Walking around the world’s most famous movie studios, a young Ross McNab envisaged his future. An international career. An office in New York. Being a renowned industry leader.
But first, he needed to complete his Curtin degree in mass communication.
“Having the opportunity to visit the US as part of my degree was inspirational,” McNab says. “Ever since I saw the movie Big, I knew I wanted to work in advertising. Curtin was invaluable in exposing me not only to my field of choice, but also to other growth areas like journalism, marketing, public relations and film and TV.”
Graduating at the start of a new era in digital technology, McNab first honed his skills in mobile marketing at start-up BlueSkyFrog and then landed an executive sales role at media giant, Ninemsn.
“I joined Ninemsn (now nine.com.au) in its early stages when Hotmail and MSN Messenger were huge,” he says. “It was an exciting time of innovation and creativity, and I was thrilled to win runner up ad sales rep of the year.”
In 2008, while working for digital ad solutions provider MediaMind (then Eyeblaster), he was offered his first global role.
“I made it known early on I was open to an international posting,” McNab says. “The company was expanding its presence in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and needed to create a hub in North Asia to work directly with clients and help local market partners establish their businesses. I put my hand up and was soon packing my bags for Hong Kong!”
The next twelve months were a whirlwind for the busy advertising executive.
“It was a crazy time!” he laughs. “I have such fond memories of the camaraderie of the expat community and feeling welcomed immediately into an extended family who were all young and ambitious.”
“I was probably only in Hong Kong for half the time as I was travelling across Australia, Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“It was great for my Qantas status but less so for my ability to settle. My family and I were in Hong Kong during the Global Financial Crisis and witnessed many of our friends’ lives change overnight. If I had thought more about it, I may have acted more cautiously about moving overseas at such a volatile time, but we pressed on and weathered the turbulence.”
In Hong Kong, McNab successfully partnered with numerous global brands, demonstrating his aptitude for making strong connections in a new region. When the opportunity arose to expand to the US market, he was first in line for his long-desired posting.
“I didn’t leave our CEO in any doubt that I had my sights set on New York,” he smiles.
While McNab quickly settled into his new role in his dream city, he was keen to explore a new project: launching his own business.
“In New York there was a boom in advertising technology ventures,” he says. “I got to know many start-ups that are now billion dollar businesses and I was often asked for advice on expanding their footprint in the APAC region.
“At the time I was homesick for BBQs, footy (West Coast of course!), mates and family but also had an entrepreneurial streak I wanted to pursue.”
McNab and his former boss from Australia came up with the idea of Kinected.
“We founded Kinected to offer Australian brands access to advertising technology and create low-risk market entry for our partners,” he explains.
The start-up generated A$1 million in its first twelve months and was successfully acquired by marketing company MediaMath less than three years later. McNab went on to work for MediaMath as Managing Director, North America where he tripled its overall revenue through improvements to the company’s commercial strategy.
“Working in New York for the past decade has offered me so many incredible opportunities,” McNab says.
“I’ve recently been appointed to a leadership role at Cardlytics, a company which helps marketers drive ROI, banks increase customer loyalty and customers save on purchases.
“It’s a phenomenal position with a great growth path ahead. I am so thankful to the strong foundation I developed in my Curtin degree that has led me to my current career.
“I use the knowledge I gained in Business Statistics on a daily basis!”
Considering an international career?
Ross McNab shares his five top tips.
1. Set your goal. Mine was always to work in New York.
2. Put your hand up. Let your peers and leaders know you are willing.
3. Show them you are capable by proving yourself in the roles you are given.
4. Take the chance. While New York was ideal, I jumped at Hong Kong as a step forward.
5. Be okay with second guessing but be confident in your decisions.
Name: Ross McNab
Role: President, North America Advertising, Cardlytics (New York)
Studied: Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication)