Transitioning from Marketing to the Board with Cheryl Hayman

Staying true to yourself, being authentic and being supportive; these may not be the first tips you might associate with becoming a board member. Moving from a corporate role into a board position can be quite difficult but Cheryl Hayman takes us through some tips to help navigate the transition from marketing to the board. With an extensive background in marketing working with companies such as Unilever, J Walter Thompson and George Weston Foods. Cheryl has spent the last decade on a number of boards, helping women progress out of corporate life into board positions. In this episode, Cheryl takes us through how to better understand your brand; the value and skills you provide, how to select the right boards and where opportunities are to upskill.

Show Notes

Cheryl Hayman currently serves as a Non-Executive Director, as a Remuneration and Nominations Committee Chair and Audit and Risk Committee Member on a number of boards. She also mentors with Women on Boards, Her Business and The Marketing Academy. Don’t forget to jump across to Cherly’s Website



Simon Dell: Welcome to the Cemoh Marketing Podcast. Cheryl Hayman, you are somewhere on a farm with roosters crowing in the background.

Cheryl Hayman: Correct. 

Simon Dell: Whereabouts are you?

Cheryl Hayman: We’re on the central coast of New South Wales in a little place called Wyong Creek. So, it’s very green. It’s very easy to isolate.

Simon Dell: Lovely, lovely. And if we do get… It’s just the one rooster, or are there multiple roosters that might be interrupting us today?

Cheryl Hayman: There’s one rooster who’s got six hen and two guineafowl that he loves to herd around. And then I’ve got two dogs who may go off at times.

Simon Dell: What’s the rooster’s name?

Cheryl Hayman: Well, we’ve called him Robin because my husband thinks he’s a bit like Cock Robin. He thinks he’s king of the roost, you know? So, he’s very large and he’s very upright, so he walks around like he’s the king. So, we call him Robin.

Simon Dell: Fair enough. Well, maybe if he makes too much noise, we’ll have to use him as the promotional picture for this podcast, and he can take centre stage of the podcast as well. Let’s start by sort of finding out a bit about you. Obviously, you’ve had a long career in marketing. That’s evolved into a board career, which is what we’re going to largely focus on today. But give us a bit of an overview about your marketing career and about who you work with and what sort of things that you were… What sort of companies you were working for.

Cheryl Hayman: Sure. So, I did a commerce degree with a major in marketing at uni. So, very kind of classic background, and then joined Unilever, which was back in the day, and still is one of the, you know, hot houses for a great marketing career. So, blue chip multinational, ticked a lot of boxes for me as a young marketer. 

So, I spent nine years at Unilever. I was saying this morning to some young women, I was mentoring that what was great about my nine years at Unilever was every time I was thinking I was getting a little bored in a role, they’d give me a new role. So, they were brilliant at moving you onto new portfolios.

I had a three-year stint in London, which was incredible. I had nine months at an ad agency called J. Walter Thompson. So, I had a lot of variety and a lot of experience, and a lot of great people supporting me. So, that was terrific. 

After my nine years at Unilever, I joined what was called PepsiCo restaurants, which became Tricon, which today is called Yum! And that is the Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell group. So, this time it was a US multinational. Again, major marketing roles across the fast-food businesses. 

And then I joined George Weston Foods. So, baking, which is probably the fast end of FMCG. So, a very kind of classic retail food consumer marketing career over some 20 years. And at the end of that, I decided that I wanted to step out of full-time corporate work for a period of time and see how I went consulting.

So, I was immediately picked up back in the day by Singletons, which was one of my ad agencies who said, “Great. Come and help us on one of our clients.” So I went in and helped as a strategic consultant through the agency on particularly the Huggies brand for Kimberly-Clark, plus a few other pieces of business. 

I did that for a number of years. And a couple of years into doing that, I started looking at a broad career. And considering how I would take my marketing skills across into the boardroom, I was ready for that level of seniority and oversight. I was… I figured I was done with being full-time in the corporate – in one single corporate role, and I wanted the variety and the flexibility that I thought boards would provide, as well as the constant challenge and professional learning that kind of went with that. 

