Hailing from the Manning-Great Lakes, Kelly McCarren has built an amazing career, landing the plum role of Digital PR Manager for Australia’s biggest online fashion retailer – Showpo. We caught up with Kelly recently, to find out more about her amazing career…
What’s your connection with the area, Kelly?
I was born in Sydney but moved to the Forster-Tuncurry area when I was five, as my parents decided they didn’t want to bring kids up in the city. My dad is the station officer at the Ambulance branch and mum is a TAFE teacher; so they’ve both been working locally since we moved 25 years ago!
I went to Tuncurry Public School (and literally can still recite that school song word for word) but due to some pretty horrendous bullying, moved to a private school 40 minutes away for high school, as my parents wanted me to have a fresh start.
You’re in Sydney now, so how often do you make it back to the area?
Every year, without fail, I come home for Christmas, and it’s honestly just the best. The area is so chill, and I love the beach, so being able to access it so easily (without paying for parking, parking a 15 minute walk away, dealing with hordes of people etc.) is phenomenal.
Throughout the year, I try to come up for a weekend every few months. I’d like to come home more, as I love it, but can’t get away as often as I like. I’m actually getting married locally in November, so will be back more as that date moves closer.
How did you end up working with Showpo?
After completing a Bachelor of Communications, and being employed briefly as a Marketing Assistant, I began working in the marketing department of the international skincare brand – L’Occitane. I loved this job, the brand and was sent all over the country, which – at 23 years of age – was a great opportunity and gave me a much stronger work ethic.
After a stint living in the USA, where I took some time out from work (mainly due to the fact I couldn’t work, as I didn’t have a work visa), I came back to Australia and started working in online publishing again, and although the job wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, the skills I learnt and the people I met were exactly what I needed after not working while being in the USA.
A bit over three years ago, I was feeling super bored and started putting feelers out about getting a new job. A friend put me in touch with her friend, who was a recruiter who mentioned a role I might be interested in at Showpo (for those who don’t know – Showpo is Australia’s biggest online fashion retailer. We sell to over 100 countries, are on an $85 million run rate, and have a social media following of over four million).
I hadn’t really heard much about Showpo but knew my sister had bought me a few dresses from there over the years. So I started researching more into the company and was so impressed and decided I DESPERATELY wanted a job with them. I put together a 10-page PowerPoint presentation, with ideas of how to improve current marketing processes and new strategies I wanted to execute.
When Jane Lu (Showpo CEO) and I met, it was the working/friend equivalent of love at first sight, and the pair of us just laughed our way through the interview – and yes, she liked my nerdy presentation! This eventually resulted in me landing the role of Digital PR Manager for Showpo (I was the 14th hire in a small penthouse office space in the CBD). As it was just me and the Chief Marketing Officer in the marketing team, I got to learn about and work in every channel, including influencers, social, styling, shoots, video, PR, and events, which was fab.
Because of my background in publishing, I decided to start a “Showpo blog” as a free and easy way to organically reach new audiences, while also offering more than “just shopping” to our current audience. The blog is now a hub of content, reaching over half a million people each month and contributing a big chunk of traffic.
I also got more involved with video and after producing a few that went viral, realised I had a knack for that channel too. So, three years later, I head up our social, content and video team, and we now have more than 150 team members spread between a giant office space in the CBD and an even bigger warehouse in Chullora.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
If you want to work online, you need to completely get rid of the notion of a 9 – 5 job. I need to be contactable all the time, and a typical day reflects that! I check emails, social stats, internal company messages, and Google analytics as soon as I wake up and respond to anything urgent. As an example of something that needs to be answered urgently, I have offshore agents who work during the night, so they might have a customer complaint about a photo or meme we posted, and I need to sign off on a response.
I get in about 9:30 and catch up with the team, very casually discussing what everyone is working on that day. The morning is for meetings, so I might have internal meetings about upcoming campaigns and projects, or I might have an external meeting – anything from a strategy session at Google (yes, they really do have the best snacks), to a preview showing of upcoming Sephora launches. After lunch is generally when I work on projects, so I might be at my desk, headphones on and concentrating, or upstairs in our studio filming or shooting product.
Later in the arvo is when I work on the team’s task list, plan for the next week, respond to their queries etc. If I don’t have another event after work, I might meet up with friends for a drink and dinner, or I go to the gym and go home to work more (like I said, it’s not 9 – 5). I’m also planning a wedding, do podcasting, and freelance work, so this is generally when I work on these projects too.
What do you love most about your work?
The people and the opportunities and never knowing what’s next. This time last year I had no idea what was going to happen this year and so far in 2019, I’ve spent five weeks in New York and two weeks in California for Coachella; I’ve starred in our bridal shoot and rolled out nine campaigns; I’ve recorded 43 podcast episodes, and an article about my mood went viral – I hate the idea of doing the same thing all the time, so if you’re the same, you probably belong online!
High points so far?
Working with Showpo on extending our size range from 6 – 14 to 4 – 20, including using women of all shapes and sizes consistently through the campaign imagery and messaging.
Our bridal launch this year was also pretty damn amazing, and next year, people might also be able to buy the dress I wear on my wedding day! Being recognised in the industry and given opportunities externally to Showpo has also been great; I currently co-host a Mamamia podcast (soon to be two) and also host/MC events, which is so fun!
Advice for anyone with aspirations of working in an industry such as fashion?
Learn, absorb as much information as possible, and work your a@#e off. Apply for jobs in smaller companies, as they’re more likely to take on people with limited experience, and once you’re there, you’ll be able to work in many different departments, which will teach you skills and also help you figure out what you’re actually interested in.
As an example, an intern at Showpo might be interested in buying, but then realise graphic design is more their jam. Learn and teach yourself skills. If you’re interested in the design side of fashion, start a sketch pad and pin all the designs you like to a Pinterest mood board, immersing yourself in trends. If you want to be a buyer, learn Excel – and I mean advanced Excel skills!
If social is more your thing, start a side Instagram and test different things out, read articles, look for trends in the algorithm and look at what accounts with high engagement are doing. All of these things can be taught via YouTube tutorials – or enrol in a TAFE course! You might even get my mum as your teacher!
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.