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Women in Media - Melina Cruickshank



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Welcome to MediaScope's profile series where we regularly ask 'Women in Media' about their career and experiences in our industry. 

This time we feature Melina Cruickshank, Director of Life Media for Fairfax.

Thanks to Melina for getting involved.

Name:    Melina Cruickshank
Company:  Fairfax Media
Role:     Director of Life Media for Fairfax Media

Tell us about your industry background?Women in Media - Melina Cruickshank - Fairfax Media

My first job was in Rio Tinto’s environmental department in a remote community called Gove at the very tip of the Northern Territory! It was an incredible time. Apart from the beautiful location on the coast, gaining such professional training early on gave me a brilliant foundation straight out of university. Those jobs are rare and I worked as hard as I could to gain experience including sampling groundwater in swamps! I eventually moved into managing their internal comms on their intranet as the internet arrived and knew thats where I wanted to focus.

After 3 years I moved to London to work as an online producer in a media agency. I learnt a lot in those years working with clients across many industries such as fmcg, health, beauty and retail. I think if anyone can do time agency side it’s absolutely worth it. It gives you a real respect for hard work, long hours and an insight on how to treat people.

Back to Australia to Product Manager for Domain.com.au at Fairfax Digital, moving into the Group Product Director a few years later. I then got the opportunity to take on the General Manager position of Essential Baby after Fairfax acquired it. Last year I was promoted to the Director of Life Media at Australian Publishing Media which covers all of Fairfax’s national lifestyle brands.

What is your role and what do you do?

As the Director of Life Media I oversee the lifestyle product and editorial teams covering parenting, food, travel, youth, opinion, automotive and style.

I'm accountable to the business to grow audience, deliver profit growth and present future plans to grow our brands in a landscape that is moving incredibly fast.

How do you personally manage your work/life balance?

I have three little boys under 6 and I work full time so it’s intense. We have finally employed a nanny to help and it’s transformed our world.  I try to prioritise exercise as much as I can as I perform so much better in my life when I’m feeling fit. I like running on the beach and ocean swimming - anything outdoor gives me energy.

I try to attend most functions in the day only and delegate night functions to my wonderful editors. As I work full time I want to spend as much time as possible with my boys. I am very lucky in that I have a lot of flexibility in my role and I take an approach where work and home are intertwined. If I leave early, I finish my day off at night. Flexibility goes both ways and in this role I am almost always 'on'. I love my job so I don't see it as a negative.

I also have a brilliant husband who helps. Ultimately we’ve realised this is just a really busy, crazy time in our lives and we just do our best. I can’t say I get the balance always right and I’m always trying to improve it.

Please outline your views on the general media market & the position of women?

Media is completely different today than it was 5 years ago and there is no doubt it will be just as different in another 5 years. To succeed and enjoy media you need to embrace change on a really regular basis! It is moving fast but the fundamentals are still there – people still want to consume great journalism. They want it to be compelling and accurate and in the medium that reflects their lives – mobile, video, web, magazine, print.

The growth and importance of lifestyle content in a traditional newsroom environment has been brilliant to champion. Travel, food, celebrity, parenting, fashion and opinion provide increasing important value to our smh.com.au and theage.com.au audience's and all our brands are thriving.

I have a team which is 90% women! It has just worked out that way. They’re all smart, talented, extremely hardworking and obsessed with the best content creation for our audiences. I try to take a very supportive approach to my teams to help shape a flexible culture around women’s needs in their careers. This is something that hasn't been the case in a newsroom but we are getting there.

What advice can you offer to women who are considering a long-term career in our industry?

I would say understand that great careers take time and work really hard in the role you’re in before becoming too worried about the next step.  Hard work and luck go a long way in media. Be open to change and use those early years to deliver results and establish a strong reputation. If you decide to take time out of the workplace to have children that reputation will be one of your best assets. Understand that media is a volatile but also a fascinating and a wonderfully intense place to work within. Embrace all types of individuals and give respect to those people who have been in media for a while. I continue to learn every day from experienced journalists.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

Well Fairfax has been undergoing one of the largest transformations in media history so that has been very challenging at times! It has been hard to see some great people leave the business but I've learnt every person leaves a certain legacy to learn from. I’ve kept myself around positive people in challenging times and prioritised personal needs when it’s been professionally tough.  The tough times don’t last long – that is a key benefit of a fast paced industry.

Having three small children while my career started to get serious has also been tough at times and all it takes is a sick child on an important work day and it feels like it can fall apart quickly.  But resilience is one of my best characteristics to call on. I have also found women colleagues to be incredible support mechanisms over the years.

What can our industry do right now to better recognise & support women & families?

Flexible work environments and conditions should be the norm nowadays.  We should all hold senior executives accountable for retaining talent through a customised approach to women’s wellbeing and satisfaction in the role. We need to also focus on men and allowing that flexibility. My husband is an engineer and his company have been fantastic in that area. With my third son he took 6 months paternity leave and I discovered what it was like having a stay at home wife!

What’s your favourite business and personal magazine, site or program?

I love the 7:30 Report, pinterest, smh.com.au, thedesignfiles.com.au, dailylife.com.au and Twitter. I am a political junkie and have my little gang of favourites that I read religiously. My mag fix is Home Beautiful. 

Thank you!

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MediaScope Women in Media - SheSaysSheSays - is a global networking organisation to support women in advertising, media, marketing and creative. It's entirely free and everyone involved is a volunteer. Come and join us at our next event. Find out more here - & join the SheSays Facebook page. 

MediaScope Women in Media - Who's Your MommaWho's Your Momma - is a free mentorship program for women in advertising, digital, media and marketing run by SheSays. We know no matter where you are in your career it's good to have somebody to turn to when you need some advice and support. Find out more here.

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If you know a 'Woman in Media' you'd like to see profiled please get in touch with your suggestion.

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Further Resources

  •  Digital People Profiles - over the past 3 years we've profiled over 100 of the most well-known and experienced people in the Australian digital media industry through trade site - Digital Ministry
  • Media Owner Profiles - we ask some of Australia's most successful media owners about running their business and ask them to offer advice to other media owners

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