Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Steady steps forward in hub of innovation

WILD GEESE: Máire Walsh Next Steps Marketing, California: Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask for help is the advice of one Irish emigrant who has made a career in marketing in the US

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 08:21


WILD GEESE: Máire Walsh, Next Steps Marketing, California Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask for help is the advice of one Irish emigrant who has made a career in marketing in the US

Máire Walsh was down to her last $100 before finally landing a job in the US and she hasn't looked back

HAVING GROWN up with a love for Ireland’s western seaboard, Máire Walsh travelled to California 10 years ago for a short break. But the Pacific coast, with its rolling hills and jagged shoreline, reminded her of home and now she can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.

Armed with a postgraduate diploma from Limerick IT, a BA in business enterprise from the University of Wolverhampton, an MBS in marketing from NUI Galway and US citizenship from her mother, Walsh headed to San Francisco in 2002 to see what might happen.

“It’s hard not to fall in love with San Francisco,” she said. “It was just voted the number one city in the world and it’s easy to see why. It’s so beautiful and so close to the ocean. When I first arrived here, it reminded me of Galway because of the diversity of culture and the way of life.

“It’s a hub of innovation. You have access to industry leaders, who are willing to share their insight; it is culturally diverse; as a food lover it’s a mecca, and within an hour you can be hiking in redwoods, driving down the Pacific highway, or be in wine country.”

California also promised greater opportunity. Although she struggled for some months, going down to her last $100 before finally landing a job, her career soon gained momentum.

“When I came over here first, I was probably down for a while,” she said. “I think it’s quite a tough city at first. Accommodation is expensive. It’s a shock actually. But I took a job in a magazine and, even though the pay wasn’t great, I thought, ‘I’ll gain experience’.”

Her career began to soar when she moved to the Independent Press Association, a non-profit group that offered marketing, business and content advice to fledgling magazines.

“It was founded many years ago,” she said. “It provided loans at reduced interest rates and advice. I was a consultant on the go-to-market strategy for these publications.”

From there she went to Next Steps Marketing, specialists in developing online and print audiences for magazines. After three years she was made a partner and now concentrates on offering strategic consulting to build and engage audiences.

“We create a product that is different for magazines. You can’t just convert your print product into digital and expect people to pay for it. It has to be interactive and use the potential the internet provides.”

She works with major international brands such as Amazon and Barnes Noble, working out content and marketing strategy that works across all platforms. In recent years, Walsh has become heavily involved with the Exceptional Women in Publishing (EWIP) group.

This non-profit organisation was set up in 1998 to educate, empower and support women in publishing. Walsh was recently elected president.

“When I first arrived here 10 years ago, EWIP put on this lunch and I thought it was very powerful,” she said. “There was a woman speaker for a big publishing company in San Francisco and she was talking about the business side and how we can create new business strategies.

“As a young person just starting on my career, I thought: ‘You can be a woman and rise to the top’.”

The group’s annual conference features women executives from leading media companies including Facebook, Google, Time Inc, Dwell Media, LinkedIn, ESPN and Twitter.

“Ninety per cent of the people who come to the conference are women,” said Walsh. “There’s a different feel because women like to share more and give advice and will help others no matter what age or position they are in. The fact is all these women are smart and they are doing stuff. We need to promote that and honour these women who have worked hard to get where they are.”

For young people starting out on their careers, Walsh has

some time-honoured advice: work hard.

“Ask for help,” she adds. “People, if they have the time, are more than happy to help. Connect with people who you know or friends of friends. LinkedIn is a leading tool here for building a network and for introducing people so set one up and build your account.

“If you are here on a one-year visa, make the most of it. Unless you add real value to an organisation, there will be no opportunity to stay longer.”