Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I have a very special guest today. Meet Mary Killelea, a Customer Story Strategist from Intel. She will be talking about career development and the pros and cons of working on either the agency side or the client-side.

Mary is a businesswoman, a mom, wife, and a lover of adventure. She’s been working in tech and marketing for about 25 years, and she has her own business for more than 15 of those years. Before all that, she worked for Web MD Radio and did sales for Nabisco.

In this episode:

  • Career tips for anybody just starting in the field of marketing and where to start
  • What are the main differences between the agency and client-side marketing
  • What it looks like working for a big corporation like Intel
  • How working in a big company changes the perception of marketing.
  • How can one tell if the working environment is good for career development
  • What is the role of constant learning and what that really means
  • What are some interesting career options for marketers – both corporations and agencies
  • How can a marketer prepare for the specific marketing job position

Quotes from the episode:

“You need to figure out which area of interests you might want to excel at some point. To have a broad base at the beginning while you’re learning and understanding, it really can be beneficial to have that holistic [marketing] viewpoint.”

“Just be persistent, continually evolving. Be completely open to learning. You can design your career any way you want if you have a growth mindset.”


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To expand your knowledge about marketing, technology, and sales check out some of my previous blog posts and podcast episodes.

7 Tips to Start a Career in Digital Marketing

How to Cultivate Strategic Thinking Skills in 6 Steps

Is a Career in Marketing Right for Me?

How to Document Your Marketing Contribution


Hey, big, big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I have a very special guest today. Mary Killea is a Customers’ Story Strategist from Intel, and we will be talking about career development and the pros and cons of working on either agency or client-side. Let’s get started. Hi, Mary, how are you? 

Mary Killelea: Hi there, Pam. It’s so great to be here. 

Pam Didner: Yeah, it’s wonderful to have you. So can you spend two minutes and tell us? I gave a very high-level intro. So why don’t you share with us what you do and who you are?

Mary Killelea: Sure. Okay. Um, I am, uh, when I think of myself and how I describe myself in, you know, my elevator pitch, I would say I’m a businesswoman. I am a wife. I am a mother. Maybe not in that order. (laughs) I might go, businesswoman, a mom, wife, and then lover of adventure. Um, I have been working in tech and marketing for probably 25 years now, something like that 20 plus years. I had my own business for probably 16 of those years. And then I’ve been working for Intel for probably about the last four and a half or so 

Before that, I was in radio, I worked for Web MD and, um, let’s see, did sales for Nabisco. So I’ve had a couple of different careers. 

Pam Didner: Excellent. Excellent. So you’ve been on both sides–the client-side and the agency side. Um, do you have any suggestions for anybody just starting in the field of marketing, and where should they start? I mean, sometimes we don’t have choices, right? You kind of start wherever you get your job. But if you have choices, what should that first step look like? If you’re well, clients, high agency side, which to do?

Mary Killelea: So I went to the agency side and then the client-side. I think there are many benefits to doing the client side first. And working for a big corporation, um, really understanding how, you know, behind the four walls the organization works. Um, because I think that’s critical. 

When you’re on an agency side, sometimes your eyes or access don’t penetrate that. So there’s a lot of guessing, or there’s a lot of vagueness because there are things that you have to protect or just intricacies of that business the way they’re different orgs worked together. So I think if you have that insight first from the organization and the big company, you understand their needs more intuitively, so then you can excel at your job.

Because sometimes, on the flip side, agencies love working with me because I understand their job.

Pam Didner: Right, exactly. You are providing information they need, so they can do the job better. 

Mary Killelea: A hundred percent. I provide the information they need; I don’t say unrealistic expectations. I understand that if they’re not allowed access to this, how do I communicate it with still, you know, being true to the points of access or non-access, but how do I set them up for success because it helps everyone have success. 

