, is: have they spent enough time in previous roles to have seen the outcomes of their work? When I see a CV littered with one-year stints at different companies, I have to ask whether a candidate has ever been able to improve, refine and master their approach.

In my experience it takes at least a year to get under the skin of a job, two years to make meaningful change and three years to master it and start looking for the next step. Maybe that sounds old school to a generation that thinks it’s ready after a year or six months, but that’s what’s worked for me.

For more senior levels I tend to look for experience in a range of areas, most importantly management. Understanding the meaning of research and data, and the ability to articulate end-to-end integrated process is extremely valuable, since it’s usually non-marketingliterate executives who are asking the questions. Finally, the talent to conceive, shape and execute strategy – as well as improve it through successive iterations – are also pretty key.

What specific programs, courses or self-education have you undertaken in your career to keep up to date with the changes in your discipline?

Specific programs in technology, design, software courses, language courses, music courses, management courses, briefings on diversity, team leadership, talent management, conflict resolution – the list is endless. My biggest learnings have been outside the classroom and have come through succeeding and failing in collaborative exercises with others, living by my wits, and listening to people I respect.

When hiring staff at any level in marketing functions, do you value international education over local?

I do, but it’s a two-edged sword. I value the expansive outlook and cultural flexibility that an international education gives a marketer; I suppose I’m living proof in that I lived 20 years abroad in four different countries, and have worked variously in over 50 countries. I place great stock on the comfort levels and adaptability that that sort of international exposure gives you – to adjust, adapt and improvise.

However, I also need to know that a marketer understands the Australian context and has a true insider’s appreciation of Australian nuance, idiosyncrasies, economic conditions and cultural contradictions. To get that, you’ve got to spend an extended period of time here, getting it.

 

Ben GossBen Goss
Senior brand manager
Schweppes

When you started your marketing career, what was the digital component of your discipline and role like?

The digital component of my first role involved the creation of the organisation’s first website. There was a focus on building a cost-efficient site that was 90% product catalogue and 10% consumer competition reference.

What comprised your original education?

It was a Bachelor of Commerce at Monash University.

What qualifications and experience do you look for when hiring for mid-level and/or senior marketing roles?

Primarily diversity of experience – I’m always interested in hearing from candidates that can showcase a clear understanding of a variety of marketing challenges they’ve been able to overcome successfully. What insights were used to drive the strategy, how they validated their hypothesis, what objectives were in place and how they were measured.

A good level of consumer and customer understanding is important. Managing cross-functional teams, creating and launching consumer-led new product development. A little time in the field is also beneficial but it’s not just the marketing 101 stuff.

What I find most exciting to see is a flair for innovation. The current marketing climate is ripe for people with the skills to push the boundaries in consumer experience from product to digital. Like most people in this industry I love being inspired.

Which types of institutions do you hold the most respect for when looking at job-seekers’ resumés?

As a Monash alum it doesn’t hurt if you completed a BA there, but I’m more interested in your overall experience to date and how that’s shaped the individual.

It is by no means essential but these days it only helps if you have a MBA and in this instance I’m slightly more interested in understanding from which school given they’re specialties. I spent four years working in the US and if you don’t have an MBA from a top 10 school it makes it incredibly hard to capture seniorlevel positions. We’re not there yet but I’m sure it’s coming.

What specific programs, courses or self-education have you undertaken in your career to keep up to date with the changes in your discipline?

I’ve been lucky in that the businesses I’ve worked for have either had a robust internal marketing capability program or they’ve looked externally to the likes of AIM and Fawkner media. Probably the two areas of consistent upskilling have been in integrated marketing communications planning and digital media understanding. The digital media side is less formal training and more just genuine interest.

I read as much as I can, I have a creative agency in GPYR that shares developing technology researched locally and via their global network and I’m basically trying to be the first to use every new gimmicky app and social platform.

When hiring staff at any level in marketing functions, do you value international education over local?

Definitely, but I think it depends on what level and from where. If someone walks in with a MBA from Northwestern I’m going to have an extra level of interest versus a BA acquired elsewhere.

 

David TrewernDavid Trewern
Founder / chief digital officer
DTDigital / STW Group

When you started your marketing career, what was the digital component of your discipline and role like?

My first role was working as an art director in the internal marketing team at Village Roadshow in 1995.

I had an interest in ‘multimedia’ and developed the first prototypes for CD-ROMs and other interactive tools for Village Roadshow properties such as Sea World. I moved from Village to dedicated multi-media roles at ShowAds Interactive and Gyro (that became Swish) before establishing DTDigital in 1996.

Therefore my roles have been 100% focused on digital for 17 out of the 18 years of my career to date.

What comprised your original education?

I completed a Bachelor of Design (graphic design) with Honours at Swinburne. This course was very ideas based, and also very entrepreneurial. Many of my peers have gone on to start all sorts of successful businesses, some of which are quite different to the core of what we studied.

