Power Women: Katie Rigg-Smith

Power Women: Katie Rigg-Smith

Loyalty, determination and passion are critical in forging a phenomenal career, according to Katie Rigg-Smith. Here Mindshare's boss shares her success story, as the last profile in our Power Women series.  

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

Newly minted Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith is the only female head of a media agency in Australia – and perhaps one of the most affable people working in Australian advertising.

Although GroupM had been grooming her for the top job for 12 months, it was still a shock when she was told she'd be taking over from James Greet in April.  

"It is only natural to question yourself any time you are faced with an exciting new opportunity," she says. "Fortunately one phone call to my mum, encouragement from my fianc√© and lots of support from the agency, clients, my friends and family made the role a no-brainer and I am extremely energised again."  

It's not a title the cool, calm and collected 34-year-old ever chased, but rather the result of an unwavering focus on honing her expertise, and a palpable enthusiasm for the industry in which she works. 

"I appreciate the importance of titles and feeling like you are growing in your role, but focusing on the title is the wrong way to go" she argues. "Focus on being phenomenal and learning your craft. The titles and promotions will naturally follow and if they don't, then you are justified to move on but you will have an extremely strong reputation." 

Rigg-Smith is Mindshare born and bred. She has never worked at any other agency because Mindshare has always ensured she was granted the opportunities and new challenges she wanted to tackle. 

"Every time I was getting restless, there was already a clear career plan for me and someone within the company that was championing my cause even if I was apprehensive," she says. 

Key to her success has been her attitude of "passionate curiosity" about everything and everyone. "To stay in a constant state of curiosity, and asking 'why?', is a key mantra for me," she says. "A big 'ah-ha' moment for me was the realisation that to be great in this industry requires you to have a strong cultural diet, to understand people and have the ability to come at problems with a fresh perspective. All of this stems from being curious about the world and leaving your desk."

To that end, Rigg-Smith places strict limits on her schedule, managing her own diary to ensure she carves out decent time to do things which nurture her, like pilates, painting and catching up with friends. She's also an art fiend. In a parallel universe she'd be curator at New York's iconic gallery, The Met, she reveals. 

Rigg-Smith has no children of her own just yet but is acutely aware of the need to relieve the pressures on working mums. "We have to understand that this isn't a hiatus that lasts only 12 months," she says. "Motherhood becomes a role for life so we have to create processes to onboard mums back into the industry, appreciate that flexibility is key, and to focus on output as opposed to measuring impact simply by hours worked in the office." 

Rigg-Smith has spent the last two years working in a team with five working mums and learning how to create an environment that best supports them. "In doing so I have noticed how great their productivity and output is as a consequence," she insists. 

As the youngest media agency CEO in Australia, Rigg-Smith has the advantage of having  lived and breathed digital from an early age – a perk in an industry increasingly dependent on programmatic buying and data.

The latter is, hands down, the biggest issue facing the sector right now – "Not just how much access we have to it but more importantly how we glean insights from that data. We spend a lot of time training staff on the ability to craft insights that will shape a client's business as opposed to simply sharing a 'stat' with them," she says.

In the next 10 years Rigg-Smith foresees massive change in the way her sector operates. 

"How we plan and optimise in real-time will continue to evolve and take precedence," she predicts. "The type of creativity coming out of media agencies and media owners will take a different form and shape more of the cultural conversations around clients' brands.  

"Data and technology will continue to make sure we have no choice but 'to move fast and break things'.  Thousands more channel options will appear. 

"Lastly, the entire way people approach commerce from simple grocery purchases to buying a house will fundamentally change, meaning that media agencies will need to be at the fore to understand the impact of this on firstly the consumer experience journey and ultimately our clients' businesses."