Pam Didner: Yeah. Uh, I always encourage, like I mentor many young marketers and, uh, for people on the agency side, I always encourage them if ever one day they have the opportunity, they should always go to a client site. It’s a completely different world. You kind of see how they work. And when you come back to the agency side, you can see, “okay, I understand when they say two on a piece of content, how that content will be used.” And if they make certain kinds of requests, you know, where they come from and what kind of objectives they want to accomplish.

Mary Killelea: And you start to speak the same language.

Pam Didner: Yes. Yes, that is true. That is very, very true. And, uh, that doesn’t mean that the agency side of knowledge and experience is not helpful. To make that transition, obviously, uh, mine is a bit opposite than yours. So you kind of start your own business. You were on the agency side; you move to a corporate side.

And I was actually on the client-side all my life, and I moved to, in a way, I’m working for myself, I’m on the agency side. So it’s a slightly different, uh, a different transition. But, uh, I can understand everything you said about understanding the corporate side or the client side does help me tremendously when I work with my clients. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah. And I mean, there are great takeaways from each side, and there is no, you know, right way wrong way is it’s just trying to experience both at some point within your career because it makes you a better marketer. 

Pam Didner: I agree. Well-rounded, it’s more well-rounded. So your job is interesting. Customer Story Strategist. Can you tell me a little bit, what do you do at Intel? What is this specific job function? 

Mary Killelea: Sure. Sure. So, um, I am a customer story strategist in the Server Technology Department or Group. Within the business walls or sales, people are always wanting to hear what our customers are doing. So we never really had one centralized location or group that managed all that. You might have a case study over there; you might have a customer testimonial over here. 

But it was never consolidated and organized and cohesively thought out from a strategic, like, “are we aligning these two are key, you know, campaigns? Are they aligning them to the products that are priorities to us? Are they aligning with the workloads? If so, how can we tell those stories in a bigger, better way so that the customer benefits from it, as much as we benefit from it? You know, how do we co-market those stories to help them grow their business? So that’s kind of what we’ve started to do. 

We do videos. We do, um, case studies. We’ll do webinars. But our specific group, sometimes people in the corporate world, will think of “partners” as customers, but we’re talking about end customers. 

Pam Didner: With that being said, I understand in a big corporation, especially, that there are very distinct roles and responsibilities for each job. Do you feel that you are stifled sometimes? that because your job is very specific, you don’t have a chance to see how marketing or have that very holistic view of how marketing works in a big corporation? How do you address that? 

Mary Killelea: Um, I have been very fortunate. Even in my current role, I do customer stories, and I work with a variety of customers, but I also get to work with my part, our partners, in helping do joint customer stories with them. So there’s just an avenue for me to not be siloed and only do one thing. There’s an opportunity for me to get a little partner experience, as well. 

I think many different roles have the crossover options that, if you will, and I was a content strategist for the campaign as my last job. And in that role, I got to learn a lot. (laughs) I mean, I was doing social, I was doing creatives. I was, um, there wasn’t anything that if I raised my hand for it, I wasn’t asked, “come on, let’s do it!”

Pam Didner: Let’s do it! Yeah. When you are in the campaign role, yes, you have to cover quite a bit. You have to call it the channels. You have to cover the content creation. Yeah. A lot to cover. I agree with that.

Mary Killelea: And I think Intel as a whole does a great job of providing resources and access to learning, um, and support within the organization from the top down. You have the ability there if you want to learn; it’s really on you and your drive. 

Pam Didner: Yeah. See, that’s one thing I’m missed the most. I was also at Intel for a long period, and I loved that support structure. And to be on the agency side or to stand on my own feet, I do not necessarily have that resources. One thing I miss the most: the budget (both laugh). 

When you have a budget, you can do quite a bit. You can explore, you can pilot, and you can try different, you know, um, uh, marketing elements. And then you can. You can make an effort to learn. But, at the same time. I don’t think you need to be. You don’t need to be in a big company to learn.

I mean, the internet itself is a big school. Suppose you want to learn anything you can. And you just have to make sure you have your mindset, you know, and you have the ability that you want to catch up.

