Ten Years On From The First 30 Under 30: Liberty Mckinlay

Ten Years On From The First 30 Under 30: Liberty Mckinlay
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost half (13) of B&T‘s original 30 Under 30 winners from 2010 have landed overseas.

Today we travel to Singapore to meet Liberty Mckinlay (née Lee) as part of our ongoing content series to celebrate 10 years of our young awards programme.

A year after being chosen a 30 Under 30 winner, Mckinlay moved to North America and did seven years in the Canadian/North American market servicing some great brands like P&G and IKEA before moving to Singapore.

She is currently taking a career break to look after her two young children commenting, “I’m all or nothing with work and my kids are my most important client right now.”

Liberty McKinlay (née lee)

Then: account director, DEC Communications 

Now: full-time parent  


At just 24, Mckinlay left her role with leading global PR firm Weber Shandwick to become a founding member of DEC Communications. She helped set up the company, not least by securing a host of brand client names and helped grow the agency from two people to a team of 13 in less than three years.

Singapore Airlines public relations manager South West Pacific Kate Pratley said of Mckinlay in 2010, “She is an exceptional PR professional with a creative flair, strategic approach and 100% commitment to her clients.

“Her high-level communication skills, media liaison capabilities, combined with her friendly persona, make her an asset to our team.”

What did it mean to you at the ripe age of 26 that you were chosen as one of B&T’s 30 Under 30?

Have you ever felt like a fraud? I often have. At school, at university, at work, in new countries, new industries. I have felt like I didn’t know enough or didn’t deserve to be there. Well this award kind of felt like that! But it also confirmed that maybe my hard work and long hours had paid off. I felt proud. Embarrassed and proud.

How do you think being nominated affected your career, if at all?

It gave me confidence to widen my horizons. I left Australia that year and took on new challenges in the Canadian and wider North American market as a director with Citizen Relations, looking after clients like P&G, Kao and IKEA.

It wasn’t easy because PR is often about who/what you know locally, and I was an alien. It took me a while to re-establish myself but I got there in the end, thanks to a great boss and team.

Funnily enough I received a 30 under 30 acknowledgment there about 3 years later which was validating. I’m still abroad now but in Asia.

These experiences personally and professionally have taken me to new places and have, I hope, shaped me into a better person. I’m definitely worldlier.

What’s been the biggest change to your life since then?

Their names are Jamie, Hope (3) and Bella (6 months). They are my family and my most valued clients. I’m currently on ‘pause to parent’ because I want to embrace it entirely.

Being at home with them is a privilege that I’m very grateful for. It will fly and then I’ll be back in the workforce and remembering days when I asked my baby girl what she’d like for lunch.

I’ve often been told of the importance of staying relevant in the work place and that’s true – but if you can start from scratch in a new country with success, I figure you can do it after a few years on the home front too.

What words of wisdom would you have shared with your 26 year old self back then knowing what you do now?

I definitely know the answer to that – try to embrace some chaos.

I’m still trying to take that advice now in my current role at home! I’m a planner and very organized. Yet, two of the most stand out campaigns I’ve ever worked on gave me utter anxiety, and some of my best life moves kept me up nights.

In those instances though, I’ve known in my waters that it was right. It was just a very gritty process to get there.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of making it in a new city because it’s not easy and very humbling. When I first moved to Vancouver the discomfort drove me to tears in my lunch hour numerous times. And now being in Asia has a new set of challenges. But we get there. We can be so resilient. My husband has been my guiding light.

What do you see as the biggest challenges that face young people in advertising, marketing and media these days?

Perhaps honing our sense of intuition? Naturally the industry has become more data and process driven which is important, and takes up its valid share of our time and training.

But in PR in particular sometimes you have to be able to throw the plan out the window and hijack a timely issue. Success can be in just knowing what the right message is at the right time – and there’s not always data to tell you that. It just comes with time and practice, and hopefully a good boss who can guide you.

Other key challenges remain too – like striking balance, having a rounded life, trying not to get caught up in jargon. Also I think at the lower levels your days can feel extremely piecemeal and transactional, but that’s where a lot of the real results come from.

Conversely, what’s the biggest opportunity for those under 30 now?

There’s an opportunity to know more than anyone else in the room and be paid accordingly. Embrace your youth and closeness to new media and consume, consume, consume information until you know deeply what others feel overwhelmed by.

What can the industry do better to attract and retain young talent?

Offer up some inspiration. That doesn’t have to be a ping-pong table! Let it be a team of leaders who are interesting, real, kind, and can teach us something new. Send young staff on workshops, seminars, and activities that foster creative thought and grow their skills. And if nothing else, ensure hard work and successes are well celebrated.

This is the fifth article in our 30 Under 30 content series so if you haven’t already, make sure you go back and check out our earlier interviews with Chris HowatsonNic HodgesNicole Ghobrial and Will Scully-Power.

Entries for B&T‘s 30 Under 30 Awards for 2019 are now open. For all the details, click here. Tickets are also available for B&T Bootcamp, a day of speed mentoring and masterclasses aimed at up and comers in the industry. 

30 Under 30 Awards 2019 sponsor block

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