Powerhouse business woman Siobhan McKenna, who counts the NBN Co Chair among her long portfolio of roles and Lachlan Murdoch among her confidants, has urged a gathering of young media professionals to aspire to longevity in their careers in the wider business community.
“You work across industries, you think about products and consumer behavior, which is incredibly unique,” McKenna told the 200-strong audience. But she also added that “you don’t value what you have”.
Speaking at the second Media Federation of Australia’s MFA 5+ inspiration series, More Business, Less Media, McKenna explained that every board had an accountant, a lawyer and an HR person, with the rest of the board being made up of a mix of skills and experiences. She then went on to say in 20 to 30 years time she expected every board to have someone from a media agency on it because of the insights they could offer. Internal marketers, she said, have a much narrower band of experience.
McKenna, who at 29 was the second youngest person to be made partner at international consulting firm Baker and MacKenzie, then said that to exploit that experience media people needed to do what accounting firms do: “realise that they have the capacity to advise at a senior level”.
“[Accounting firms] recognise they bring something unique and they’re not afraid to offer advice,” she said. She then challenged the room to consider what they would say to a client CEO if they had five minutes off the record. “And I don’t mean, add extra weight to your outdoor campaign,” she quipped.
“You need to give them your thoughts on his or her business, his or her competitors and his or her team,” she said.
McKenna explained that by the time you have more than five years worth of experience, it’s assumed you’re “already expert at your job . . . and if you only aspire to have a job then that’s great, but if you want to be a leader you need to go beyond your profession”.
“Things you inherently know but fail to think about are the difference to becoming a business person, so you need to think about what you would say to your clients about the impact of a high Australian dollar on their businesses. You need to know how products and services are sold and distributed, think about consumer insights.
“Life is about knowing what you’re good at and doing more of it. Don’t try and learn how to read a balance sheet, there are auditors who will always be able to that better than you . . . You need to develop a perspective, indulge your mind and don’t be afraid to tell your clients what they should be doing differently. The stuff that you develop as a byproduct of your job is invaluable knowledge” she added.
The MFA 5+ Inspiration Series is a Media Federation of Australia initiative designed to inspire media professionals with five to ten years experience to create and lead successful careers.
The MFA 5+ initiative was established in response to findings in a June 2012 survey that revealed one in three professionals with five to ten years experience are considering leaving the industry, and 51% of those who plan to stay don’t know what their next job will be.
A committee made up of 20 media managers with 5+ years’ experience (pictured) was tasked with establishing a program that would “Inspire 5+ media professionals to create and lead successful careers”. The result is the MFA 5+ Inspiration Series, which delivers a combination of inspirational content and group mentoring.