Inspirational Woman: Caroline Hudack | Chief Marketing Officer, Impala

Meet Caroline Hudack, Chief Marketing Officer, Impala

Caroline Hudack

Caroline Hudack is an alumni of the University of Oxford, and her career spans over 12 years within the male dominated tech and advertising sectors. She is currently CMO of one of the most exciting travel tech start-up’s to come out of London – Impala – shaping how the company engages with the global travel and tech industries.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role

My career began in marketing on a three-year WPP Fellowship. I was in New York around 2007 with WPP and we were going out to pitch for a lot of tech start-ups. During that time, we met a lot of interesting startups and larger companies like Facebook and Google etc and I became intrigued by the technology sector.

I spent around 12 years in the States, and I was the fifth person to join the Facebook marketing team. At Facebook, I helped to launch products such as video in Newsfeed and trending. In 2017, I moved to Airbnb as Director of Marketing (EMEA) to oversee the marketing strategy, brand management, creative insights, and the data science team.

My next step was a move to Impala, a series B startup, as Chief Marketing Officer. I now also run the People team. I was impressed by Impala’s potential to disrupt the travel industry, handing power back to the room sellers, and driving a wave of travel innovation.

I am a champion of women in tech and outside of my day job, I am an angel investor and part of the Atomico Angels program, helping to kick starting companies in the earliest stages of their development.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No but I knew I wanted to do something strategic and analytical but also creative.

There was never a master plan but after the WPP Fellowship, I also knew I wanted to work in marketing.

There have definitely been points in my career where I did stop and reflect on my direction and trajectory.

After my time in the States, I reflected on whether I wanted to continue working in “big tech” or be part of a more early-stage start-up.  At that stage, I decided on the latter.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Technology companies are naturally data led and run by engineers and product people and they don’t always have the greatest respect for the marketing teams. To be successful, you have to be able to understand how they work and adapt to different working styles but also be able to present your ideas confidently and have the data to back them up.

Working around the world, it is also important to understand the cultural context and how this impacts working life such as how to best communicate with team members and how to give and receive feedback.

I’ve also had two maternity leaves and given that the technology sector moves at a rapid pace, it can be challenging for new mums to reintegrate. American legislation towards parental leave is also very different to the UK so navigating this can be tricky.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One thing I was particularly proud of was a joint venture I launched between Airbnb and the Louvre. The campaign offered the chance to spend a night at the iconic gallery with a range of one-off experiences such as sipping champagne in front of the Mona Lisa.

At Impala, I recently headed up a full rebrand which included a new visual identity and a new strategic direction which capitalised on Impala’s position as the leading provider of Open Distribution. This has opened up new opportunities between room sellers and hotels and enabled a new wave of travel innovation. The visual identity, tone of voice and category positioning were designed to make Open Distribution – and the benefits it can offer everyone in travel – accessible and easy to understand.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success

There was never a “silver bullet” moment in my career, it has featured several highs and lows. One key lesson I’ve learned so far, is the importance of building and maintaining good relationships. It’s a small world and you frequently work with the same people at different companies so building that network is important.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Learning to code is obviously very useful. Likewise, really understanding product is key as it sits at the very core of most technology companies. It’s vital to empathise with the user and know what works and what doesn’t.

It’s a very hands-on sector which evolves at a rapid pace. It helps to invest time in reading and trying out new things. It’s also important to network and try to be around people who are having relevant conversations. Essentially making an effort to keep your finger on the pulse.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Absolutely, there is still a big gender divide in the technology industry. The engineering field is very male dominated.

It is important for women in the UK to consider careers in engineering and product management. However, it is equally as important for the sector to recognise and address the gender disparities.

Finding and keeping talent is also challenging, this has been exacerbated by “The Great Resignation” we experienced during the pandemic.

This is one of the things that attracted me to Impala. The CEO, Ben Stephenson, is a strong advocate for women in the sector. He recognises the value of having women working in senior roles and we have a very diverse and progressive team.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

I would say it boils down to three main things. Firstly, companies should strive to have a diverse team from the outset and focus on inclusivity. This maximises opportunities to find talent. Secondly, family structures have changed significantly over the past few decades. Companies need to be better at accommodating different kinds of family structures whilst eliminating discrimination on issues such as parental leave. Thirdly, women tend to have to advocate for themselves more and critical feedback is often style or character-based, rather than being performance-based. Managers should be thoughtful when providing feedback and be sure to pick up on and challenge any unconscious bias.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would increase the rate at which female entrepreneurs get funded. There are many women out there with a voice or an idea who are not being given the chances they deserve. That is one of the main reasons I became an Angel investor.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are plenty of online materials and free online trainings. Also, there are some great podcasts! I love audio content and I would personally recommend “Sway” by Kara Swisher and the A16z podcast.