A head shot of digital marketer Tara Salmon

Digital marketing career: Tara Salmon gets in at the ground level

Dubai, Munich, San Francisco, Melbourne. For the past 15 years, Tara Salmon has traversed the globe helping to market growth-oriented companies in the tech innovation industry. Armed with a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) from Charles Sturt University, Tara got in on the ground level as digital marketing began to emerge. She rapidly built a stellar career.

“When I was young, I was really into the arts and drama side of things. But as I moved into high school I realised I had a passion for business. Marketing felt like a really good blend of those two skillsets.

“Growing up in Wagga Wagga with the dream of entering the world of business and marketing, I knew I’d eventually move to Melbourne or Sydney. But I really wanted to study and stay close to home – so Charles Sturt University was a great choice for me. I could be near my family and spend some time at the Albury-Wodonga campus. It allowed me to have a nice transitional phase before I moved to the big smoke.”

The Charles Sturt influence

Charles Sturt University gave Tara a solid marketing foundation, helping her develop skills and propel herself quickly into the workforce.

“My experience at Charles Sturt was fantastic. You’ve got all the facilities and services that you’d expect from a large university, but you really have that personalised support from your tutors and lecturers who practice in the field. And that’s the way I learn best. Having close relationships and being able to ask questions. It was a great balance.

“I think having a personalised approach and small group numbers in the marketing lectures, where you had the opportunity to ask questions and debate certain topics, really helped me progress through my career.

“Going out into the world of business and marketing, particularly the tech space, where it’s about constantly trying to innovate and to challenge what’s accepted, those fundamental skills that I learned at Charles Sturt helped me grow.

“That approach meant you could be more involved. There was a lot of discussion and debate. Real two-way conversation and engagement. And that’s what you need in the world of business. You need those skills to be open and share ideas. You need to develop the confidence to contribute and also acknowledge the importance of remaining open-minded.

“Had I been at a university that was larger, where you had less chance of speaking your mind and being open, I probably wouldn’t have been as well prepared to hit the ground running after graduation.”

Tara hits the ground running

Straight after graduation Tara joined a small, promising Aussie tech company called Aconex. They provide a construction and engineering platform to help clients manage complex projects.

“I joined at a really interesting point. I started in 2005 when there were around 25 people on board. It was just beginning to ramp up its growth – and starting to expand internationally.

“Initially, my role with the company was as a generalist marketer. I did a bit of everything. It was like my apprenticeship – I learned the tools of the trade. Online, public relations, events management, and product marketing.

“But as the company grew we added more marketers and that gave us the chance to specialise. It was in 2006, and I remember thinking ‘this online marketing has legs’. So that’s where I headed. At that point, digital marketing primarily meant small brochure-style websites, some Google AdWords and basic search engine optimisation. It was certainly early days, but I could see the opportunity for innovation and that’s why I decided digital marketing was for me.

“During the next five years I was based in Melbourne, but we were growing rapidly in the Middle East, and Dubai was going through a construction boom. So, I was asked to head over there for six months to continue my role and also ensure the company culture was infused as more people came on board overseas.”

The world at her feet

Tara would eventually head a team of 12 digital marketers, a role which saw her conquer more challenges abroad.

“I did a couple of stints in Dubai and Munich, and spent seven years in San Francisco. That was a great place to really accelerate my career. It’s the centre of all things tech and innovation. And as marketing has become a really tech-focused, data-driven discipline nowadays, it was an amazing place to learn and be working in digital. So many top marketing technology providers are born in that area and being on the ground with them was fantastic.

“I love marketing in the tech space. It’s creative and innovative and data driven. And you can see the impact your work is having on the growth of the organisation. Marketing is now recognised as a key part of the revenue engine.

“And those fundamental skills and teaching practices from Charles Sturt really helped set me up for working in the United States.”

Tara’s San Fran adventure ended when another golden opportunity came her way.

“The CEO of Aconex asked me to return to Melbourne and take on the role of his chief of staff on the executive team. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

But as fate would have it that role morphed into something bigger, when the successful home-grown Aussie tech company was acquired by Oracle for $1.6 billion.

“My chief of staff role ended up largely helping manage that acquisition process, integration planning and change management across the organisation. It was a pretty amazing journey, given I started with the company when we only had about 25 people.”

The next challenge

In January, 2019, Tara moved to her next challenge – and it was somewhat familiar ground. She joined MessageMedia as their chief marketing officer (CMO). MessageMedia is a mobile messaging solution that helps businesses of all sizes better connect with customers.

“It was a great opportunity for me to step-up once again and run the marketing function as CMO. MessageMedia is another Australian-founded tech company that is experiencing growth and expanding globally. I like being in small but growing companies where marketers can have a big impact.”

And her advice to others aspiring to make their mark in the world of marketing?

“If you are hoping to become a marketer, you want to consider Charles Sturt. It’s a really great place to learn the latest and greatest in marketing and marketing trends. But, importantly, you’ll also get that really personalised support.”

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