Vol. 18
Going On an Adventure with Emma Sharley

Emma Sharley

June 2016

An ambassador for good causes and constant learning, Emma’s story is one of fearless passion and drive to make a change while avoiding nay-sayers on an adventure to achieve her personal goals. A marketing strategist, ambassador for female entrepreneurs and mentor to those wanting to follow in her footsteps.

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Emma Sharley--- 23 April 2016

By Lorenzo Princi

What does Emma do?

I’m a marketing consultant and I work with small to medium businesses and also larger corporates on marketing projects across strategy, brand development and digital as well… I work with quite a few different partners that are brought in where needed. So, it might be a specialist in UX (User Experience) or a developer (software programmer) or graphic designer. So that’s my core day-to-day and then I also have a couple of side-projects that I work on, one’s around the future of work and then a couple of charities and not-for-profits that I work with on a volunteer basis as well.

What drew you to a career in marketing or a least to tailor your studies in that direction?

Yeah, yep, when I was at school I loved maths and design and at the time I was quite confused as to why I liked both because to me they were quite separate, one was very analytical and the other one was very creative. So when I was deciding what to do I chose a double architecture and bachelor of commerce. Started that process, then I realised the elements to marketing had a bit of that or a lot of that analytical element in it combined with the creative and campaign development. So I got really excited by it and I finished the degree and I’m a person who always learns by doing rather than by being taught what to do. So, I was quite burnt out after uni and I didn’t really want to face the job search and all that so I got on a plane and back-packed around Europe which was awesome-- did that for three months and then landed in London where I started working in marketing and-- yeah, what I realised is, I think, it’s extremely creative whether you're looking at the data and how to draw insights from that or whether you’re looking at it from a visual point of view and I think in marketing now, creativity is something that’s celebrated a lot more than it was ten years ago and it’s great because I’m able to you know obviously-- I love the area-- so able to work a lot in that.

"It’s extremely creative whether you're looking at the data and how to draw insights from that or whether you’re looking at it from a visual point of view."
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What drove you to leave South Australia and how did you find your time in the UK?

It was literally just to go adventure to be honest, I didn’t have a plan. I-- like I said, had been studying, I decided probably three months out from the completion of my degree that I wanted to do that. So took on three jobs to get the money-- very last minute. Got on the plane and went out-- went over. But I think having that break was brilliant, because it was a good refresh, reset and then enabled me when I got to London to really pursue the marketing and pursue it quite hard. So, starting with working at Lord’s, cricket ground-- was my first marketing job and absolutely loved it because it was something that was quite new, it was in a new country but it was also new sector as well, in sport’s marketing and got to know everything about cricket so [laughs], just, which was just-- you know, always comes in handy [laughs]. I think they hired me because I was Australian? Because when I first went there I didn’t know anything and then learnt everything.

That was good and then moved around to T-Mobile and Diane Von Fürstenberg-- so a couple of different industries. The marketing-- I guess the marketing strategy theory behind what you’re doing can be applied to different industries and I’ve always taken the view that it’s really important to look outside your core industry, whether that’s through working in another one or just by having a view or being connected to what’s happening in another industry because it can always bring new value to what you’re doing.

"It was literally just to go adventure to be honest, I didn’t have a plan."
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You were back in Adelaide after a year or so, working for Bank SA. How did you find being back in a smaller city working for a financial institution?

Yeah, definitely, it was a big change because it was obviously a move from London to Adelaide, so there were changes that came with that. At that point in time London-- UK and Europe was a lot more advanced in marketing, particularly around customer experience, so if we look at marketing, like, twenty years ago it was very much a one-dimensional, one-directional conversation with the customer and in Europe-- UK and Europe at that time, you started to see that two-way conversation emerge, where brands were actually putting customers at the beginning and working out what they want and the developing products and services around that. So I got to play around with those elements and obviously digital was coming into its foray as well at that time. So, T-Mobile for example were building-- I helped to build their first website, etc. So those two elements were missing when I came back.