So, I started pursuing a board career. I upskilled where I thought I had gaps, and then I started picking up boards. And in the last 13, 14 years, I’ve been on and off a variety of different boards and a number of different sectors. And today, I am a board director on publicly listed companies. So, those that are on the ASX, a couple of not-for-profits. And I’ve been on some unlisted companies, as well as some government companies in a variety of sectors. So, I feel very fortunate. Yeah.

Simon Dell: We’ll talk about the board stuff in a minute. I just wanted to sort of touch on the marketing stuff. Obviously, when you look back at what you were doing at Unilever, when you sort of first joined them and now… I mean, I guess, you know, people who have been in marketing don’t necessarily ever let go of their marketing roots.

Cheryl Hayman: Yep.

Simon Dell: You know, you don’t stop thinking about marketing on a day-to-day basis. How has it changed? You know, I mean, we all know it has changed, but you know, what’s the massive difference that you see today from back in that day when you sort of first stepped in the door at Unilever?

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah. Well, back in the day, I mean, you know, we didn’t have email when I started work. We didn’t have websites and we didn’t have technology like we do today, right? So, that was in the very beginning. So, I was there when we got email and we stopped having as much paper, and then we started having internet and other things. 

So, apart from that, you know, clearly the way to consumer has changed significantly. You know, there’s been a big shift from mass market, you know, TV, print, outdoor or sort of buses, etc. only to the advent of the whole digital space. The way customers are being talked to, the whole customer experience and user experience is getting a lot more focus on an individual level. 

So, there’s a big shift from sort of mass market to individualization. Big shift from the savviness of consumers, if you like. And that doesn’t mean they were idiots back in my day, but the upskilling that has come largely driven through technology and the amount of sources of information people now have, and the role of advocacy and talking to other people has gone up enormously. 

So, that has really shifted people’s lens on the messages that you deliver them. So, you have to be really attuned. And you always did, but the tuning up of your understanding of what your consumers or customers want and how they want to be spoken to, and their lens on cynicism and so on has gone up enormously. 

So, you have to be sharp. You always had to be outside in focus, but even more so today because it’s really hard to find two individuals the same now. Whereas back in the day, when I started my career, you could assume there were big sectors of people and you couldn’t market to them accordingly. So, I think that’s changed a lot.

Simon Dell: Yeah, I think one of the other things that’s changed – it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on this, given the length of time that you’ve been in that marketing sphere, that the generations is their aging. This was something I saw a little bit on social media in the last couple of weeks, is this idea that the generations are aging in a very different way. You know, the way Gen X, which is me, is aging, is vastly different to the people of the equivalent age of mine, maybe 20, 30 years ago.

Cheryl Hayman: I think that’s right. I mean, you know, I have friends 50 and 60 years old who are very young, right? So, I think when I looked at my parents, when they were that age, they were probably older. You know, I think we’re more affluent in general. We have much more discretionary income. We are well educated. You’ve got way more females in the workforce than back in the day. You’ve got people pioneering. I mean, the level of entrepreneurism in the start-up world, but just entrepreneurs in general. 

And I think that there is no age at which now, you consider you can’t do something. So, you know, of course, obviously if you’re very unwell and so on and can be quite unlucky in that sphere. But if you’re well and sharp and able, your career and your opportunities are so much – they go on for so much longer. And your access to things is so great that nothing is undoable, I believe. And the other thing I’d say is our relationship with our children is different to the way, say, my parents relationship with us was.

Simon Dell: Yeah, yeah. Your experience sitting on those boards that you have now, obviously you have the benefit of looking back at your career and how business has evolved. What are those boards that you’re sitting on now? What are they planning for? What do they see happening in the next… You know, because I think you mentioned a couple of ASX listed boards. You know, there must be smart people, or, well, I assume they’re smart people on these boards. But they must be thinking ahead 10 years, 20 years’ time. What do they see is the evolution of business post-COVID and post-pandemic? How do they see it all changing?