Mary Killelea: I 100% agree with that. Yeah. So, I mean, like, let’s say someone wants to learn about marketing. Your programs, your classes, your videos, and others like you make so much accessible. Like when I started there, wasn’t all the schooling there weren’t all the things out there. We were learning as we were building, as we were going. Um, you know, what is link-building? What is SEO? You know, we’ve got this static website. Now we want to go to a 2.0 version. It keeps just advancing, advancing. 

As long as you have an aptitude for learning new technologies, trends, and digital ways to reach your target audience, I think the sky’s the limit on how you can navigate or design your career. Because there are different ways, you can be experts within marketing. You know, you can be a CRM expert, or an analytics expert. You can be SEO web. Can you be good at all of that? You can be good. I don’t think you can be great at all of that because they’re always advancing. 

Pam Didner: Technology is changing. Technology is always changing. Yeah.

Mary Killelea: At some point, I think you need to figure out which area of interest you might want to excel at. But I think to have a broad base at the beginning while you’re learning and understanding, um, it really can benefit you to have that holistic viewpoint. 

Pam Didner: Understood. So you mentioned some, uh, marketing career options, such as SEO, social media, messaging, and a campaign. Uh, what other marketing function that you can share with us, like in the big corporation?

Mary Killelea: Um, so there’s channel marketing, there’s product marketing. There’s I’m trying to think. There’s ABM marketing. 

Pam Didner: Field marketing. 

Mary Killelea: No, exactly. Field marketing. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, honestly, there are just so many different market tiers that have a singular kind of focus. And then in that singular focus, there’s like all types of different tactical approaches and deliverables associated with that.

So it’s quite interesting. I mean, and you quickly kind of get an idea of where your personality, where your interests fit best, whether you’re more introverted, whether you’re more extroverted. 

Pam Didner: Yeah. Internal facing, External facing. 

Mary Killelea: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So lots of opportunities. 

Pam Didner: So that’s great on the client-side. What about on the agency side? What have you seen in terms of potential job opportunities that, um, uh, the young marketers can explore? 

Mary Killelea:  Uh, yeah, you know, I think in an agency side–and I can only speak from my experience when I owned my own business–I wore many, many hats. Um, I was, you know, business development. I was operations. I was finance…

Pam Didner: You were AE. You were doing account management.

Mary Killelea: Yes. In an agency, there are just endless opportunities as far as how to get your hands dirty. Um, like anything, whether you’re on the agency side of the um, corporate side, it’s really about your willingness to step up, learn, absorb, push yourself. 

Maybe I don’t think that being a sales rep is my thing, but I need to understand what the sales reps’ challenges are. I need to understand what they face from interacting with their customers. So I’m going to sign up to do a ride-along with them because it will help me help them. And I think you can articulate that and share your desire to grow and learn right, and the value of your learning and how that will help them. You’ll just excel as a team player. You’ll excel as an individual. So that’s always kind of been my approach. 

Pam Didner: Yeah. I 100% agree with that. And speaking of that, in terms of supporting sales, um, I supported field and indirect and direct sales when I was at Intel. Initially, when I supported them, I did not make an effort to understand what they do. And, uh, we have a list of marketing content, and I’ve just kind of like, “Oh, here’s the marketing content.” And of course, now they’re not going to use it. They were like, “okay, great. You’re not telling me if you put in the contacts when I should use these types of contents and what sales stages.”

It took me a while to get to the point that, Oh, you know what, I need to structure my content a little bit differently. I need to structure it in a way they understand that they can use it. So that’s a great point. Yeah. But I was kind of like, Dumb! (both laugh)

Mary Killelea: No, you weren’t!

Pam Didner: I should have been, “yeah, hey, this is what we’ve got and here’s how to use it!” So, with that being said, I’ve realized that digital marketing, especially the digital side, can sometimes be challenging. Like in the past, you can be a well-rounded traditional marketer, right? Because the mediums that we can promote our content, uh, we’re limited, right? Print and radio, commercial.