So, financial services is quite a risk-adverse industry as well so to overlay that on to the two existing things-- it was completely different marketing that I was doing. Great experience, I was working with a good team but I decided then to really look outside of financial and look to the next thing and spent quite a bit of time working out what industry I wanted to pursue and specialise in going forward and that was retail. I loved-- I worked in retail when I was at uni, I loved the fast pace of being-- selling fashion, beauty and all of that and being with the customer. I looked to Westfield as being one of the leaders, globally, in that industry. So, I reached out to them and working with them in Adelaide and that was brilliant because you had-- obviously you’re marketing the brand but then you’re working with a whole bunch of retailers, up to three or four hundred depending on what location you’re in. So, therefore you’re getting a lot of that fast paced environment, you’re getting more of that customer focused marketing and at that time they were more advanced in digital then were I had come from.

"It’s really important to look outside your core industry."
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You spent a majority of your career at Westfield, why leave such an iconic Australian company to start your own consultancy?

So I worked for Westfield for six years across SA (South Australia) and New South Wales and Victoria. So, got loads of experience, worked with a lot of amazingly talented people, however there was always this little entrepreneurial ideas and thoughts that I’d kind of had just sitting there and I didn’t-- wasn’t really nurturing them. I then came to Sydney two years ago and they just kept getting stronger because I think in Sydney you’ve got-- it’s a great melting pot of people who are working across a number of industries. A lot of motivation and a lot of global companies here and I was getting really, really inspired so I decided to take the step and start my own thing.

I was a hundred percent that I wanted to make that move but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what I was going to do once I got into that. So, I took a week off, went back to Adelaide, worked out a couple, you know, strategies to get off the ground and then spent the next three months just working out where there was demand in the industry because my background was-- generalist in marketing, so I was working with specialists and I was a generalist across a lot of different fields so in terms of working out where the demand was across campaign development strategy, social media, digital. I took some time to do that and then after three months worked out where the niche was and built my business plan from there.

So it was literally a jump in the beginning and I think-- I didn’t listen-- I actually didn’t tell anyone when I was doing it apart from my parents because I thought, “if this all goes pear shaped then they’d need to kind of know where I am, what I’m doing, etc” [laughs]. But I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell any friends, I just-- yeah, obviously resigned and went from there because I didn’t want anyone to influence my decision and potentially talk me around.

"I didn’t want anyone to influence my decision and potentially talk me around."
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What have been the challenges so far?

The one challenge would be, the switching off. So, yes, when you’re working in a business or corporate environment yes you do check emails at night and on the weekend but at the end of the day the accountability lies-- is shared. So, it’s with you and then the company you are working for and then on your own, it’s completely one hundred percent with you so switching off particularly in the first six months wasn’t really a thing and I was working nights and working weekends and got to a point when I realised, “this is great because I’m getting results and working on some great projects but at the end of the day that refresh and reset is really important in terms of doing my best work.” So was able to scale things back a little bit so I wasn’t working like a crazy woman [laughs].

And, yeah, so now I feel like I’ve got more of that balance but it is-- it is a weekly thing that I’m really conscious of. Maintaining the balance because it easily can slip one way. Along with that comes the freedom you get, working for yourself. So yes, you’re always on but at the same time if I do work on the weekend, there’s no reason why I can’t take half a day off or a full day off during the week if I choose to.

"I’ve got more of that balance but it is-- it is a weekly thing that I’m really conscious of. Maintaining the balance because it easily can slip one way."
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Aside from your day job, you also have a keen interest in the promotion of women in business, you're an ambassador for The League of Extraordinary Women, why is this important to you and what does it entail?

Absolutely, yeah. It was really, really important to me when I first stepped out I didn’t have a network of-- a strong network of entrepreneurs and people that were doing what I was doing and I think that’s one of the best things anyone can have when they’re working on their own or working in that environment-- is to have people to bounce ideas off and share challenges with because all the opportunities and challenges are completely different to working in a corporate business environment. So I made a really conscious effort in those first three months to go to as many events as I could. I reached out to people for coffees-- people that you know, had been doing it for a couple of years, people that were starting out and formed some awesome relationships that I still have now, where if I’ve got a problem or you know something to talk through I can easily pick up the phone and bounce it off that person.