Cheryl Hayman: Well, there’s been an absolute fast tracking of all sorts of technology. So, companies that were slower to move, considering, you know, maybe we should have some technology that either underpins the business or provides some additional customer interface, depending what sort of business you’re in. That got fast tracked crates like crazy through the start of last year. 

So, these 18 months have seen unbelievable transformational change in most business. There is a lot of focus going forward on how do we put in place the right structures? How do we make sure we have the right workforce for the future? What are our customers going to want us to be delivering in the future? How are they going to want to receive it? How do they want to access us as a business or service – product or service? 

You know, what should our CEO look like five years from now, you know? And where’s the gap? So, there’s a lot of, “What are the risks to the business in five years if we don’t do some stuff now? And how do we literally culturally change this organization to be future fit, future ready?” 

So, a lot of it is through tech. But just understanding what sort of tech and being ready to evolve your tech is an enormous piece. And coupled to that right now is the enormity of the cyber breach and data breach issues that are out there. So, that is of enormous importance. And there is so much wrapped in around personal data, customer data, supplier data. You know, the privacy piece is – that’s a huge piece for companies to be worried about because our duty to protect everybody’s data goes up. And most businesses aren’t data specialists.

Simon Dell: Yeah, the two things I wanted to talk to you about focused on today is this transition from marketing career to board career. And then also, you know, the place or the increased place and significance of women working in both of those areas, marketing and in the board. But let’s touch on the first one. 

You kind of… You mentioned in your sort of introduction, you’ve done the marketing career, you know, you ticked all the boxes, you know, fantastic achievements and everything. And I suspect there’s a lot of people that think the same thing out there. That evolution into a board career, what’s the first step? If that’s something that you want to do, where do people look? Or, you know, where do people start?

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah. Most people start by joining a couple of bodies. So, one is called Women on Boards, and women on boards exists to support and help women get on to boards. So, they do training and mentoring and webinars and so on. And the other premier body is the Australian Institute of Company Directors, so most people would join there. Again, they provide support to programs, education and keep you. 

It’s very important to stay current because there’s so much change constantly in the world of the boardroom. So, governance and compliance is heavy and rigorous and important, and it’s really crucial to understand that. And in most corporate careers, you haven’t dealt with that. Then there’s a whole lot around being able to be as strategic as you need to be. There’s a lot around being able to let go because the hardest step is going from being a manager to a director, and the workloads in the name. 

So, if you’re a manager, you manage and directors direct. And having been heavily operational and executional, you have to be able to let go and ask their questions, but entrust the management of the organization. So, there’s some personal learning in that being able to let go. Peace. That’s easier for some people than others. 

And I think just, you know, upskill, understand your own skills. It’s a different kind of resume for a board than it is for a corporate role. So, you need to understand how to pitch yourself. And you become the brand. So, it’s a little different. And as a marketer, it’s a little easier, but you become the brand. So, you need to understand how you’re going to pitch yourself based on your skills, which become less important about where you learned them and more important about what did you deliver, what value did you provide to the organization, what outcomes did you drive. Because when they put you on a board, they’re looking for a group of diverse thinkers and they want to understand what you’re going to bring, how you’re going to be different to them. 

Simon Dell: Okay. And would you start off somewhere small? Do you sort of go, “Well, let’s try this, maybe, in a not for profit?” Because obviously, you know, day one, you’re not going to walk into an ASX listed board. Well, maybe you will, but I’d imagine that’s not where you start. I would imagine you evolved to those positions.

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah.

Simon Dell: So, is it something that you could even try whilst you’re still in a full-time job?

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah. So, yeah, a couple of things in there. I mean, unless you are what I call famous, you don’t come off running a big business and get plopped onto a few boards. So, that is the minority. There are people that literally come off a board. They’ve been very successful – of a company. Very successful CEO, very well known, very well networked, and they will literally get picked up and popped on, right? 

