One of the things that makes our community great is the feedback we receive from the community on how it can be even greater. That's why our Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is so important!

It's a fantastic opportunity for us to speak with our audience and find out what challenges they're facing, and how we can address them with our content, events, course, and community.

We caught up with Safyah Akhtar-Malik, Head of Growth at The Skills Network, who has been a member of the CAB since its inception, to find out what drew her to the CMO Alliance Community in the first place, and why she wanted to get more involved in driving the community forward.

About Safyah

Safyah Akhtar Malik completed a BSc(Hons) in Medical Biology at The University of Huddersfield and MSc in Digital Marketing Leadership at the University of Aberdeen. She currently works as Head of Growth at The Skills Network and serves as a member of several international advisory boards. As a Muslim professional in the EdTech sector, she writes and talks about growth, technology, and marketing. In her spare time, she loves sketching, going for a jog, and spending time with her family.

Hi Safyah, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at The Skills Network?

I'm a senior marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in the industry. At The Skills Network, I lead the Growth, Acquisition, and Marketing team, which is responsible for devising, implementing, and delivering data-driven marketing strategies to drive product growth. We work collaboratively across various departments and with external partners to achieve our goals.

The Skills Network is a leading provider of courses and training solutions in the UK Further Education sector. We offer a wide range of courses, including government-backed Skills Bootcamps, Continuous Professional Development programs, and a full suite of learning solutions. Our target audience includes individuals looking to upskill, reskill, or change careers, as well as employers, partners, education forums, and organizations.

Through our direct marketing approaches and collaborative partnerships, we help address skills gaps within different regions and communities throughout the UK. As one of the largest independent training providers in the country, we're proud to have empowered over 1.6 million learners to develop new skills and advance their careers.

I'm passionate about the work we do at The Skills Network, and it’s exciting to be part of a team that is making a positive impact on individuals and communities across the UK.

How did you find out about the CMO Alliance community in the first place, and what motivated you to get involved?

I discovered the CMO Alliance community through engaging content on LinkedIn. The posts from recognized marketing experts and thought leaders piqued my interest. I resonated with the quality of the content, as it addressed challenges that I've encountered in my own marketing career. This alignment, combined with the potential to learn from a community of diverse experts, motivated me to join the CMO Alliance and delve deeper into its offerings.

What have been some of the main benefits of the community for you?

The community has provided me with several invaluable benefits:

A supportive network of peers: The Slack community has been instrumental in connecting me with other marketing professionals, both on and off LinkedIn. This network provides a safe space to share challenges, exchange ideas, and engage in thought-provoking discussions.

Access to niche expertise: As a subject matter expert, I often face unique challenges. The community allows me to connect with individuals who have encountered similar issues, leading to valuable knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.

Enhanced learning and development: While staying updated on the latest marketing trends is crucial, the community offers more than just information. By interacting with experienced members, I gain valuable insights on how to effectively implement these trends, leading to more impactful marketing strategies.

What motivated you to join our Customer Advisory Board (CAB)?

I was motivated to join the Customer Advisory Board for two key reasons:

My passion for contributing to the community: I'm driven by the opportunity to leverage my experience and insights to help the CMO Alliance grow and thrive. I believe in the power of collaboration and am enthusiastic about contributing to a community that fosters meaningful connections and shared learning.

My diverse background and experience: Working with individuals from various backgrounds and geographies has equipped me with a broad perspective and understanding of customer needs. My unique perspective offers valuable, actionable advice to the board as we work together to enhance the community experience for all members.

What are the main things you’re looking to achieve as a member of the CAB?

My primary goals as a member of the Customer Advisory Board are:

To contribute diverse and inclusive insights: By sharing my unique perspective, I believe the board will gain a more comprehensive understanding of customer needs and opportunities. This can help attract and engage a broader range of individuals interested in the CMO Alliance.

To spark new ideas and content: A wider demographic within the community will naturally introduce fresh discussion topics and content possibilities. This will lead to richer, more thought-provoking conversations for all members.

To foster collaboration across regions: As someone who has worked in both the UK and North America, I hope to encourage more UK-based members to participate and share their experiences. This cross-geographic dialogue can provide valuable insights and foster further collaboration within the community.

What key piece of advice would you have for marketing leaders right now in terms of building a peer support network?

As marketing leaders, we often see the term ‘marketing’ being used broadly or subjectively, sometimes leading to misunderstandings within businesses. As a marketing mentor, I've observed this impact not only on junior professionals but also on many experienced leaders.

Imposter syndrome is a common experience, and being a woman leader, navigating these challenges can be especially demanding. This is why it’s so important to build a network filled with diverse perspectives and empathy as it can be such a powerful source of support and guidance in your professional life, and it’s one that can leave a long-lasting positive impact on your career.

What is your main piece of advice for CMOs right now?

Embrace the fast pace and prioritize customer-centricity: The marketing landscape is evolving rapidly, but it's important to remember we're all navigating this change together. Don't be discouraged if you haven't mastered AI integration overnight - continuous learning is key.

Believe in your expertise and advocate for marketing's role: You are the marketing leader, and your experience and insights are valuable. Be confident in your abilities and champion the impact marketing can have on achieving business goals.

Foster collaboration and data-driven decision-making: Break down silos by working closely with sales, customer service, and BI teams. Leverage data and insights from various departments to create customer-centric strategies and optimize your marketing efforts. Don’t forget to translate the insights into clear, actionable language for all stakeholders.

Build trust and transparency through open communication: Consistent, transparent communication across different business functions is crucial. This fosters trust, builds authentic connections, and paves the way for enhanced collaboration and improved results over time.

Thanks, Safyah!

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