10 career backgrounds you wouldn’t expect chief marketing officers to have

Todays CMOs come from a vast variety of professional backgrounds - here's proof

At CMO, we often talk to marketing leaders who came into the job without any formal qualifications or indeed, any initial aspirations to do to so.

Here, we highlight 10 Australian CMOs who started their professional lives in very different roles and circumstances, and how these unique experiences have led them to their current leadership positions.

Christopher Coyne, CMO, Crown Resorts

Coyne’s background couldn’t be more different from his current position as marketing leader for the Crown Resorts group of luxury properties and casinos.

He started training as a medical doctor in the UK, but was forced to rethink his career after suffering a severe brain haemorrhage in a car accident in his early 20s. Facing five years away from that field, he took his father’s advice and “changed tack”, focusing on banking.

Coyne picked GE and joined the company’s Melbourne office in 1999, where he enjoyed a successful 18 months in Australia and throughout Asia. He returned to the UK and worked for GE in mainland Europe and the US before switching into the digital field at John Lewis as the retailer established its highly successful online portal.

From there, Coyne joined BT as head of marketing, then online betting site, Paddy Power, where he was firstly head of gaming and then promoted to head of, including its online and mobile sportsbook.

In January 2014, Coyne joined Crown back in Australia as its first CMO with an executive seat at the table, spearheading the marketing effort globally.

Christopher Coyne
Christopher Coyne

David Robinson, CMO, David Jones

Robinson did study marketing and PR at university, completing a joint marketing and finance/commerce degree, and his first role was in PR. But his career quickly took a different spin and he’s spent most of his time working in all manner of operational roles within retail.

The list includes six years with Shell working around Australia in a number of different retail positions including distribution, property development and select stores.

Robinson then joined David Jones 18 years ago, and claims he’s “part of the furniture, having worked in every nook and cranny of this business”. It’s this retail experience that eventually saw him come into the CMO role.

For the past two years, Robinson has been leading a transformation of David Jones’ marketing function, using customer insights, digital channels, content and data as his tools for change. Before this, he developed and led the retailer’s omni-channel retail (OCR) strategy, reporting directly to the CEO and working in collaboration with IT, marketing, merchandising and operational teams.

David Robinson
David Robinson

Melina Cruickshank, chief marketing and editorial officer, Domain

She might have a marketing and editorial bent now, but Cruickshank’s first job after finishing university and relocating to the Northern Territory was to work for Rio Tinto as an environmental coordinator.

“It was really interesting to do that work – it’s a big company, with lots of training, and this was just as the Internet was exploding,” she told CMO in a recent interview. “I then went to London and worked in a small ecommerce digital agency startup just as the dot-com boom crashing.

“I think everyone should do time in an agency – you learn to treat people with respect.”

Cruickshank’s background since then has had a distinct digital and publishing bent. She has been with Fairfax since 2005, launching affiliate brands such as Essential Baby, Traveller and Daily Life and growing their audiences to about 1 million unique visitors per month.

Since joining the Domain team 18 months ago, Cruickshank has built a new division of 55 staff from scratch, pooling together journalists with audience marketers into a single content and audience team.

“People are obsessed with property, and if we can communicate to them in an authentic manner about property and gain their trust, we’re going to grow our reach,” she said.

Melina Cruickshank
Melina Cruickshank

David Redhill, CMO, Deloitte

Redhill’s background is as varied as his views on the marketer’s role. Starting out as a poet and short story writer at school, he completed a communications degree and looked to forge a career in journalism while maintaining his interests in photography and music.

Redhill’s first position after graduating was with mainframe computing company, ICL Computers, covering PR and communications. He opted to then travel through Southeast Asia as a freelance journalist and photographer before spending two years in Spain, then relocating to London. At this point, he became European communications editor for PriceWaterhouse’s corporate publication and helped launch desktop publishing across the business.

He followed this up with a stint at Landor Associates, one of the world’s leading corporate identity consultancy groups that spearheaded the rise of brand design thinking. That experience led to a year-long project with the Financial Times producing the first European-wide study on branding design in consumer goods. Redhill then became the worldwide head of marketing and communications at Landor Associates in San Francisco, where he launched the first brand research tool, Image Power.

For two years afterwards, Redhill rode the dotcom rollercoaster with several startups before being recruited to Deloitte Consulting.

Since 2003, Redhill has been the CMO at Deloitte in Australia and at the forefront of the group’s transformation strategy.

David RedhillCredit: Deloitte
David Redhill

Cameron Kerr, director and chief executive, Taronga Zoo

The professional life Taronga Zoo’s leader and former senior marketer has really come full circle.

Kerr started career in science research and development, spending four years looking into animal health and physiology. It was only then that he decided to do a Masters degree in organisational behaviour and marketing.

“I wanted to test my marketing in a field I had no technical advantage in, so I moved into haircare and joined Schwarzkof as a product manager, which was quite a change,” he told CMO in an interview. “The main reason for wanted to do that was test my marketing in an environment where I had no product knowledge. I then went to work as senior product manager then national marketing manager at Wella, then to a pharmaceutical company across the consumer healthcare range.”

In 2000, a senior marketing role came up at Taronga and Kerr leapt on it. He worked in marketing for a number of years, before taking an operations role and the finally, the top job in 2009.

Cameron Kerr
Cameron Kerr

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Sandra de Castro, former CMO, National Australia Bank

The former marketing leader for NAB studied biology as an undergraduate in Oxford before changing tack and deciding to look for a business role.

