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Zach Kangelaris.

From McDonald's and managing sports events to landing a role as a client partner with a tech-marketing start-up, Zach Kangelaris gives his advice on jumping at every opportunity in your career.

Jul 29, 2020

Words: Gippslandia
Images: Dana Irving

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It was through football that Gippslandia first heard of Zach Kangelaris. We were told that he was involved in ‘media or marketing or something’, but that he was quickly rising in a start-up company that was getting rave reviews and garnering investor interest itself. After some quick research, we became more intrigued. Zach’s background included time with McDonald’s and managing sports events, and he was indeed working for TRIBE, a tech-marketing start-up that connects brands with social media micro-influencers (3,000 to 100,000 highly-engaged followers).

Puzzled as to how Zach landed his role with TRIBE given his previous experience, we got in touch to learn his full story and discovered a driven guy who has consistently queried the status quo.

Can you please provide more detail on your career path to date?

My career path is somewhat unorthodox. I’ll begin from school, as it makes more sense, chronologically, and gives you some insight into how I think.

I’ve always challenged the status quo and wanted more. For instance, I asked Mum if I could leave mainstream school at the end of year 10 as I fell out of sync with the normal school system and hated learning off a whiteboard. Everyone, from my peers to teachers, thought I was making a big mistake. I was actually told by a teacher that if I didn’t pull my finger out in maths, I’d be stacking supermarket shelves for the rest of my life.

I then went to SEDA College, Traralgon, which is a sports development school with a more hands-on or practical learning approach and that allowed me to thrive. I could dabble with career opportunities as a part of the course work. I owe a lot of what I’ve achieved to date based on the decision to leave mainstream school, and the people who helped shape me during this time.

While at SEDA, I was working at Traralgon McDonald’s part-time, which I enjoyed, and I gained some great skills, especially in delegation and leadership.

Through my SEDA teacher, I was introduced to an event manager who started work experience alongside her at Cycling Australia. This flowed into casual jobs and learning a lot about the sports event industry. I loved it and it taught me a great deal about hard work without any expectations. The hours were long and constantly testing you, physically and mentally.

I graduated from SEDA with a Diploma of Sport and Development. However, I wanted more than what I believed Gippsland could offer me; I wanted to explore and be different. I accepted an offer to LaTrobe University, studying events management and marketing, and moved to Melbourne.

I always kept one foot in Gippsland by playing footy locally and travelled back for many years.

At uni, I thought I was keen to move into events management, but as time progressed I realised that a career in events would burn me out for not much reward, and decided to pursue the marketing side of my degree. I sought out people in the industry for work experience and eventually landed at TRIBE as an intern.

That’s when my career got really interesting. I interned at TRIBE for nine months, which is typically unheard of, as an internship is normally three months long, but they couldn’t get rid of me as I just wanted to keep learning. They were transparent in saying there weren’t any roles for me, but out of nowhere, I was offered a casual position in the sales team.

After a few months, I was promoted to a full-time account executive role (again I found myself questioning the system and if I really needed my degree to have a successful career). I decided to choose practical learning ahead of ‘whiteboard learning’.

My curious nature and attitude towards challenging the status quo became more obvious the more responsibility I received and the more I had the opportunity to voice my opinions. This, as well as my performance, led to being promoted to account manager: overseeing the management of national accounts such as Bunnings.

After about seven months as an account manager, an opportunity presented itself to become a client partner and this is where most of my progression has come.

In my current role, I educate existing clients on the influencer marketing and content marketing industry, TRIBE, and am a thought leader amongst peers and potential new clients. I’m helping formulate and develop strategies for some of the country’s biggest brands, such as Mars, Bega and more.

This has also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I went from account management, which is mostly sitting behind a computer, to a lot of presenting, talking and selling.

Recently this has flowed into speaking opportunities, like being a keynote speaker at multiple masterclass events, a guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne and hosting webinars with General Assembly that have more than 1200 registered attendees across two events in three weeks. All while I continue to drive business for the company.

What do you put your career progression down to?

I jump at every opportunity I can, especially given that I’m early in my career. This has really helped to quickly propel my career in a very upwards direction. I question why things are done the way they are and, being in a start-up in an emerging category, that is a valuable trait if kept in check. I work hard without expectation, I do it for myself and not for anyone else’s external validation, which makes it easier to take ownership over my career. This flows into not being complacent and striving to continually learn.

What advice would you offer to others who wish to have a career in this industry?

Be prepared to put in the hard yards early and actually put in the hard yards, don’t just say you will. Like most things, such as with sport and your career, progress is made after hours by learning, adapting and then putting it into practice when everyone else has gone home.

You’re not going to get the dream role straight away, that takes time and is earnt.

Take as many opportunities as you can to learn and progress.

Make sure you enjoy what you do.

Finally, ask questions and be a ‘sponge’ in the early days. People like talking about themselves (this article being a great example!), so ask them about what they do and how they do it.

"ask questions and be a ‘sponge’ in the early days"

Finally, Gippsland’s going to need to bounce back after Covid-19. If the region was your client and you need to address the current situation — what would you do?

This is generic advice, as it really depends on the individual business’s circumstances within the region.

Firstly, get your messaging right, update your website and your social media pages to align and let people know that you’re open for business. Learn how to run social media ads to get your message in front of the right people.

The current research demonstrates that your customers still want to hear from you during this period. Even though it is such a tough time for many people, there is actually quite a lot of opportunity, especially in social media. Social media consumption is up around 60% and social advertising volume is down, which means it’s cheaper to run ads on social media right now.

Come up with a campaign with this messaging; it could be as simple as ‘The Great Gippsland’, ‘Welcome to Gippsland’ or ‘This Is Gippsland’ and get people to share their favourite spots or experiences in Gippsland, why they love them and when they’re heading back. Utilise this content, as it’s so valuable.

You can approach local people with a following to promote the region. There’s something refreshing about seeing someone you know and trust telling people how good a brand is, instead of the brand telling you how good they are. Turn their posts into paid social media ads and target specific audiences with a precise message at the right time and you’ll start building the brand again using your own customers.

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