My honors year was right at the very beginning of digital design and interactive technology, to the extent that I had to convince my lecturers to purchase the software required to create my first multimedia projects, and argue the relevance of this work to my studies! I remember downloading an image from the internet for the first time at University in 1994.

In my final year I won a travel scholarship through the Australian Graphic Design Association which took me to San Francisco, New York and London to visit pioneers of the digital marketing industry. This trip had a profound impact on me. It helped me to see what was coming, and led to me focusing on digital and starting DTDigital on my return.

What qualifications and experience do you look for when hiring for mid-level and senior marketing roles?

Qualifications depend on the role. What we look for in all of our people is curiosity, enthusiasm, and the ability to work with both creativity and with technology. The environment in which we work is constantly changing, so we look for left-brain/rightbrain thinkers who are adaptable and innovative problem solvers.

Which types of institutions do you hold the most respect for when looking at job-seekers’ resumés?

For design roles, we still prefer communication design graduates to multimedia design graduates. We feel that it is important to use time at university to learn the fundamentals of creative thinking and design, while learning about technology is a natural and ongoing process. Beyond design, we look for advertising and marketing, business and economics qualifications, computer science etc.

What specific programs, courses or self-education have you undertaken in your career to keep up to date with the changes in your discipline?

I have been involved in delivering the ‘STW Digital Academy’ in 2012. We have structured this course to generate curiosity and to focus on the bigger picture of technology-driven change that will continue to impact consumer behavior and marketing. What we find is that the areas are changing so quickly, it is most important to teach people ways of keeping up to date rather than teaching specific technical information: ‘teach people to fish’.

In terms of courses that I have completed, I did a three-day Hyper Island Master Class in 2011, and lots of interesting executive leadership courses from mental resilience, to building high-performance teams, to neurolinguistic programming.

When hiring staff at any level in marketing functions, do you value international education over local?

Digital is a fast-moving area and experience is more important than education. International experience can be very advantageous, particularly if this has involved working on a cutting-edge project of a style and scope beyond work seen locally.

 

Ciaran NorrisCiaran Norris
Chief digital officer
Mindshare

When you started your marketing career, what was the digital component of your discipline and role like?

I was lucky in that my very first ‘proper job’ was online, working for a website in London in 2000. At the time I, along with most of the people I worked with and for, were kind of learning on the job – trying things to see what worked. And, to be honest, I tend to think that this kind of approach is one that is well suited to digital, no matter what level you get to. When it’s hard for even the most dedicated practitioner to keep up to date, there really is no substitute for testing.

What comprised your original education?

I studied international politics and history, but never completed my degree. I ended up spending more time writing for the student newspaper and working in the student union marketing department than I did on my studies. While this obviously wasn’t the best start to a working career, it was one of the reasons that I ended up spending a year living in Australia, where I worked in an internet café for most of the time, which is what started me on the road that led me to where I am today.

What qualifications and experience do you look for when hiring for mid-level and senior marketing roles?

I look for a combination of experience, qualifications, drive and cultural fit. Our goal is to always promote mid-level roles from within and recruit the entry level externally. When we do this we don’t just take on media grads but look for (and have) those with a real determination to learn, those who have studied statistics, law and applied science to name a few.

When looking for a senior marketer it is important for potential candidates to demonstrate that they can lead and manage a team. Additionally, there is far too much jargon and smoke and mirrors in this sector, so being able to put things into plain English for clients is an essential attribute.

Which types of institutions do you hold the most respect for when looking at job-seekers’ resumés?

I tend to be quite pragmatic with this kind of things. While a high-level degree from a big name university is always attractive, what really attracts me is dedication and drive. My previous role was in Ireland, which is obviously experiencing massive economic issues. Because of that, what you find is that the best candidates aren’t resting on their laurels. Instead, they’re funding their own development with night-school courses, internships and the like. This mix of drive, accepted qualifications and practical courses is a really attractive one.

What specific programs, courses or self-education have you undertaken in your career to keep up to date with the changes in your discipline?

Working in the digital sector, I’ve found that there is a huge amount of useful information available on sector-specific blogs and websites. The blogs in particular often also have active communities that are more than happy to offer help and advice to people learning that particular channel. For example, when I was new to SEO I spent hours on SEOmoz, where the posts, along with the long comment streams, provided priceless information on what does and doesn’t work.

I’ve also benefitted massively throughout my career from the advice and support of mentors. I’m a big believer in ‘paying it forward’ and love the fact that it’s a concept built into Mindshare’s core philosophies.

When hiring staff at any level in marketing functions, do you value international education over local?

At Mindshare we value local knowledge and expertise and are focused on building local talent for the industry. The reality is we will always look locally first, however, we are also a global company which prides itself on being able to offer employees opportunities throughout the network, hence I’ve worked at Mindshare offices in three countries in recent years.