But now, there are so many different channels. You can be on Facebook. You can be on Twitter, just, you know, you can go to like five or six social media channels alone. And SEO is a completely different monster. And the creating content, the technical skills you need, and the understanding of how search work via so many elements to do like a marketing job now.

What is your thought that you need to have a specific type of expertise first before you can take on a specific marketing job, a specific role? For example, if you don’t have any experience in SEO, you can take on SEO’s job. What is your thought on that? 

Mary Killelea:  I think you shouldn’t feel limited because you don’t have, uh, expertise in a particular role, like let’s just say 

Pam Didner: Or discipline.

Mary Killelea: Or discipline. Um, if you have something related to web design or writing, I mean, there’s just so much crossover in digital marketing.

Pam Didner: Yes. That is true. I agree with that. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah. That, I think if you, again, going to having that broad level of understanding of what each discipline does, you don’t have to be an expert in it. And it really could be self-taught. It’s just a matter of going out there doing the homework, maybe signing up for courses. Educating yourself, you can get a pretty solid, basic 101 and then that can help you understand what the lingo is. It can help you understand the high level of the discipline. And then, once you’re in a role, you can even become the expert in that role. 

I think, again, it comes back to. Are you a lover of technology? Are you, um, quick at adapting and being the first to try something new. You know, like when Twitter signed up, I was like, “I don’t know what this is, but I’m going to join it.” And so you just, you can’t have any fear or resistance you just had a have– And I think younger people nowadays actually do have this instinctually because they’ve grown up with your internet.

Pam Didner: Yeah, exactly. “Sure, I’m going to try that. I failed. Who cares?” 

Mary Killelea:  Yeah. I mean, honestly, it’s just their world. Um, it’s there’s a generation now that that’s all they’ve known, whereas as we have a whole different perspective, which I think, you know, obviously adds value. So I don’t think it’s limiting at all. I think it’s up to the individual to design your career and certainly not set any limits on what you think qualification wise you need to have. I think if you sell someone on your talents, skills and desires, they’d be kind of foolish not to hire you. (laughs)

Pam Didner: Yeah. Well, that’s a very good point because, um, obviously, um, when I started from traditional marketing and then make that transition to digital, I didn’t know anything about search. I didn’t know anything about social media. And eventually, it’s just, like you said, um, in addition to on-the-job, you learn as you go. And I think that you mentioned, uh, you call it out very clearly is your desire to learn. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah. I mean, it’s not like a dentist where you have to know how to be a dentist. I mean, you’re not learning how to be a dentist on the job. Where I think, you know, with web design and with SEO–not to diminish anything from those jobs–but it’s so vastly changing, and it’s evolving. 

Pam Didner: You have to stay on top of it. Yeah. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah. 

Pam Didner: It’s a forcing function because the technology is moving so fast, and you don’t want to be left behind. Therefore, you need to keep up. And the best way to keep up is through continuous learning. There’s not much to it. It doesn’t matter how you learn taking courses or even just hire a coach or even just do it. I don’t know, build a website and then start from there. Right. Just start using the format that you think is appropriate, and then continue to learn.

Mary Killelea: Well, I mean like the podcasts. So I was kind of like, I want to learn about podcasts. So I put my desire and passion around starting a podcast, and I’ve, I’m learning as I go, but I’m having a great time. And, and it’s like, there’s no right or wrong way for me to do it because it’s a learning process for me, that those skills I now have can be applied to my career.

Pam Didner: Yep. I 100% agree with you. I hear you loud and clear. And I started as a writer, right? So I wrote blog posts. And then again, I kind of want to see how a podcast works. And then I started doing my podcasting as well. Then I move on and say, “you know what? I want to do video ads. I want to see how video, uh, works.” So I launched my YouTube channel.

And I learned a lot, and I can see the writing. The writing is different from one format to another. They are not the same, to be honest with you. And took me a while to understand that maybe he’s a common-sense why everybody, but when I wasn’t in the trenches and doing that, I didn’t see the differences.

