Natalie Truong - the new corporate hybrid
Natalie Truong has the quintessential corporate handshake - firm and quick with a great manicure to boot. However, her nails, all painted hot pink except for one black on each hand, interrupts the corporate stereotype.
“I don’t like things to be the same,” she laughed.
Natalie loves change and taking risks. That is why when she was offered a role at superannuation and financial consultancy firm Mercer, she jumped at it despite knowing little about superannuation or the company itself.
“I didn’t even know who Mercer was. My mum can’t even pronounce Mercer, she asked if I was working for the mafia,” she laughed.
“But I believe that when it comes to my work, to always be open to new opportunities. Keep saying yes.”
Since joining the company three years ago, Natalie has been leading their B2B marketing team for Australia and New Zealand - and she loves it. Compared to some of the large banking corporations where Natalie previously worked, Mercer feels like a “lean ship”.
Her transition came with its fair share of struggles. Afterall, B2B Marketing is a different ball game to the one-to-one marketing she was used to.
“In B2B it’s a one to five, one to fifteen relationship or one to twenty relationship. Not only do I have to understand you, but I also need to understand your CFO, CIO, etc,” she explained.
“I need to understand all the people who are making the decisions because we are not selling two dollar bottles of water. Some of the things we’re selling are [two to five] million dollar contracts over three to five years. It’s not a decision that just one person in an organisation can make on their own.”
On top of that, Natalie also spent six months setting up her marketing team and making sure she hired the right people.
"Everyday is a different challenge – you need to carefully and patiently manage your team, stakeholders, clients, suppliers”
Her eyes sparkled with excitement as she spoke about the challenges. Then she added: “I love it, that’s why I love this industry.”
Managing so many people and client relations may seem overwhelming for some, but Natalie wouldn’t have it any other way. It is easy to see how this quality sets her apart from other managers.
“I love the whole people side. Everyday I come in and go: how do I make sure you come to work happy, and that you care about this work passionately, and we can get the most out of you?”
As much as she enjoys working in the corporate sector, Natalie harbors a burning passion for not-for-profits. Over the years, she has volunteered as a mentor at Fitted for Work and the LGBTQI advocate group The Pinnacle Foundation. Natalie also serves on the board for Kids off the Kerb and was a committee member for The Koorie Heritage Trust.
As a child of Vietnamese refugees, Natalie's love and appreciation for not-for-profits can be traced back to her childhood where she witnessed first-hand how her family benefited from their charity and care when they first arrived in Australia.
“We were helped by amazing people and my family wouldn’t be where we are today so I thought: we should be paying it forward,” she said.
In fact, Natalie enrolled in the EMBA at RMIT University because she wanted to sit on the board of a not-for-profit organisation. However, the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the corporate banking and financial services sector fascinated her so much that by the time she completed her degree, sitting on boards was no longer a main priority.
“[The EMBA] taught me to think strategically, instead of being a tactical marketer. I learnt how to strategically roll out programs of work instead of just executing a campaign,” she said.
Fortunately for Natalie, the culture at Mercer provides a good balance between commercial and doing good, which complements her love for helping others.
“The people here are kind. The boffins we have get up, and genuinely want to come to work and make a difference for our clients and community,” she said.
However, her dreams of working in the not-for-profit sector are still very much alive. Already, Natalie has strong ideas on how she wants to improve not-for-profit organisations, especially in the realm of their donor experience.
“For 18 years, the Fred Hollows Foundation has respected my wishes to not send me any marketing materials but their annual statement,” she said.
“But then I get annoyed with other organisations because they send marketing materials to me every 3 months. I have to come in and fix that!”
Natalie's passion for creating transformative experiences also means that she does not settle in one place. Generally, she leaves an organisation after three years because she believes that one cannot afford to grow stale in the creative field of marketing.
“I love to build things so I’m not interested in just implementing marketing programs that are already in place. If I’m not building great experiences, client experiences or digital transformations, it’s just not for me,” she explained.
Many people have approached Natalie to be their mentor, but she is selective on who she decides to take under her tutelage.
“Are they looking for the next level, or do they just want to hum? If so, I’m the wrong person for them because I will never talk about humming. I’m a bad maintenance person,” she said.
As a mentor, Natalie’s most valuable piece of advice is to focus on great leaders, not the job scope.
“If you have a crappy leader at this amazing job, it’s going to damage you because you found this job and you hate it,” she said. “ It’s not that you hated [the job], it’s because [the leader] has such a big influence in your work. I don't like seeing young people hate a job because they had a bad cultural and personal experience.”
“Don’t worry about the work – find leaders you admire and who inspire you and the work will be beautiful and come naturally.”