Blog post,  Canberra Communications Professional series,  Communications professional

Canberra Communications Professional series: Emily Curlewis

Emily is the Chief Operations Officer at Veritec, a Canberra-based IT company who specalises in partnering with the public sector through Microsoft solutions. I first met Emily when she had just moved to Canberra and was immediately drawn to her positivity and enthusiasm for our profession. I was so excited to get a profile from her as Emily has had an amazing career working with some of the biggest brands in Australia. This experience means she has a wealth of knowledge to share and I loved the tips she provided throughout.

When did you start in this role?

Two weeks! I joined Veritec about 1.5 years ago following a move to Canberra from Sydney. Since joining my role has evolved with the needs of the business. I originally started in a pure marketing and communications position, but overtime have taken on more responsibility to help run the day-to-day operations and provide strategic leadership across the board.  

What did you do before you joined Veritec?

I worked at PayPal Australia for almost seven years. I originally joined as a Communications Manager but over time I expanded my remit working in social media/brand, marketing, and strategy roles. Prior to that, I worked for consumer PR agency Pulse, which is part of Ogilvy PR (OPR), and before that other tech PR agencies. Agency world was a great place to start my career as it was fast-paced, and I was fortunate to get experience working with varied and established brands including Vodafone, Microsoft, VB, Carlton Draught and LG.  

What does a normal day look like for you?

With all that this year has already thrown at us I am not sure there is a ‘normal’ day currently! But that is what I love about my role. It is varied and each day brings new challenges. Now that I have expanded out of a pure communications role, I can be talking pipeline with my sales team one minute, HR policies the next and our marketing approach the minute after that. But one thing that is constant and consistent is the need to communicate in a clear, compelling, and authentic way – whether that be to our people, our customers, or our partners.

Can you tell us about one of your career highlights?

One highlight I will never forget is leading the Carlton Draught – Wagyu Beef, made from beer campaign which was named ANZ campaign of the year in 2011 at the Asia Pacific Sabre Awards. Essentially, we came up with the idea for a PR campaign that saw us combining two of Australia’s favourite ingredients – Beer and Beef. We fed 20 head of cattle the natural hops and barley ingredients used to make Carlton Draught to create a limited run of beer infused steaks. The campaign saw me working with a farmer near Tamworth and celebrity chefs to generate media buzz and attention. It was a whacky, fun campaign to work on that also exceeded all commercial targets set!  

I know you only asked for one, but another highlight was being a media spokesperson and acting as ‘PayPal Australia’s Shopping Expert’. I was interviewed by many media outlets including the Today Show, Sunrise, Sky Business News, 2UE, ABC Radio, AFR and SMH speaking on digital payments, shopping, and security trends. I really got a buzz out of representing a brand I was passionate about and found it a great experience as a comms professional to be in the hotseat myself.  

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

Whilst I was at PayPal, I was promised quite a big promotion and I was really excited about the opportunity. I remember buzzing in my hotel room in Singapore after my manager at the time had given me the news. Then a global restructure happened, and the role was no longer available. I was really devastated but decided to shake it off, continue to focus on achieving results and being positive in my attitude. I ended up being promoted into a different role in another team and one of the leaders at the time said to me that it was noticed how well I had reacted in response to a setback. Sometimes how you react in certain situations in your career and keeping a calm, level-headed and positive attitude can go a long way.

What changes do you think will occur in communications over the next decade?

I think communications as a profession is at an exciting time. I studied journalism at university and while I never worked as a journalist, I have always been a bit sad watching the changes to the media industry over the years. But with everything that is happening in the world now I think strong communications as a skill set is an important commodity. Whether it be engaging with remote employees or ensuring the general population understands a government directive – clear, concise, and compelling communication is crucial. So, I suppose I am hopeful there is a resurgence in good story telling and connecting through the written word! I think businesses will recognise the need to have strong communicators working for them.

Who inspires you? Why?

My mum. She started her career as a nurse and today works as CEO of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of Australia. She is an amazing mother to my sisters and I, an idolised nanna to her six grandchildren, and she has had a successful career that has evolved over time into various areas. But at her core is a genuinely good person. I am inspired by where her career has taken her without sacrificing the most important job she does – being my mum!  I can only hope that I can inspire my children in a similar way.

What is your favourite podcast or book?

I love ‘Chat 10 Looks 3’ and wish I could be like Annabel and Leigh! Early on in my career I also sat in the studio audience of Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope and ever since then have loved his interview style so often enjoy his ‘Interview with Andrew Denton’ podcasts on the drive to Sydney. I just finished Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s book: ‘Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons’ – it was a really engaging read and I loved the different perspectives of female leaders included throughout

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why?

My dad, Ian Birks was a committed and passionate advocate for the ICT industry. I have him to thank for pursuing a career in the tech industry. I have loved working with technology brands throughout my career as the IT industry is fast paced and always evolving which is where I thrive. Sadly, Dad died five years ago, and despite a successful career he still had so much to give. It was amazing to hear the stories from those that worked with dad in terms of the impact he had on them – he had a reputation for being a trusted advisor to many and a passionate, fair, and authentic leader who laughed every day. His guidance has shaped the leader I am today, and his legacy motivates me to keep achieving in my career.

If you could share one tip with other communications professionals what would it be?

Never underestimate the power of being able to communicate well and how those skills can be applied in many areas of business. Communication is your superpower – go forth and conquer!

A bit more about Emily

Emily is a leader with deep experience working in strategic marketing, communications, and operations leadership roles. In her current role, she leads the day-to-day operations and help shape the strategic direction of Gold Microsoft Partner, Veritec . She is responsible for leading the marketing & comms, talent, and sales team.

At PayPal, Emily was responsible for driving customer engagement and building the brand in Australia. She also led the strategic direction for PayPal Australia’s Social Media presence and acted as PayPal’s Shopping expert – regularly representing the brand as a spokesperson for media talking all things related to online shopping tips and trends!

Emily thrives in fast-paced environments and has a reputation for possessing strong stakeholder management skills and for providing energy, leadership and strategic guidance to the team. She am a passionate customer champion and loves being a part of high performing teams who deliver great work aligned to commercial targets. She is passionate about being an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

You can read more about Emily on her LinkedIn profile.

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