In July, Airtasker announced the appointment of Noelle Kim as the new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to lead the company’s rapid ramp up in global marketing investment. Following the company’s successful IPO in March, Kim’s unrivalled expertise from stints at Facebook, Instagram and Google, will help to drive Airtasker forward as it expands in Australia, the US & the UK.
We sat down with Noelle to discuss her new role and the unpredictable path that comes with working in tech.
Firstly, congratulations on your new role with Airtasker. What was the recruitment process like? How did Airtasker lure you away from such a mega brand like Facebook and what excites you about this new position?
Thank you! What attracted me to Airtasker is that it is such a great Aussie success story that we are exporting to the world. The biggest challenge for a product like Airtasker is getting product-market fit but the team has absolutely nailed in an infinitely horizontal services marketplace, which is something no-one else globally has been able to achieve.
Throughout my career, I’ve chosen roles where I’m always learning and pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I thrive in environments that are more entrepreneurial and whilst I have worked at some of the world’s largest organisations I have consistently found pockets that were more start-up-like in its culture. My experience working on global brands particularly in one of our key markets (US) means I am well poised to tackle the next challenge for Airtasker.
In terms of the recruitment process, it was one of the things that sealed the deal for me. Each stage of the process was really well thought out. Each person I met through the process really lived the values of the company. Finally our mission to help people to realise the full value of their skills is something that resonates deeply with me particularly in this environment where the way people make a living is rapidly being challenged and evolving. We are having a material impact on people’s livelihoods and I don’t know many businesses that can say that.
With such an impressive resume, it would be easy to assume your career has been a seamless upward journey with little setbacks, is that the case?
I take failure hard and I think the most memorable for me was when I started off my career in marketing. Fresh out of school I interviewed for an ABM role at an FMCG and as I had been working at my parents supermarket for years, I felt I understood the problem space intimately. They had 2,000 applicants and I was one of two in the final round and was unsuccessful. I remember distinctly how upset I was and I did everything I could to find out what I needed to do to be successful the next time. Which in those days meant writing a letter and sending it in the post (when they don’t answer your call). Eventually I got a response and I made it my mission to collect the skills they felt I was slacking in and consequently landed my dream job as an ABM on Milo.
From that experience each time I assessed new opportunities I made sure I was collecting skills and experience that would help me get to my longer term career objectives which at times meant moving sideways with my move to Google or working on high risk products like Google Glass to get there.
You’ve been described as someone who has successfully optimised your career while achieving the family lifestyle you want to create, what advice would you give to new parents – particularly mothers – in the tech sector who are finding the career/parenting juggle a challenge?
The number one decision you make in having a successful career is the partner you choose. I think this is something that people don’t consciously think about, but it has an outsized impact on what you are able to achieve and how happy you can be achieving it. I am incredibly lucky to have a husband who truly pushes me to be a better professional and constantly challenges me to tackle new and big problems.
He challenged me to think about the life we want to live and how we can design our lives around that life vs. managing the children whilst continuing our course in our respective careers. That approach leads to very different answers and as a result we have taken breaks at different moments or chosen unconventional jobs to be able to be there for our children during the years we deemed important whilst still learning as professionals. For example my husband went from being an executive at Airbnb to becoming a seller on Amazon.
I think particularly in tech there are deliberate ways you can approach designing your career path to optimise for the life you want to live if you ask yourself the right questions.
On that note, many tech companies are doing their part to be more inclusive and flexible, what key challenges remain to attract women (especially women of colour) to the sector and what steps can companies take to remove these barriers?
I feel fortunate to live in a period where D&I is taken so seriously and working in tech where we are at the forefront of that challenge. An important thing to recognise is that diversity means different things depending on the role, country, industry and organisation. For some it is about gender equality, others it is about race, age or even about bringing in diverse thoughts through recruiting from different industries. The first step is to understand the gaps and have a business committed to D&I because they truly buy in the benefits vs. simply jumping on the bandwagon.
At Airtasker gender-inclusivity was already one of the areas of focus and they used a D&I consultant to help make their hiring process as attractive to women as possible. Whilst the review found that Airtasker already had a great process, there were a few changes they implemented to ensure they were encouraging female candidates to apply:
- Using non-gendered language in role descriptions and career page content
- Being clear on essential vs. non-essential requirements for a role.
- Being clear on the benefits Airtasker offers, such as flexibility and parental leave
- Striving for gender representation amongst assessors
You’ve spent a big part of your career working for American companies and brands. How does it differ working with an Australian company and brand? What are some of the adjustments you are making to your business approach?
What I love about American countries and America overall is the belief in “the dream.” It is an almost naive optimism around the belief that anything is possible which is one of the parts I love about US culture. Australia on the other hand approaches things with a bit more realistic pragmatism and we root for the underdog, the battler.
When you combine these two things together you are able to judiciously make smart bets about how to grow and strengthen your business. Tim [Fung, Airtasker Co-founder and CEO] is the personification of the two great things about both markets in many respects as he has the optimism of the US rooted in the pragmatism of Australia.
Personally, I have always said I am a business person first and a marketer second and that is the perspective I will be bringing to the role of CMO at Airtasker. In practical terms that means you prioritize driving business value and that you ensure you are accountable for your marketing investments.
You join Airtasker at an exciting time of growth, what is your vision for the future of the brand?
My main goal for Airtasker is to build on what is already a wonderful product and see us fulfil our mission of helping people realise the value of their skills. In a marketplace like Airtasker there is always a tension between supply and demand and what I am excited about is really doubling down on our efforts in supporting our incredible Taskers. We have such an engaged community and a real opportunity to have an economic impact in our Taskers lives.
From a customer standpoint In 3-5 years regardless of what country you are in I would love it if Airtasker is the brand that comes to mind when you want to get anything done and in turn people are able to not only tick off more from their to do list but are inspired to achieve things beyond that list.
As part of this, I will be building out our product, brand and growth marketing teams to help us achieve our international ambitions (so please reach out if you know strong talent!).