De Castro joined London-based boutique strategy consulting group, Corporate Value Associates, and over a 15-year tenure, rose to partner. The job gave her the opportunity to see inside all sorts of businesses not only in the UK and Europe, but also globally.

It was there that de Castro built her skills on the demand side of strategy, including customer segmentation and interaction, CRM and design. It was this expertise that helped her create the methodologies used to understand customer engagement and bring that style of thinking to CVA’s clients.

“All of that is about understanding what it is the customers want, and the parts of the business involved in actually giving it to them,” she said. “You have to please your customers to survive; it’s the law of business in many ways.”

Working with several large financial services and banking clients such as ING, de Castro got the opportunity to join NAB in a strategy and marketing role when she relocated to Australia in 2008.

“I’d had a lot of experience on the strategy side and in many cases, marketing is very much about reflecting those strategic objectives and goals,” she said in a 2014 interview with CMO.

Eighteen months in, NAB changed corporate direction and de Castro was asked to temporarily lead the newly centralised marketing function. Four months later, she assumed the role permanently. “You could say that I’m the accidental marketer; I sort of ended up here,” she added.

Sandra de Castro
Sandra de Castro

Mike Billing, former marketing director, Melbourne Storm

Before he became a marketer, and even before he began working in health clubs in Richmond, Victoria, Billing was an assault pioneer platoon commander within the Australian Army Royal Queensland Unit.

During his four-year career in the army, he was responsible for planning and coordinating all aspects of the training and maintenance of specialist military skills for a platoon of 35 soldiers. The role of the Assault Pioneer Platoon includes field engineering, demolitions, booby trapping, mine warfare, battle noise simulation, watermanship and basic infantry skills including drill, navigation, shooting, patrolling, discipline and general fitness.

Billing was promoted to Lieutenant from Second Lieutenant in 1996 before exiting the army. From there, he worked as a manager in health clubs, then an operations and venue manager for the Doha Asian Games, and as a client manager at Sport England, before his first marketing and membership manager’s job with Melbourne Heart in 2010.This led to becoming marketing director at Melbourne Storm.

Yet there’s a common thread in this career history: Bringing people together to make change happen.

“The CMO needs to be able to surround themselves with good people who have strong skills in their particular area,” Billing said. “Any CMO I’m sure will say that they wouldn’t succeed in their role without the team they have around them.”

Mike Billing
Mike Billing

Vittoria Shortt, CMO, Commonwealth Bank

Boasting of a less-than-traditional marketing career to many of Australia’s current marketing leaders, Shortt spent the first eight years of her professional life in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions. This included stints with Deloitte as well as Carter Holt Harvey in New Zealand.

Vittoria holds a Bachelor of Management Studies majoring in Accounting and Finance from Waikato University in New Zealand, and is also a Chartered Accountant.

From her finance roots, Shortt moved into a number of different roles across HR, IT, strategy, sales, operations and marketing. These allowed her to build general business acumen through diverse functional experiences, predominantly in banking.

Having run retail banking for Bankwest and owning brand and marketing, she came into the bigger Commonwealth Bank group as CMO in September 2013. In 2015, Shortt joined the leadership team and added to strategy and M&A to the CMO function.

Vittoria Shortt
Vittoria Shortt

John Moore, marketing director, Bupa

Moore describes himself as an accidental marketer who has no formal marketing qualifications. Yet he’s managed to stake out a successful 25-year career in an industry he claims has transformed itself at least twice during that time.

Moore is in fact an economist by training, completing a degree in Tasmania. And when he came into the marketing sphere, he was the analytics data guy.

“For the first 10 years of my career, marketing was always customer research and data analytics,” he told CMO in an interview. “Then there was a big flip where you had the creative in charge of marketing to someone who understood the behaviour of people and why they did things. That first highlight was seeing that flip in the industry.

“Step forward another decade, and I spend more time in technology than I do data or creative.”

While marketing is a hugely challenging field to be in these days, Moore still thinks his best career highlights are to come.

“I stumbled on a sector where you can stay curious and have to constantly evolve yourself otherwise you’ll be out of work very quickly or doing some very average stuff,” he added. “There also aren’t many jobs that let you work in eight or nine countries, travel the world, and have some great personal experiences that come from living and working in different markets.”

John Moore
John Moore

Tony Phillips, former CMO, Woolworths

Woolworths’ shortlived CMO actually commenced his professional career in the entertainment industry.

Fresh out of school, Phillips joined Melbourne-based production company, JC Williamson Productions, run by iconic entertainment businessman, Kenn Brodziak, known for bringing the Beatles to Australia in 1964. Phillips started as an office boy before being made manager of the show, They Are Playing Our Song, in Sydney at age 21.

“It was an extraordinary experience for a young man at the Theatre Royal, with Jacki Weaver and John Waters,” he recalled.

Phillips spent eight years with JC including six years as a tour manager, and managed Peter Allen’s 1980s Australian tour. He was, in fact, with the great performer when he penned I Still Call Australia Home. But after a failed stage show in 1985, and the 1987 recession, the business closed.

Phillips gravitated to advertising, working for several organisations before establishing George Patterson’s first retail arm. Clients stretched from Myer and Coles to Medibank Private and Ansett, while the team included industry notables, Hamish McLennan and Russel Howcroft.

It was from there that he joined the Coles marketing team in 2007, before switching supermarkets and becoming Woolworths CMO in March 2014. Phillips departed the role after just one year in May 2015.

Tony Phillips
Tony Phillips

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