For the rest of us plebeians, as I like to say, you have to work your way up. So, you are absolutely true. The advice I was given when I started my career – and I chose not to be a CEO, I chose to step out before that by choice. I was being interviewed for roles and I just decided I didn’t necessarily – I could do it. I didn’t necessarily want to do it, and I never looked back. 

So, I had my consulting, not work. I might have gone back, but it did, and then the board thing started to happen. But for most people, you do what I was advised to do, which is you start on a not-for-profit. You pick wisely based on who else is on the board. You do it in an area where you’re interested or have some passion or relationship with the cause or social service that the not-for-profit might be providing. It could be a school. One of my first boards was a school board, but it was a non-parental school board. And you look at who’s on it, look who you can learn from. Look at what you’re going to do. 

So, that was really good advice. The other part of that question is, you know, there are two ways to do it. You either jump off the cliff, or you plan. So, I kind of jumped off the cliff because I’m pretty decisive and I just thought, you know, one day I went from like, “I think I might leave full time work,” and the next day I’d resigned and told them and worked my way through that. And then I thought about boards. 

Most people I mentor today who are in corporate roles, thinking about boards, I say to them, “If you can do one while you’re in your corporate role, then that’s really good. And if you can do a not-for-profit while you’re still being paid a reasonable salary, even better. And then when you step out, you’ve already got some cred as a director. And you’ll have created a little bit of a network. Join these organizations, do some upskilling and broaden your skillset while you’re in your job.” 

So, there are other people that jump off the cliff like I did, but most people these days start – because a lot of them start… I was relatively young when I stepped out, actually. That’s happening more and more now. So, having the ability to still earn some money while you’re starting your board career, because you don’t step out of a full-time job. Most people don’t step out and earn anywhere near what they earned in their real jobs before that.

Simon Dell: Do you – well, that sort of brings me to the next question, is you becoming a board member. And I know this is one of those, “How long is a piece of string?” But you know, what’s in it for you? I mean, obviously, aside from the prestige, but you know, time commitments… What’s a board expecting of somebody? Is it, you know, what sort of time? How much are they paying you? Are all the not for profits… You know, are you doing that voluntarily? How does that all work?

Cheryl Hayman: I think about 15% of not-for-profits do pay a little bit nowadays. Government boards pay, but it’s small and often, it’s a per diem. It’s not a lot. Per diem, it might be $13,000 a year. Like, it’s not a lot of money, by most people’s lens if they’ve come out of a corporate job, even a mid-level corporate job in Australia. 

And there’s an enormous amount of responsibility. So actually, a lot of people choose to have a look at doing boards and then decide not to, because at the end of the day, as you would know, if you read any of the newspapers, you can end up incredibly reputationally damaged, if the wrong things get done and you’ve missed them on your watch. 

I mean, the directors are personally and professionally liable for a lot of things. So it’s not – not everyone wants to carry that level of risk or burden, so you have to be really careful about the boards you choose and doing your due diligence before you go on them. And they have lots of challenges. You know, there are lots of stakeholders you’re trying to manage for and so on. 

So, there’s a lot of responsibility, accountability. Most… I mean, the board chair is usually paid at least 50% more than the directors because the role requires more work. You know, most boards meet once a month. They might have an additional strategy day, and then there’s work in between. So, you’re probably looking at a day a week per board in terms of average amount of workload. If there’s an emergency or a pandemic, it becomes 24/7 for periods of time, so you have to have enough capacity in your broad portfolio. 

So, they’re really cautious about people who when they say they want… There’s a phrase right now about over boarding, so you have to be careful you’re over boarded because when there’s an emergency or a challenge, which there always is on one of your boards, you need to have the capability to be available a lot in and around the other stuff you do. 

And the money, I mean, you can earn, as – you know, the government boards might be $13,000 to $20,000 per board. So, you need a lot of those, really, to have a reasonable income. You know, the bigger – you know, if you’re chair of BHP, you’re probably on a million bucks, but there’s a very long, large amount that sits between. Probably a large amount that between $50,000 and $100,000, $120,000, right? 

