When a dialogue on marketing is sparked, the industry against the education sector isn’t always top-of-mind, hence, doesn’t always get that much attention due to its non-mainstream dynamics – with students as the ‘consumers’, and with the product, not just a purchase that could be merely classified as either a high- or low-involvement decision, but rather, education and a person’s shot at his or her future.
We are pleased for the second time to be able to get to know the career and leadership journey of one marketing leader from the education space – the marketing director of one of Australia’s largest online MBA providers, the Australian Institute of Business (AIB) – Stephanie George.
Stephanie is a marketing veteran having had more than a decade of marketing experience under her belt. As AIB’s marketing director since 2018, she helms the entire marketing function of the institute which encloses strategy, execution, measurement, and analysis both in Australia and the school’s global markets.
Just like any first steps into a long journey ahead, Stephanie’s beginnings weren’t perfect and were marked with uncertainty. In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Stephanie bared that she had her eyes initially set on becoming an accountant, something that she simply realized “wasn’t for me.” Thankfully, her foray into marketing – a marketing coordinator role in a tile company – way back in 2007 was a big break in disguise, affording doe-eyed Stephanie a first immersion into the job, that would later have her managing a TV commercial project and a big rebrand.
The career journey into becoming the Marketing Director in AIB
Before landing her esteemed role in the education space, Stephanie polished her marketing prowess by managing the marketing of companies from various verticals. She’s become part of the marketing departments of companies HBO + EMTB, Liift, and Devine, which fall under the interior design, IT, and civil engineering industries, respectively.
Her most recent role before her position at AIB was as the marketing manager for digital acquisition at Optus, which is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Australia providing mobile, telephony, internet, satellite, entertainment, and business network services. At Optus, she was responsible for the acquisition marketing of both the consumer broadband and the small & medium business (SMB) broadband categories.
Presently as the marketing director in AIB, she leads a team that executes all of the in-house digital execution, customer marketing, and campaigns delivery for the institute. At the MARKETECH Mondays interview, we went back to where it all started and asked the veteran what it felt like to be a first-time marketer.
I actually thrive in an environment where we’re going at a fast pace, and trying things and learning on the go. I just kinda throw myself into it.Stephanie on dealing with the industry for the first time
Stephanie took her first step into the marketing journey as a marketing coordinator for tile company Italia Ceramics in 2007. At Italia, she managed marketing campaigns across all media channels such as press, TV, radio, and online as well as in print. At this time, Stephanie had also been part of the brand’s rebranding and new brand execution.
Stephanie reveals, “This was back when social wasn’t really a thing, and digital marketing wasn’t really a thing. At my time there, I was fortunate that we went through a whole rebrand.”
Stephanie shared that she’s always been the type of person who likes playing in the unknown and observing people that know more than her.
“With the rebrand comes [recreating] all of the marketing collateral…and I was really lucky to be able to do all of that activity from the get go.”
The best thing about being a marketer: Delivering a product that has an impact on people’s lives
As the marketing director of the graduate institution, Stephanie shared that the biggest challenge is convincing people of a product that does not only require a financial investment, but a significant investment of people’s time – something that is quite distant from the previous marketing she’s led where products were “household decisions.” But despite this, the reward still outweighs the said challenge, which is being able to help people be closer to a product that would genuinely have a positive impact on their lives.
Stephanie emphasizes that when somebody chooses to study for a master’s degree, they usually choose to do it on top of full-time work, alongside family commitment, and usually at a time of their lives when they’re juggling a lot of other responsibilities.
“Helping people make the commitment and take the plunge or the decision that they’ve probably been thinking about doing for a while, I mean that can be a bit challenging sometimes,” she said.
But Stephanie said the effort is worth it as they get to celebrate milestones with their students, whether it’s “completing their first subject, or hitting the halfway mark, or completing their masters in business.”
Being part of that experience in people’s lives, [it’s just] a really special moment and it’s a privilege really to be part of that after all the hard work that they put in.Stephanie on marketing MBA as a ‘product’
Stephanie admitted that throughout her decade-long journey in the industry, her biggest mentor has always been her dad, who wasn’t even a marketer at all.
The ‘mentorship’ was just sort of an accident when while growing up, she would always hear her dad, who entered entrepreneurship post-navy, introducing himself as someone who did sales and marketing. That stuck into young Stephanie, and grew up wanting to do the ‘same thing’.
“I’m not saving lives but I’m doing sales and marketing,” said Stephanie.
I think the thing that I particularly love though about sales and marketing is just the stories that you get to tell, and then you get to fill things in people’s lives, such as encouraging someone to enroll in an MBA, or whether it’s encouraging someone to order a broadband plan.
As a leader: “keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning.”
Stephanie’s leadership in AIB started in 2018. She said that the kind of leader that she is today is not only because of the ‘great’ leaders she’s met, but also the ‘bad’ ones.
“I may not [always have] great leaders, but I still learn from those [bad] leaders, sometimes it’s about what not to do. More often than not, I learn from the great leaders, and still, everything I do [is] from the great leaders, and the leadership they’ve had over the years and continue to have,” shared Stephanie.
Stephanie said that leadership is something that she doesn’t take lightly at all, as being in such position means you are in a crucial place of having the power to influence the people around you. At the same time, leadership for Stephanie is something that must be sharpened through time.
It’s the type of thing [where] you’re constantly going to be learning [how] to be better. If you keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning, I think that’s an important thing to do.Stephanie on leadership
Advice for budding marketers: “If an opportunity presents [itself], go after it.”
Stephanie believes that there really isn’t such a thing as failure. She’s always applied the view that opportunities must be grabbed, and with this go-getter attitude, she knows failures are inevitable.
“On my point of view, I’ve always [taken] the approach that if an opportunity presents itself, go after it. With that comes the risk of failing at it, or not doing a great job.”
And this same philosophy is what she hopes aspiring marketers to carry – to not be afraid of challenges and to bravely own the multitude of opportunities before you as one is only able to figure out the ‘perfect’ opportunity and hone their expertise as they go along.
[From] one opportunity, another one presents itself, and then another one, and you’ll be surprised [what] you end up doing
Most importantly, she advises, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the newest person on the team, if you’re the youngest [or] the oldest, or if you’re the least experienced, or the most experienced; if you ever have an idea, don’t question whether it’s a good idea; I think you should always bring those ideas forward.”
Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Stephanie on Spotify:
This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth.