Christine Bailey featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Christine Bailey | CMO, Valitor

Christine Bailey

Dr Christine Bailey joined Valitor, an international technology and payments company, as Chief Marketing Officer in August 2017.

She has 25+ years’ experience of business to business marketing in the technology sector, including leading European marketing functions for large companies (Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems), as well as smaller companies such as Extraprise, Cambridge Technology Partners and Insight Marketing.

Christine is a respected thought leader and speaker, most notable for her TEDx Talk ‘Unconventional Career Advice’ and regular blogs for Forbes Woman. In Oct 2017 she was included in Axxon Media's Top 140 Super Awesome Content Marketing Accounts Every Marketer Should Follow. In 2016 she was ranked #7 most influential marketer at the London Festival of Marketing, as well as being included in B2B Marketing’s Top 10 Most Influential Women in Martech. In addition to being a judge and keynote speaker at the UK’s Women in Business Awards, she was also the Global & EMEAR co-lead for Connected Women at Cisco.

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

I’ve spent my whole career (25+ years) in marketing in the technology industry - running European marketing functions for industry giants such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, as well as for much smaller companies. My first degree was in German & Business Studies, which led me to work in Germany for 5 years. I also have a doctorate in customer insight. I’m currently working in London as the Chief Marketing Officer of Valitor, an international payments solution company headquartered in Iceland.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’m a big advocate of having a ‘direction’ rather than ‘a plan’, because plans can be too rigid and have a habit of not working out! Instead, having a clear direction allows a lot more flexibility with many paths to success. I always knew I wanted to work in international marketing, so my first adventure was running European PR/analyst relations for Hewlett-Packard in Germany. After that, I aspired to be a marketing director and I achieved that at Extraprise, a CRM consulting firm in 2000. A great mentor then encouraged me to “dream bigger” and I started aspiring to be a ‘marketing guru’. I’m not there yet, but getting my doctorate and landing my first CMO role at Valitor have been great steps in the right direction!

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve been made redundant three times in my career. Each time it felt like a huge challenge, but then it shaped my career in a positive way with the added bonus that it’s helped me to get comfortable outside my comfort zone. I’ve found that the path to success isn’t always linear - sometimes you have to go sideways to go upwards. But as long as you have a clear direction and you’re moving forwards, I believe that everything happens for a reason.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

If I could wave a magic wand, I’d make flexible working the norm. I’m a firm believer that work is something you do, not a place you go and women in particular appreciate the flexibility to be in control of how, when and where they get the job done. It’s the reason why so many women work for themselves or start up businesses. I’m not talking about radical changes, just the ability to work from home sometimes (school holidays are every parent’s nightmare!) and some flex in working hours.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’m a massive fan of mentoring. I’ve always had mentors, both formally and informally and I’ve mentored many people too. The important thing is to know what you want a mentor for - career advice, skills development, personal growth, expanding your network etc. Pick wisely and make sure you set the right expectations on both sides. I find it’s best to time-box it too - usually the most value comes from a period of 6 - 12 months then a fresh perspective is more beneficial.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

I think we have a responsibility to be role models and teach our daughters that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ and they can be whatever they want to be. One of my favourite quotes from my ten year old daughter was when she was at nursery - they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she replied “in charge”!

The earlier we can start, the better. I’m hugely in favour of programs in schools that encourage girls to learn how to code and consider careers in STEM. When I was running Connected Women at Cisco, one of our flagship programmes was ‘Girls in ICT’. We also support this in Valitor - bringing 13/14 year old girls into our head office for the day and introducing them to life in a technology company.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest physical achievement was getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2002. That taught me important lessons in stamina and how small steps can achieve big things if taken in the right direction. As my guide said “there are no prizes for coming first, you just have to get to the top. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there”.

My greatest mental achievement was getting my doctorate. That was definitely a marathon not a sprint! Six months into my 4 year journey I was made redundant, losing both my job and my sponsorship. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I did consulting work to pay the bills and finished in 3 1/2 years instead of four. I was 9 months pregnant when I handed in my thesis and was offered a fabulous job at Cisco - definitely not ideal but sometimes you just have to grab opportunities when they arise!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m still working towards being a “marketing guru”! I was recently featured as a “Rockstar CMO” which was pretty cool. Right now I’m enjoying the best job of my life as CMO of Valitor and I’m involved in various women’s networks. My dream for the future is to spend a little less time working!