So, which for one job, that – I don’t know, you know? 50 hours a year or whatever, it happens to be 150 hours a year or whatever it is, that’s okay. But you do… Most people would want more than one of those, ultimately, unless you’re at the later part of your career and you’ve got a lot of income behind you and so on. But it’s hard to get rich on boards. So, it isn’t for everyone for that reason either

Simon Dell: Unless, of course, you are the chairman of BHP.

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah.

Simon Dell: Yeah, unless you’re the chairman of BHP, and then… That sounds good. So, let’s sort of finish up on the… Obviously, the other subject matter, the women on boards and just women in business in general. Obviously, you know, the – I mean, I personally think the landscape for women has changed pretty more in the last 10 years than it has done in the previous 50 years. But I’m not a woman and I’m a survey size of one. It’d be interesting to hear what you think, but what are some of those ways that women can, you know, perhaps combat that sort of sexist kind of divide that may still exist when it comes to the boardroom? Is there anything that they can do to kind of give themself a bit of a kick start or make them a bit – more make themselves a little bit more recognized?

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah, it’s a hard question. I mean, you have to be true to yourself always, but you can also – sometimes, we are our worst enemy, right? So, I think we need to sort of stop apologizing for being female. We need to speak in the way that we feel that is authentically ours. We need to support each other. So, there are a lot of women who support each other through the board piece, particularly, but also through business. So, we need to be each other’s advocates. 

You need to find a voice. You need to understand the issues that are important to you and create your own voice in and around that. You know, there’s great opportunities through things like LinkedIn to build out your profile and your own messages. And that comes somewhat more naturally to me as a marketer because I’m all about messaging and branding. But there’s a lot of ways now to find your voice get known. 

And the other thing is you need to know a lot of other directors, and you actually need to know a lot of the male chairs. Because a lot of the boardrooms are still influenced heavily by the chairs, and you need to know as many men as you do women. So, I think, you know, most women who are senior enough to be doing boards have a lot of gravitas anyway. They’ve got a lot of cred, and I think we need to continually back ourselves, not be as apologetic as we sometimes are. We can be a little humble. 

And we use different language than blokes do, which is absolutely fine, and we shouldn’t change that. And I think we’re very good at a lot of things like reading the room, actually understanding the vibe we’re getting back, and understanding how to pitch the messages to get our point across. But I think we need to recognize the skills that are a little more different in females and actually maximize those and stop worrying about apologizing for them.

Simon Dell: Do you feel that that’s… If you’re starting out, if that’s something you want to do? You mentioned chairman, or chairpersons there. Do you think that it all comes back down to sort of building your network again, and your existing role is just meeting more people, going to more events? I know a lot of people won’t want to do it, but you know, playing golf and… You know. So, there are things like that, that kind of… That help you kind of integrate into that boardroom society.

Cheryl Hayman: Yeah. I mean, I think that you definitely need to network. And by that, I mean, you know, you need to work out what sort of sectors and industries interest you, what sort of boards you ultimately like to get on because it’s a long game, getting on the bigger and better boards that are better for you. What you most want to be doing, I mean, not that they’re better boards. 

I think you definitely need to start creating connections with people who are in and around the boards and the sectors that you’re interested in. You definitely should attend events. I believe you need to give back a lot, so we all have value to give. So, I think give back in a mentor, write pieces, if that’s your thing, write blogs, offer your assistance, offer or agree to chair a meeting or a lunch or a webinar or something. 

You know, I think you get back in this world what you give. So, I think, you know, it’s incumbent upon us at a certain level to also give back. But yeah, I mean, network, some people have what they call sponsors, and I hate that word. But the sponsors of the people that will literally pick you up and plop you onto a board or at least get you high up on the list. 

You know, search firms are still used, but they always say to the board and the chair, particularly, “Do you have anybody you think I should look at?” And of course, if you get there, you get a gold star to start with. So, just being in people’s conscious where you can at least go, “Oh, you should have a look at Cheryl. You should have a look at Simon,” at least gets you on because you’ve got to get on the list. Just getting on the list is hard. Then you can back yourself into the interview. 

