In conversation with Catherine Williams - Episode 6 - Inspiring the Next CMO series

Join Lou in a conversation with Catherine Williams, an industry COO and past CMO. Catherine talks with us about:

  • How a two-week internship at Penguin launched her career

  • How she progressed through smaller societies to much larger organizations

  • All about managing the team at Altmetrics that brings essential data to librarians and information managers that allows them to make smart decisions

  • Why taking your time and learning from others is a more valuable experience than worrying that people think

  • Why it is important to make sure you don't take on too much, professionally

  • A love of historical podcasts

  • The joys of a good travel guide collection

  • How it's possible to spark inspiration in your team members

  • The importance of adding value, being authentic and telling your company’s story



Podcast channel: Website, Google Podcast, iTunes, Podbean, Spotify


Transcription (contains Amazon affiliate links):


Lou: Hello hello Right. This is our Inspiring the Next CMO podcast series for Behind the Fluff podcast from The International Bunch. It’s specifically for those in marketing, those interesting in marketing, those in academic publishing, scholarly comms and libraries. Who are we going to be talking with today? Cat Williams. Cat is an industry COO. Cat talks with us about:


  • How a two-week internship at Penguin launched her career

  • How she progressed through smaller societies to much larger organizations

  • All about managing the team at Altmetrics that brings essential data to librarians and information managers that allows them to make smart decisions

  • Why taking your time and learning from others is a more valuable experience than worrying that people think

  • Why it is important to make sure you don't take on too much, professionally

  • A love of historical podcasts

  • The joys of a good travel guide collection

  • How it's possible to spark inspiration in your team members

  • The importance of adding value, being authentic and telling your company’s story


So why don’t we just jump straight in? Let’s go.


Lou: Welcome everybody to our ‘Behind the Fluff’ podcast series. We've got our ‘Inspiring the next CMO’ podcast series right now where you can find lots of really useful marketing resources at www.internationalbunch.com/beinspired. Today I would like to welcome Cat Williams. Now, Cat is a COO in the industry. Welcome, Cat.


Cat: Hi, thanks for having me.


Lou: Absolutely. Now, the first thing that we're going to do is you're going to give us a word, your most favourite word at the moment, or it could be of your life. We have a campaign that we do on a daily basis called #intbunch word of the day, where we have lots of really great words. Either some people that take part in these will get a word that we've already done or they'll come up with their own and then we can add it into our schedule because it's quite hard doing 364 words which are really cool and interesting. So what is your word for us?


Cat: Well, I’ve had a big think about it; I’m going to go with ‘snooze’. It has been really hard the last few months to get some decent sleep.


Lou: And why is that, Cat?

Cat: Well, I have a seven month old who I can hear not snoozing at the moment.


Lou: I think many of us can relate to that word, snooze. It's such a cool word as well actually – snooze.


Cat: it’s got a nice sound.


Lou: It does, a brilliant sound. Thank you for that. We will add that into our schedule because I don't think we've had that one yet. And so, first things first, let's talk a little bit more about you; what is the best thing that you have discovered in this last year that we've been in?


Cat: Well, the last year's been really funny. I worked for kind of half of it and then I've been off. My husband actually introduced me to this podcast that I've been loving. It's called, You're Dead To Me. I don't know if you've ever come across it? They do a lot of historical chatting about just really interesting people from the past. So it might be a celebrity or a politician or some other famous person, and they have a mixture of historians and comedians on and you just learn loads of interesting stuff.


Lou: I love it. I will definitely include a link to that in the description. That sounds absolutely brilliant. Actually, in these podcasts that we've done already, we've had a number of really good podcasts, and we did one with Wayne Sime from ALPSP, and he was talking about his love of Henry VIII.


Cat: Oh, wow.


Lou: Yes, so we learned some stuff about Henry VIII.


Cat: This would be perfect for him then, although he probably knows it all.


Lou: Yes, exactly. And if he doesn't, we'll tell him about it. Is there anyone that you specifically found really interesting?

Cat: I'm trying to think who we were listening to yesterday. Oh, they had one about Alexander Hamilton, so we had a good listen to that. Then, of course, we immediately put the soundtrack on.


Lou: I love him. I'm definitely going to check that out. So, podcasts - that's definitely a favourite one for everyone at the moment, and different ways of listening and digesting information. Now, next question, who inspires you?

Cat: I was thinking about this because when you sent the questions through, and really I decided that it was my friends that inspire me. I know so many, particularly women, who are doing amazing things, balancing family life and really demanding jobs and really excelling at what they do in all kinds of different careers. So I'm going to go for them.


Lou: I’m thinking that you probably have a few people in mind, haven't you?

