From Grad to Senior Marketing Specialist - The career path of Rachael Tomaney

Rachael Tomaney is the Senior Marketing Specialist at ACI – Here is her career path from graduate to senior marketing specialist.

How did you get to where you are today?

I had a slightly unorthodox route into marketing and PR; I did a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies, which included a year working abroad. I chose to work for a grass-roots charity in Colombia.

I started out focussing on teaching literacy and numeracy, but as the attendance levels grew we needed to fundraise to purchase a building to hold the classes. I realised that the charity wasn’t well known in the local area, and that we needed to raise the profile of the organisation in order to raise funds. Historically, charity status had been abused in Colombia as a front for other activities, so there needed to be some trust built between potential influencers (such as local entrepreneurs) and the charity’s management team. We organised interviews with national media, as well as events where potential donors could come and see the charity in action. This, combined with the drive to launch a new website and social media feeds, was my first taste of integrated campaigns.

I continued my experience in the third sector with communications internships at the Newcastle United Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer UK. I was given a great opportunity by Sam Gibson, a third-sector communications specialist, where I worked closely with her on a range of charity clients’ PR. Being able to work directly with experienced professionals has always been the big differentiator in my career. First with Sam, and then at Catalysis, where the flattened hierarchy meant that even as a Junior Consultant I worked in a client facing role, and alongside the directors of the agency.

I was given a great opportunity about a year into my time at Catalysis, where I was seconded in-house at the client’s request, to cover the maternity leave of the communications managers for EMEA. I owe a lot to Sarah Lloyd, she was the client who had faith in me even in the very beginnings of my career, and requested my help at Polycom. Since then I have always focused on being a generalist; I’ve never got too bogged down in the detail of any one marketing communications channel, but always focused on higher level campaign planning and execution. This means I’ve been able to work on a whole range of really creative projects, rather than being limited ‘repeat business’.

Why did you get into the technology industry?

I have always been surrounded by technology, my Dad has been in the payments technology industry for a very long time, but I supposed I ended up in technology marcomms because it was difficult. I never wanted to work in a job where I didn’t have to learn something new every day. I prefer the B2B side of marcomms, because you have to be so much more specific, and in many ways more creative. The sales cycle of a B2B technology solution could be two years, and there might only be 250 targets in the UK who are in a position to buy that solution. Grabbing their attention and maintaining it over two years requires you to really apply the core principles of marketing to everything you do.

What personal attribute has most helped you in your career?

Confidence, or at least giving the impression of confidence. People forget that to work in an agency you need to be able to have the ideas, and sell them. If clients are going to trust you, not only with their money, but with whole campaigns, they want to feel confident that your ideas are going to generate the results they need. It’s not about being arrogant, running with the first idea you have, or always being right. It’s about being confident that you’ve done your research and tweaked your ideas until they are optimised to appeal to the target audience.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the course of your career?
When I was in-house at Polycom, I suddenly found myself in charge. Up until then I had been able to run every decision past someone else, and be reassured that it had been approved by someone more experienced than myself. But at Polycom, I was the sole decision-maker on a day-to-day basis. I had to learn to make those decisions, and be sure of them, because I also had to communicate them directly to the global head of communications in the US head office. Ryan Batty was this head of corporate communications at the time, and he was a great mentor during that year. It was hard to adjust to working in a global team, where I needed to make decisions in my time because there was no one else on line until the afternoon or next morning, but it was an important experience in being an individual contributor.

What’s the best piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

“You’ll be running the place in no time.” Tim Stone, VP marketing EMEA at Polycom has said this to me many times over the years I’ve worked with him. It might not immediately sound like career advice, but really what he was saying was that I shouldn’t be intimidated by people who are older, or more experienced than me, because there are plenty of areas where I know more than them. Tim has always been very good at recognising the need for young blood in marketing organisations, in order to keep pace with the changing technologies and channels.

Have there been any crucial moments that changed the course of your career?

When I sold my first integrated campaign. I’d met Paula Morris at Polycom during my time in-house, so when Paula wanted to design a different type of lead generation campaign, she asked for my pitch. It was a crucial moment for both of us, as the campaign actually ended up winning a Siris Decisions Return On Integration Award, and delivered amazing results across EMEA. It was the first time either of us had done anything like it, but we worked hard on the plans and execution, and it became such a successful formula that we’ve run another five campaigns using a similar framework since.


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