MSc in Marketing Practice ’12
After two-and-a-half years travelling the world as part of Alltech’s events team, Tara Moran joined digital publishing company Maximum Media – owner of brands such as JOE.ie and Her.ie – where she is now agency sales director. For the last two years she has been included in the Sunday Business Post’s ‘30 under 30’ people to watch in Irish tech.
About Tara Moran
Tell us about your background and early career
I’m from Galway and did a bachelor of commerce international with Spanish at University College Galway. In third year I did my Erasmus in Madrid and that was a great experience. All the subjects – marketing, economics, and so on – were done through Spanish which was a challenge as languages never came naturally to me.
In my final year in Galway, I specialised in marketing. Then, graduating in the middle of a recession, I felt the best thing to do was stay in college. I had my heart set on doing the MSc in marketing practice at Smurfit because it was a practical course that was going to give me real, credible experience.
I took a year off to get some marketing experience and to save, with the hope that I would get selected for it. For the first six months I was working full-time in my aunt’s cafe and doing promotions for a night club in Galway on the side, as well as promotions and odd jobs for my brother’s business. Every hour of my week in those six months was scheduled.
For the rest of the year I got a job as a sales and marketing exec at my local hotel in Claregalway. I was working very closely with the owners because it’s such a small hotel. That was a phenomenal learning experience and allowed me to see how effectively marketing can work for a small business in a niche category.
I was accepted into the marketing development programme and started in September. We were exposed to some of the biggest businesses in Ireland working on actual projects for them so that was incredible. It was very intense and flared up my competitive side, which I didn’t think I had.
After the course ended, I joined Alltech – an American company headquartered in Kentucky with its European HQ in Co Meath. Events are the company’s biggest marketing tool and I joined as an event executive which was an extremely exciting role. It was very fast-paced – we were doing events all over Ireland and Europe, including the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014, of which Alltech was the title sponsor.
It was so intense – I spent two and a half years at Alltech, which we used to joke was on a par with ten years in another job. At the end of it I was looking for a role that would allow me do less travelling so I could be closer to home and family.
During my time at Alltech, I used to tweet quite a lot about where I was and what I was doing. That is where I first came across my now boss, Niall McGarry, who I then met at a Maximum Media launch of a new website. They were looking for someone with a marketing background to join the sales team. As a long time follower of JOE & Her I was a huge fan of what the company were doing. I was excited but nervous to make that step from marketing into sales, but the role really was the perfect fit for me.
What is your current role and what do you do?
We work with media agencies, and directly with clients, on advertising and content partnerships across Maximum Media’s websites and social platforms, including JOE, Her, HerFamily and SportsJOE. Anyone who wants to advertise with Maximum Media comes through the sales team. The brand gives us a brief, tells us what they are looking to achieve, who they are looking to target. We take that and work with the teams internally to pitch back what we think is the best strategy and content to engage with their target audience. My job covers the start to finish of that cycle: from idea generation to pitching the strategy, setting the goals and plan to achieve success, the costs associated, closing the sale with the brand and agency and managing the relationship with both throughout. It’s at a really interesting intersection between marketing and sales.
We’re very target driven and it does demand a high level of workload. That’s the part I like: if it was too easy I wouldn’t be doing it.
What motivates you?
I love working on a new challenge, something more difficult than I’ve tried to achieve before, something bigger or even something completely new. Sometimes, there’s a moment where you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and you’re wondering is this even possible. Some people hate that feeling and start to get nervous, whereas I am motivated by that. I love when it comes to the part where nobody’s quite sure what needs to be done to pull everything off.
What’s your leadership style?
The structure in Maximum Media is quite flat, and it was similarly in my old role. I’ve learned a lot about the kind of leadership style that I work best under and also what doesn’t work for me. I think in teams where you work with so many different people, your leadership style has to vary depending on who you are leading.
As I’m progressing in my career I’d like to think so are my leadership skills and I’ve learned a lot from my experiences to date. I like to lead by example. I’d never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.
Who or what has influenced or inspired you?
Any of the people I’ve worked with so far. I’ve worked for four very inspiring people, including Niall McGarry in Maximum Media and Dr Pearse Lyons in Alltech. Every person I’ve worked for has been extremely entrepreneurial and successful in business, and also placed a huge importance on family. I love that.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
In 2015 I ran the Dublin Marathon. The team in work had a client that wanted to recruit someone from team JOE and someone from team Her to learn to run a marathon. I wasn’t a runner at all but I was excited about the challenge. At the start, running one mile was absolute misery but I slowly got better. I trained four times a week for four and a half months. But for a long time I really wasn’t sure I could do it. My last long run, three weeks out from the marathon was the first time I thought I could do it. I ran 20 miles, all around Phoenix Park and down the coast as far as Dun Laoghaire. I ran so far I had to get a train and a taxi home! Then on the day of the marathon, it was much easier than I had thought it would be. It was still a real struggle but the training paid off. The whole experience definitely made me fitter and mentally stronger.
I’m also extremely proud of having been included in the Sunday Business Post ‘30 under 30’ people to watch in Irish tech. I was delighted to be included but I think there are so many amazing people who could be on a list like that.
What are your tips and advice for success?
It depends on what people define as success. For me it will be having a very interesting and challenging career and also being able to have a family life. I think it’s important to know what success is for you. Some people can get sidetracked.
Also, you don’t have to be the best person in the room, but if you have the right attitude, you’re 90% of the way there. People underestimate the importance of attitude, morals, loyalty and business ethics – all the basics. They’re so important to have and to have right. When the chips fall, those are the platforms and foundations that will keep you standing.
What are your interests outside work?
I like working out – the gym allows me to de-stress and keep focussed. I really love to travel. Most of the holidays I’ve taken over the last few years have been to go to see family in the States. That would be down time for me: spending time with my family.
How has your degree benefited your career and personal life?
The practical element of my masters allowed me to jump straight into a full time marketing role with ease and confidence. The transition from college to business environment was seamless as the course is designed to emulate a normal working office. It really just allows you to hit the ground running. Also, the friends you make there are friends for life who I find I’ve constantly crossed paths with in a variety of circumstances since finishing the course five years ago.
How important is your UCD alumni network to you?
The master’s in Smurfit never fails to connect me with people. It’s such a great experience to have in common.
What piece of technology can you not live without?
My new Apple Watch! I just got it for Christmas but so far I’m absolutely loving it.
What is your pet hate?
I can’t listen to people who eat loudly. Thankfully it’s easy to avoid!
Who is your favourite musician?
Bruce Springsteen – I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, but seeing him play live has cemented that obsession for me. He’s amazing.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
Fajitas – it’s my signature (and probably only good) dish!
What team do you support?
My friends say I’m a bandwagon supporter, so I’d have to say I’d be a massive Galway hurling fan!
Name three things on your bucket list
To visit Rome – and it’s already booked for the end of January!
To learn how to scuba dive and dive in Indonesia - I’ve only had one trial dive so far, so a long way to go yet!
To run my own business – that’s one for the future!
What charities or causes are closest to your heart?
The Irish Cancer Society and The Alzheimer Society of Ireland are the two charities I ran the marathon for and both close to my heart. They do fantastic work and so many I know benefit from them each year.