In conversation with…Kate Mackie

As the Global Marketing Director at EY, Kate is very busy.

She joined EY in 2016 as Global BMC Leader for Tax and now leads the Global integrated Marketing pillar across the function for the firm.

She has so little time, and yet she takes the time to coach and help others. We met her at a coaching session a few months back and wanted to hear her story.

And what a story it is.

What was your first-ever job?

My parents were ahead of their time back in the 80s’, with a focus on the environment and slow food. They had a communal allotment when I was growing up and I was part of a group of kids that helped across the allotments in exchange for pocket money. I think working young really helped me; it gave me a sense of grit from an early age. That’s something I would like my kids to learn too.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with / go for a drink with?

I’m interested in people who look at the world from a different perspective. We’re so focused on ourselves, our echo chambers and what we do that we often forget that other people can give us the context we’ve been missing. For this reason, I’d be excited to meet Marie Colvin – a legendary war reporter who shone a spotlight on local conflicts and those suffering as a consequence. Her reporting was amazing – she just strikes me as someone you should have had a large glass of whisky with whilst listening to her stories. I also hugely admire Dr Jane Goodall, and her ability to spread hope and turn it into positive action. That’s how real impact is made.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

I’m above all interested in ‘unravelling spaghetti’ – problem solving, understanding the big picture,  whilst building better customer insight and showing how your work delivers impact. I think the highlights of my career all relate to this transformative process of proving and disproving hypotheses in some way or other. The best example is probably when I lead the marketing team that built an award-winning online savings bank from scratch in just under twelve months.

Nature or nurture?

Before I had children, I would have pointed squarely at nature. Now I see it as balance. Children have different personalities from the day they are born but you can absolutely influence them. It’s up to society to do this well; to nurture the next generation. I think it speaks to the power of community that we have seen come to the fore over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic – we need to put time and effort into each other to grow and thrive.

Best advice you ever heard or received?

Simple: “work for your CV – not your boss”. I think that approach fosters a sense of personal responsibility, engenders curiosity alongside the need for determined grit. It means that we should each proactively look and understand the gaps we have in our own CVs. – being aware of, and actively addressing and improving, any skillsets you feel you lack. Know enough to be dangerous. The other advice from my first boss – start pension saving early. You will be grateful one day.

What talent do you yearn for?

If I can interpret a talent as a superpower I would choose the ability to fly. I’m a huge fan of gliding – truly, the next best thing. If I have to pick a less superhuman but impressive skill, I would love to learn to code. It’s a language we all need to understand these days and it will be foundational going forward.

What is your favourite brand and why?

I love purpose-driven brands. Two companies, in particular, come to mind. A friend of mine set up Toast Ale, brewing beer made with surplus bread. I also love the Plastic Bank, which addresses plastic in the oceans by turning them into commodities to resell and support the local community. To me, purpose means thinking about both long and short term value. I think every business has this responsibility: brands are, after all, at the forefront of driving social change because of the power they have with consumers. We have the responsibility to help customers make better choices.

What book do you most recommend to others?

I would recommend anything by Catlin Moran. She’s hilarious and all her books are great. There’s a lot of titles by Malcom Gladwell that I really enjoy with a focus on behavioural economics. I have also recommended ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez to many people. I find the message and the author’s background hugely interesting. Her book is all about how the world has been designed by men, for men – neglecting female needs across everything from medicine and engineering to politics and art.

What last impressed you at work?

I was hugely impressed by EY’s recent carbon-negative announcement and goal to reach net zero by 2025. A whole host of activities have been put in place to enable this that means we’re really walking the walk – not just talking the talk on sustainability.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn? What failure did you learn the most from?

I’m a self-confessed control freak. But we know control doesn’t really exist – it’s an illusion. In reality, you can only control how you react to things and not why or how they happen. I think we all need to be comfortable with adapting to unpredictability. The first step is to see change as a positive; an opportunity to cast off old skin, to optimise and do things better.

What do you want to do when you retire?

I’m not sure I ever will – but I have plenty of things that I want to do more of – such as travelling, reading the pile of half-finished books and continuing to mentor in the Marketing sector. I might also throw myself into studies again. My Grandma is still studying at 92 years old. A Masters in Behavioural Economics would be an interesting place to start…

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