Cat: Yes, for sure. They really pushed me to think that I could do more as well and that you can choose to do whatever you want to do and you shouldn't be afraid to take some risks.


Lou: Yes, absolutely and sometimes being in a situation like this pandemic I think helps people to also re-evaluate situations that they're in, to think: I can actually do this. It's amazing how people have taken different opportunities from this situation. So, when you were young, what did you want to be?


Cat: I was desperate to be an interior designer. I loved all things art and all I wanted to do was to get my hands on someone else's house and totally redo the whole thing.


Lou: I have to say, I have had a look around your sitting room that you're in at the moment and it is super nice. I am quite jealous. Is it like a blue on the wall that I'm seeing?


Cat: Yes.


Lou: It looks to me a bit like Cambridge Blue.


Cat: It is a little bit, yes.


Lou: If you were to have dinner tonight with everyone not, you know, sleeping which I'm sure you'd love to be doing, if you could have dinner with anyone in the world, whoever, they may be dead or alive, it doesn't matter, who would you want to have dinner with tonight?


Cat: Well, I was thinking, given that it's been a tough few months, I'd really like a bit of light-hearted banter and someone who could make me laugh. I've recently started following Daisy Mae Cooper on Instagram, and she is pretty funny. She's also recently had a baby so it's fairly relatable, and she's been busy winding up her publishers and teasing them about things she wants to put in her new book. So I reckon she's got some good stories, and we'd have a good time.


Lou: Excellent. I love that. We all need a bit of humour in this day and age that we've been in, this funny old time. So, if we were to talk about your career, tell me a bit about your career in terms of how you've got to where you are today.


Cat: It was a funny thing, actually; I think it's a good example of launching yourself into an industry and not really realizing where it might take you. After University I did an internship at Penguin, in one of their books departments, obviously, and I was in marketing there. It was just a two-week thing, and I thought, I love this! That's it. I want to work in publishing. So I got a job, actually in journals publishing at the end, and I thought, oh journals, that won't be very interesting. There's not really much to them. They're those boring things that you're supposed to read at University, and I discovered this whole world and I got to do all this travelling.


I started off as a marketing assistant and then I became a marketing executive. And at the time I was working at a really small society publisher, but actually, it was a great chance to learn loads about the industry and get experience doing all sorts of different bits of marketing and developing this really broad skill set.


Later the publisher of the journals later got bought by Sage, so I had a year or so working there and met a load of great people. They had an amazing team and a very different approach as well, which I think is really valuable for learning what I did. Then from Sage I moved to Nature journals, where I worked mostly on marketing the Nature archive and the physical science journals to universities. We worked really closely with the sales team. We were talking a lot to librarians, doing again, lots of conferences and lots of email marketing. Social media marketing then I think was really just starting to take hold in our industry, so we were dipping our toes in the water there.


While I was at MPG, I met the founder of Altmetric, where, actually I've been ever since in the Wider Digital Science Group. They were looking for someone to start the Altmetrics marketing department. Basically, there was no one else doing it. There were five people in the company, and it was a really exciting opportunity. And so I've been there ever since, introducing an entirely new concept to lots of different markets. I also worked on the launch of Dimensions and other digital science products when that came out a couple of years ago. It's just been great to work with some really inspiring people actually, and all these new ideas. And from there I moved into the COO role, which has its own unique challenges, as I'm sure you can imagine.


Lou: Absolutely. It is fascinating though, to hear how you've progressed and you've moved up, and also that later on in your career, you've worked for a more niche organization that’s smaller, because, with the Society, that was small as well and then you went to work with Nature and to be able to have that exposure to working in a bigger organization, you just learn so much but then to go to working for an organization like Altmetric where you can be really agile and you don't have the same constraints, and actually, you can build something from the bottom because you've been down at a junior level so you appreciate and understand what needs to happen at that level. So that must be really fascinating. And also, to take a step sideways from being CMO to now COO do you do any marketing work now in your role, or do you work with the marketing guys?

Cat: I do work with them, they report in to me; I like to have my say in things sometimes, but they're doing an amazing job so I try to leave them to it most of the time, but you will always have, certainly if you've done the job yourself before I think you'll always have a bit of an eye out for what's going on.

Lou: Exactly, and because it's such a fascinating industry that we work in and it's incredibly fast paced, and because with digital science, you're in an organization that creates and fosters an environment for such bright and young companies that you're also able to see some really interesting trends and technologies emerging. They have done a fantastic job with the Altmetric marketing I have to say. When you look at where we were with these kind of services five years ago to where we are now and how they're being used with the data that's available, it's just mind-blowing, isn't it? And what can be done in the future?


Cat: Yes, it's really exciting. I think Altmetric is a great example of doing a lot with not very much. You see the data on thousands of journals, and hundreds of un