Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Inspirational Woman: Erin "Mack" McKelvey | Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Meet Erin "Mack" McKelvey, Founder & CEO, SalientMG

Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Throughout her 20+ year career, Erin (Mack) McKelvey has led transformative teams that accelerate revenue and market position for publicly traded and privately held technology companies.

In 2013, Mack founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment and SquadLocker.

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

In my 20+ years of experience, I’ve led market differentiation and transformation for public and private tech companies including SIRIUS XM, VeriSign, CGI, British Telecom, and Lucent Technologies/AT&T. Most recently, I was the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Millennial Media; where I greatly contributed to the company’s growth from start-up stage through its successful 2012 IPO. In 2013, I founded SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in go-to-market and executive visibility strategies and programs that create market and category differentiation for B2B technology companies and the executives who run them. SalientMG’s clients have included Rovio, Etsy, Verizon, Starwood Hotels, ExecOnline, UberMedia, Caesars Entertainment, Sparkfly and SquadLocker. As its CEO and Founder, I oversee our team’s high-impact marketing initiatives for growth-stage tech startups, including executive visibility efforts promoting underrepresented leaders.

I’m also a startup tech advisor and investor, speaker, and business/industry awards’ judge. I serve on the Advisory Boards of technology startups, including Real Atom, a female-founded commercial real estate fintech startup based in DC; I am also on the Board of Trustees for Creative Spirit, a non-profit which seeks to create jobs for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. I am an active mentor in ACP’s US Military Veteran Women’s Program and Women in Marketing (UK). In addition, I am an investor in several companies, including a martech company which enables digital transformation in the QSR and Retail sectors. As the wife of a former active-duty US Marine, I also support my husband’s military foundation and charitable work.

I am a public advocate for diversity, inclusion, and representation in business, technology, and advertising. I have been a contributor to Fast Company, Fortune, Entrepreneur, MediaPost, Luxury Daily, CMO.com, and other business and trade publications on leadership, diversity, visibility, management, and marketing innovation for the past 10+ years..

I worked with Business Insider to create the 2016, 2015 and 2014 lists of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising”. In 2013 and 2012, I was named one of “The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising” by Business Insider. In 2012, I received the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Silver Medal Award for outstanding industry contribution. In 2010, I was listed on the inaugural “Mobile Women to Watch” by Mobile Marketer and I was a contributing author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Twenty five years ago my biggest goal was to land my first job in tech. But as my career progressed through a series of positions at prestigious high-growth companies, I became more intrigued by mentoring, investing, ownership, and inclusion. It’s best to have a plan for your career but not necessarily one set in stone—embrace change because it may be for the better.

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

One of my most infamous career challenges is one we can all relate to: the first six months post-graduation. In that tense and confusing waypoint between the educational and corporate worlds, I applied to countless companies, only to receive zero responses. After speaking with a friend who ran into a similar silence before changing her name on her resume from “Alexandra” to “Alex”; I changed my first name on my resume from “Erin” to “Mack”, a made-up nickname. The risk paid off and soon after I received a massive response rate to the same resume, with a name other than my given one. While grateful that my social experiment proved fruitful, it was, I believe, my first glimpse into the struggles women face in the tech industry. (And possibly the first spark that led me to eventually found a company that could help impact representation, SalientMG.)

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Founding SalientMG. Starting any company is a huge risk. It involves market differentiation, product-market-fit, an amazing team, money, a great deal of luck, and incredible clients. Even with all those factors, the success of a company is not guaranteed. In the early years of launching SMG, each day was similar to navigating a minefield. But, I’m proud to say we fought through some of our early growing pains and I see not only the company and staff grow, but myself as well.

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

I learned to use my fear as a catalyst, not a deterrent. There have been many times in my career when I was afraid to take risks such as changing my name, starting a company, or investing in start-ups. Many would have listened to that small voice in the back of their mind telling them to play it safe but I realized that fear is not always a bad thing. It’s a reminder that the best chances aren’t the easiest decisions to make.

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

Stay relevant. In the past few decades technology has expanded at an exponential rate so much so that some categories are beginning to bleed into one another. Keep your skill set sharp but don’t be afraid to venture into other fields in technology and gain outside insight. It’ll increase your networking opportunities, expand your skill set, and expose you to different approaches you may not have considered otherwise.

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

Of course. While I hate to say it, quite a few barriers I faced when first entering tech still exist today. However, the one thing that has changed is the power of technology. Platforms such as LinkedIn allow us to maintain or create connections with like-minded individuals and using that we are able to showcase our talents to larger audiences. The rise of social media allows us the opportunity for visibility and helps us to bypass the barrier of falling under the radar simply because of our position in the field.

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

Just listen. There are a multitude of women whose talents are underutilized because of their gender, experience, age, or title. Everyone’s ideas, no matter how small or large, have the potential to create or transform industries. The only thing preventing us from ushering in a new wave of tech is personal biases. We need to stop underestimating those without advanced degrees, new grads, those countlessly passed over for promotion, or those entering this field later than what’s deemed normal. Treat every co-worker with the respect you would treat your employer, take the time to have a conversation and share ideas, it may just change your perspective.

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?

According to the World Economic Forum, just 24% of experts quoted in the media are women. See the correlation? One of the fastest ways to impact the tech industry is to flood it with women’s voices, ideas and expertise. Women must take control of their visibility. Digital is the great equalizer. Creating and placing meaningful content and amplifying that content via social is the best way for women to start. Utilize social to create conversation; lead it. Normalize seeing women on stage at tech conferences talking about technology, not being a woman in tech. Normalize reading about women’s innovation, not how they strive for the ever elusive work/life balance. Normalize creating room for women to share ideas and create diverse teams to implement them. Raise your hand to be one of those expert sources for reporters and champion other women to do the same.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

All of the above. Make yourself known wherever you can whenever you can. Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, and websites are all opportunities to be exposed to a unique audience. Never pass up an opportunity no matter how significant or insignificant it may appear. You never know what exposure it may bring and where it could lead your career.