And until I stopped doing for multiple times, and I was like, “no, that one doesn’t work on the podcast. I get to the point way too late. I need to bring that up.” Or, “Hey, I need to summarize the takeaway as the ending for my video.” So it’s, it’s very, very different, but the only the thing is, I wouldn’t know until I start doing it.

Mary Killelea: Yeah. I agree with you. And that’s what I was going to say. I don’t think it’s common sense. I think. By putting yourself out there and focusing on, “Hey, I’m going to build this skill.” And then now you have three skills, and then now you have a broader view on how things work on all three channels and, and you’re fine-tuning it constantly.

Pam Didner: Yeah. The fine-tuning you are so right. Oh my God. So much work. 

Mary Killelea: Well, that’s what makes you a great marketer. 

Pam Didner: Oh, thank you. You are so sweet! All right, to wrap it up–maybe you already answered the question–if there’s one takeaway, one takeaway, or if there’s one thing you want to say to your young self, your 20-year-old, Mary, what would you say? And what is one thing you will tell her? 

Mary Killelea:  Wow. Um, I would say, um, I think, I wasn’t sure that I could. I had the marketing chops to be in a corporation early on. And I maybe talked myself out of that a bit and, and I, and I wish I wouldn’t have. Um, I underestimated myself.

Pam Didner: Your potential. 

Mary Killelea: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Um, so I would just say, be fearless, honestly. And not cocky, Just fearless in what you can do. If one person says no and you want to work at a certain spot and then try again. Just be persistent, be constantly evolving. Um, be completely open to learning. I think my dad taught me that early. I mean, it’s just, I value education–whether it’s formal or self-taught–it’s just you can design you, your career any way you want if you have a growth mindset. 

Pam Didner: I 100% concur and agree with that. To wrap it up, uh, I’m going to ask you one question. Okay. What is the most useless talent you have? Like completely useless. And, uh, when people say that, when you say that with people, they will like, “uh, what are you doing, Mary? What are you doing?” 

Mary Killelea: Okay. One thing comes to mind. Um, I learned this last weekend. I learned how to open up a champagne bottle with the sabre sword. 

Pam Didner: Are you serious? Okay. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah. So you don’t use the sharp side; you use the dull backside, and then you have to. I might be giving away the secret here.

Pam Didner: It’s okay! It’s okay! (laughs)

Mary Killelea: But there’s like a seam on the bottle. So if you hold the bottle correctly, who’s the sword, and you hold it like, kind of in a powerful stance. And then you do use not the sharp side. You pop it. You’ll have a clear cut, and you can pour champagne out of it. 

Pam Didner: Oh my God. 

Mary Killelea: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a good skill I have now, right?

Pam Didner:  Exactly. If you have a YouTube video, please share it with us. (both laugh) So, uh, Mary, can you tell us how people can reach out to you and what you can do for them? 

Mary Killelea: Sure. Sure, sure. Um, well, certainly reach out to me on LinkedIn, happy to connect. So that’s just Mary Killelea on LinkedIn. And then I also have, um, a podcast it’s called 2B Bolder podcast. It’s a passion project of mine, and I, uh, successfully interview women who share their business advice and tips and stories of their careers. So, um, anyway, it’s just something. I have two daughters, and I wish I would have had some resources like this when I was younger. 

Pam Didner: So sweet and so passionate. And thank you so much. And I was a guest podcast. You have done a fantastic job. So everyone, if you have an opportunity, check out the 2B Bolder podcast. Very, very good. Again, thank you so much for joining me on my thank podcast for being on my show.

Mary Killelea:  Thank you. I had a great time.

What can Pam Didner do for you?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, and marketing to sales enablement, she knows how corporations work. She can make you and your team a rock star by identifying areas to shine and do better. She does that through private coaching, keynote speaking, workshop training, and hands-on consulting. Contact her or find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. A quick note: Check out her new 90-Day Revenue Reboot, if you are struggling with marketing.