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Tips on getting ahead in business: a chat with OMD's Chief Digital Officer

by Chloe Baird
Posted: October 19, 2020

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Top tips from a marketing pro

OMD Australia is the country’s largest media and communications agency. They’ve worked with some of the most well-known brands in Australia and were recently awarded Mumbrella’s ‘Media Agency of the Decade’.

Sian Whitnall is the Chief Digital Officer of OMD Sydney and a highly successful digital thought leader. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience under her belt, having worked across the UK and Australian markets for more than a decade.

We spoke to her recently about her role as OMD’s CDO and got her opinion on industry trends, what she looks for when hiring staff, and her views on continuing education, among other things.

Are you looking to start a career in marketing, or hoping to get ahead in your current job?

Read on to find out Sian’s top tips on how to excel in your career, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the full video.

Tip #1: Study will give you a strong foundation to build your career from

Steps to create a career plan

If you’re looking to follow a career in marketing, then your first step should be to research accredited marketing courses. Of course, not all jobs in marketing or advertising will require a qualification. But having a qualification will help you stand out when applying for jobs; not to mention the fact that you’ll almost definitely be relying on a range of learned skills and knowledge as you forge ahead in your career.

Sian Whitnall points out the importance of a strong education. 

I truly believe you have to understand the basics,” she says. “I tap into that on a daily basis purely because we're being asked foundational questions by our clients. How do you build a brand? How do you manage brand and performance? What is going to shift consumer consideration? That's everything that we were told in marketing theory, which is exactly why I draw on those skills every day.” 

 Tip #2: Never stop learning

Why should you upskill yourself?

Now, once you’ve got yourself a marketing qualification, you can’t stop there! According to Sian, learning is a “constant evolution”.

I need to always be upskilling myself,” she says. “And the way that I do that varies depending on the task.

For Sian, this sometimes means tapping into her network of peers. “I really value the network of people that I surround myself with, and the opportunity to dig into problems with specialists that [I] work with.

Because learning really is something that you do throughout your entire career. And to make sure your skills stay relevant and razor sharp, it pays to constantly be looking for new ways to improve your skillset and knowledge base. This could be by reading a think-piece, listening to podcasts, enrolling in an online course or, as Sian points out, connecting with specialists in your work circle who can share their expertise with you.

lifelong learning

Tip #3: Hone your skills and embrace your natural talents

What are employers looking for in a job candidate?

There’s a certain type of person who’s drawn to the world of marketing. They’re generally good communicators, like solving problems by thinking outside the box, and have a natural inquisitiveness and a desire to learn.

Sian says that when she’s looking to hire someone, there are a few key qualities she sees as integral to a candidate’s success.

Firstly, because digital is complex, I look for people with great communication skills. Because for me, digital is all about simplicity, [so] you need people who can convey the complex simply. The other thing that I don't think you can underestimate is having a natural curiosity. And while that isn't a formal skill set, it does talk to a personality type in certain people... Because if you're in an environment where you have to constantly learn, you need people who are eager to do that.” 

So while it’s important to have a strong education behind you that can help teach you the theory side of marketing, it’s also a good idea to embrace your natural talents and let them shine.

Tip #4: Stay up to date with the latest technology trends

 Future trends in digital marketing

One of Sian’s predictions for the future of marketing is that “technology will continue to be an enabler.”

"As we continue to see technology advance and evolve in incredible ways, so too will this have an affect on the world of business. And the way that people interact with technology is constantly changing, too. Marketers need to stay up to date with the latest trends to make sure they never become bogged down in outdated ways of thinking. Data-driven marketing is the future of the industry, with more personalised, targeted campaigns capitalising on the wealth of information out there". 

Consumers do not think by channel,” Sian points out. “And so for us in marketing, we can't be defined or pigeonholed into a channel, either. So there's going to be a bigger shift to holistic thinking and technology is going to be a massive enabler of that.” 

marketing trends

Tip #5: Think of digital marketing as simply ‘marketing’

Think outside the box and always be open minded

We asked Sian, “When do you think digital marketing is at its best?” 

Her response was, “Digital marketing is at its best is when it's not thought of as digital marketing, and it's just thought of as marketing… My personal belief is that digital is just one part of the marketing ecosystem, and everything has to work together to get the best output and outcome.

Digital marketing is no longer the new kid on the block. Over the past decade, businesses have begun to whole-heartedly embrace digital marketing as they realise its incredible potential to reach audiences. As a result, there is growing demand for marketing specialists with a focus on digital and social media skills. But that’s not to say that traditional forms of marketing are completely irrelevant—they still fit into the marketing mix. But digital marketing is no longer a separate entity and shouldn’t be thought of as such. It’s simply, ‘marketing’.

One last word of advice from a marketing guru…

We also asked Sian what advice she would give to her younger self.

Now, ambition is great, but it is all about tenure and experience, because you can climb the ranks quickly. But you're going to be missing a whole heap of learning and steps along the way. And for me, I don't think I understood that starting out, and now looking back at it, I wouldn't be where I am… without the experiences I've had along the way. So temper your ambition, and make time for experience.”

If you want to watch the full interview with Sian, check out the video below.

Start writing your own success story

Open Colleges has a range of online marketing courses that can help you launch or accelerate your career. Check out our marketing courses online and find the perfect fit to suit your goals.

What are you waiting for? Enrol with OC today and unlock your potential.



Chloe Baird

Chloe is an Open Colleges alumnus who now works full time for OC as a Content and Copywriting Specialist. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their goals through education.

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