But you know, you see things that come and go and you go, “How come I never got a call on that? And it’s probably because somebody didn’t know to look for me.” And hence, your social media presence is really important because the search firms will Google skills. And your skills, you want your skills to come up, not where you worked to come up. So, that’s all the thing about what I bring.

Simon Dell: Yeah. So, you know, again, that social media presence, it’s… If you have a rather colourful social media presence, it might not fit in with the particular – the board profile that they’re looking for. So, I must delete my Twitter account when I – afterwards. But, you know, I guess – I mean, it’s applying for a job, isn’t it? I mean, I guess that’s what it’s all about, really. It’s the same old… You know, it’s the same process as applying for a job, but… And how long – I guess my last question, how long would you be expecting to serve on a board? You know, are they fixed term contracts? Can they fire you? How does that all work?

Cheryl Hayman: Yes to all of that. A lot of boards will have a three-by-three year tenure. So, you come up for – you know, every three years you come up for re-election. You suggest you want to stand. They suggest they want to keep you. If it’s a publicly listed company, it gets ratified by the shareholders. 

Some companies don’t have an end tenure. The company directors, Australian Institute Company Directors, recommends around nine years because you’re meant to be – well, if you are to retain your independence as a director, of course, some boards have substantial shareholders on them, so they’re not actually independent. But the level of independence you bring is sometimes considered in line with the amount of tenure you’ve had. 

I think by 10 years, you probably should allow for renewal, unless something extraordinary has changed or the business has grown in a certain way. And you do want a mix of experienced and new, so the board doesn’t all turn over at once. So, you’ve got to watch that so you don’t lose all the corporate history and corporate memory. 

But yes. And yes, you can be fired. Well, fired would normally be in some extraordinary event like we’ve seen around the banking sector and so on in the last few years. You don’t usually get fired. It’s usually a discussion, and the business is changing. They need a different kind of skill and you’ve been there the longest. And you know, would you consider leaving? 

And you also can resign if you’re working on a board that doesn’t really sit well with you for some reason. You can let the chair know that your intention is to resign, or if your portfolio grows and you just got too much going on, you might step off.

Simon Dell: Okay. All right. Perfect. Thank you very much for your ideas and your insights. I think that’s been hugely helpful for anybody looking for that transition. Nobody really ever talked about that kind of, you know, end of life – or not end of life, that’s the wrong word, but end of career. You know, next steps. 

People kind of go, “Oh, well, I’m going to be in marketing until I’m this age, and then I’m going to retire.” Nobody really talks about the fact that there is other opportunities out there and other directions to go. If anybody wants to reach out to you, where are you kind of most active, if they’ve got any questions for you?

Cheryl Hayman: Sure. Happy to connect with people through LinkedIn. It’s just Cheryl Harman, you’ll find me there. More than happy to connect through LinkedIn. Happy to share my email. If people would like to reach out through an email, happy to do that. I don’t know, Simon, how you provide that.

Simon Dell: We’ll put it in the show notes. Yeah, we’ll put it show notes so people can see.

Cheryl Hayman: Happy with that. Always happy to have a chat to people. I love meeting people that are interesting and new people. So, it’s terrific. And you know, I’m involved in things like the marketing academy as a mentor, so I stay in touch with the new generations and the new organizations that way as well. So yes, you’re right, my heartland is always going to be in marketing.

Simon Dell: Awesome. Well, sadly, the rooster did not make an appearance today. He’s disappointed all of us.

Cheryl Hayman: Sorry, my husband chased him away.

Simon Dell: I hope he’s well. Give him our love.

Cheryl Hayman: I will.

Simon Dell: Give him our love. Send us a photo and we’ll put him on our social media.

Cheryl Hayman: Okay.

Simon Dell: Thank you very much for joining me today, Cheryl.

Cheryl Hayman: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Simon Dell: That’s pretty much it from the Cemoh Marketing Podcast this week. We hope you enjoyed it. And we look forward to seeing you tune in next week.

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