Particularly, at that time I was working from home so that was paramount because it got me out of the house and I think in marketing and a lot of the creative industries you thrive off feedback-- not feedback but you thrive off hearing other people’s ideas and conversations and all of that. So, that became really important to me and I realise how beneficial it had been so I decided to get involved with The League (of Extraordinary Women) which is a community of female entrepreneurs and it’s across Australia and yeah we’ve had a few events and they’ve been great. We’ve got some awesome partnerships with General Assembly and we had one this week with Microsoft and we’ve got one coming up talking about wellness, peace-- so you know, the art of balance in the-- in business when you’re working for yourself but it’s been great because people can come together-- the social element and you learn something at the same time, so yeah...

You're also an instructor for General Assembly, how do you find sharing your knowledge and experience with those wanting to enter in the industry.

Yes, yeah, I have been-- I followed GA (General Assembly) from when they first made tracks in Sydney, obviously coming out from New York and I always absolutely loved what they’ve done because it’s the first time you’ve really seen the education system transformed and it’s so accessible. So the amount of events and workshops they do for free and you’ve got the short and long term courses-- anyone can go no matter what industry you're in, what environment you're in. So I was going to quite a few of the events and workshops in the beginning and from there setting up partnerships with them obviously through The League (of Extraordinary Women) and a few other things and then they asked me to take branding workshops and I’ve had three to date and I’ve got a couple coming up and I love it because you’ve got a whole mix of people in the room. Some are looking to move out and do their own thing, others are just looking to strengthen their skills in brand and marketing and others want to apply it for their own business if they're a solo business operator.

So we-- yeah it’s great being able to share my experience but also adapt it for where they are and their situation and then there is always one on one sessions where we go through particular business strategies and market strategies and see what I can help them with and often there’s always connections made in the room between the group so yeah it’s fun. I love it!

"It’s the first time you’ve really seen the education system transformed and it’s so accessible."
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You're passionate about innovation, this is something a lot of companies (especially larger ones) are focused on in the digital age. Why are you passionate about it and what are the challenges in driving it within an established organisation?

I think-- I love innovation because I love doing things differently and building on what’s been done before to make it better or to make a campaign better or a service better, whatever it may be. There’s a tendency within marketing to roll things out; the same campaign out, the same strategy because it’s worked before and I’ve always believed there’s a-- you need to iterate, you need to stay on the forefront of your industry, you need to make sure you’re giving your customer what they need but also that you are constantly evolving so you're ahead of your competitors.

I think fostering innovation can be challenging within the larger firms, I have seen so much benefit from being on the ground so to speak. So I work in a co-working space, Desk X Space with a lot of other entrepreneurs, consultants and the amount of insight and knowledge and you know, fresh ideas that comes from that has been incredibly beneficial for my business and also when I’m working with clients. When you’re in a corporate environments your schedule is absolutely packed [laughs] with internal meetings, presentations, etc and that external view can be quite limited just because of constraints when it comes to time. So I find not being behind a computer screen the whole day, being out there talking to people, meeting people, seeing people and seeing new concepts and all of that has been very beneficial-- yeah, I’d love to see more companies place the importance of that external focus and encourage their employees to be out on the ground, whether that’s just through conferences or whether it’s something more than that-- yeah I’d love to see that.

"There’s a tendency within marketing to roll things out; the same campaign out, the same strategy because it’s worked before."

What’s next for Emma Sharley?

I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline that I’m really excited about, so looking at overseas. So, I’ve got a couple of clients in Asia that I’m talking to and I’ve got a trip coming up in-- going to New York in September that’s from a research point of view to see what’s happening in retail. There’s nothing that you can compare to the on the ground learning you can get so going to-- I’ve seen some amazing things that have come out in the last sort of six months that include America that are-- they’re leading the way when it comes to in-store experience and design.

So going over there-- a couple of people to talk and hopefully set some things up. I see so much benefit in taking a global approach to everything you do because at the end of the day that’s how our marketplaces operate now and particularly when you look at the customer of today, they’re extremely well-travelled, extremely savvy and attuned to everything that’s going on, so you really need to keep up so you can deliver really exciting marketing initiatives and innovation that meets that.

"I see so much benefit in taking a global approach to everything you do because at the end of the day that’s how our marketplaces operate now and particularly when you look at the customer of today, they’re extremely well-travelled, extremely savvy and attuned to everything that’s going on, so you really need to keep up so you can deliver really exciting marketing initiatives and innovation that meets that."
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Find Emma at emmasharley.com

Proofreading by Luke Yates. Photography by Lorenzo Princi.