Real Career Girls: Meet Stacey Cavanagh, Head of Search at Tecmark

Stacey Cavanagh

Meet Stacey Cavanagh,  a woman who will share valuable advice about her experience working in online marketing. This interview is especially interesting as she provides a different perspective as someone outside the United States making a name for herself. Visit her personal blog, Blogsession.

Tell me about your gig… what do you do?

I’m in digital marketing. I work as Head of Search for a UK agency called Tecmark. We basically help businesses to drive new customers to their site through search, social and content marketing across mobile, tablet and desktop.

I head up a team of really creative and talented people, which is, to be honest, an absolute pleasure.

 How did this path open up to you?

Back in 2009, I was doing a lot of freelance copywriting and this question of ‘optimisation’ for content kept coming up. That let me into exploring SEO and I just loved it. That made me want to learn in an agency environment and I applied for a junior role with Tecmark. Obviously, that worked out well and as the company has grown, so have the opportunities for me to expand my skill set and build a team.

What is your advice to career chicks out there who want to ROCK in 2014?

Set goals, keep learning and love what you do. There’s not a single week passes that I don’t learn something new in my role and it keeps me loving my job. It’s loving my job that makes me want to work hard at it.

How does a chick like you keep it all together? Do you have a routine or trick to keep balance?

I’m pretty flexible in terms of what ‘balance’ means. I work Monday to Friday but that doesn’t mean I won’t answer an email or take a quick call out of hours. And to me, that’s not a big deal and doesn’t impede on what people would call the work-life balance.

To me, balance is making sure I have a bit of everything in my life that matters to me: family time, time with friends, work and time with my better half. So I use weekends and holidays to the full.

I also try to make time for my one guilty pleasure a few times a week…. Watching the soaps!

Who is your role model? Famous or not?

I think what Marissa Mayer has achieved is incredible. Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg is a really impressive professional role model.

But (at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy) the three people who have had the most influence on me are my Mum, Auntie and Nan. They instilled in me from a very, very young age a good work ethic. And they made sure I knew that nothing worth having comes without a healthy combination of hard work and ambition. They’re some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever come across.

Tell me about what it is like to speak at conferences?

Nerve-wracking, of course. But I love it. It’s such a privilege to speak to people about something you love so much. And speaking at conferences means you also get to listen to other speakers, do a lot of networking and meet more people, which is brilliant.

Do you have a personal mantra or motto you live by?

Always keep learning.

I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where there is always something new happening. But I think in any job or just in life in general, if you think you’ve figured everything out, you’re wrong.

Tell us about your first job after university. Was it what you expected?

I went freelance so I was working for myself. It was brilliant to have the freedom of not being confined to set hours in a set location. And it was a buzz to be ultimately responsible for ensuring I had enough work on. But I really thrive in a team environment and freelancing didn’t offer me that.

What has been the toughest part about growing your department at your current company?

Finding the right people, without a doubt. Digital marketing has changed almost beyond recognition since 2009 and the skill sets needed have changed.
There are so many things to consider: transferrable skills, ability to pick new ones up, commercial understanding, confidence in communication … Getting the right people is absolutely critical. And actually, we’ve found that some of our best recruits have been very junior but with a great aptitude for picking it up and with a good transferrable skill.

I have the pleasure of working with some incredible people at Tecmark, but it’s fair to say that a lot of hard work goes into recruiting to make sure we’re getting the right people.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start work in your field?

Entry-level roles are highly competed for. Our last advertised role attracted almost 400 applications.
The people we shortlisted were those who were able to demonstrate a genuine understanding of what we do and of the Internet’s role in business on the whole.

It does you no harm to have done a lot of research in your own time to the particular channel you are looking to break into (e.g. SEO or PPC) and to have run your own little project on the side. Even if it’s just your own blog and your own social presence. If you’ve invested some of your own time into building something online, it shows a clear passion. If you don’t know what PPC stands for, this article provides a handy primer to understanding AdWords.

Try and get internships or work experience wherever you can. That will be vital. Building up a contact book of people in the industry who will vouch for you can do no harm!

What career advice would you give to women who are just starting out after university?

Whatever it is you’re doing, I think you have to be prepared and eager to start out in junior roles and take all the learning and knowledge you can from whoever you can. Whether you’re a PHD or you’re 18 and fresh out of school, you have to go into anything prepared to start out assuming you know very little and be open to learning.

Also, prospective employees may well Google you! Be as impressive online (whether it’s LinkedIn, your own blog, Twitter or whatever public online media you are using) as you would be in an interview.

How did you know this was the path for you?

I knew I was interested in this before I started at Tecmark. But it was when I started at Tecmark that I was completely convinced it was for me. When I started at Tecmark, I was reporting into (and being trained by) Kevin Jones, who is a ridiculously talented SEO and general web marketing guy. I was learning crazy amounts every single day and woke up genuinely excited about going to work each day. I was enjoying myself at work. It was at that point I figured this was definitely for me for the long term.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.