While longevity is still valued by many people, for the vast majority, it’s more common –and even expected– to move between different roles and companies to grow in your career.
We spoke with Karen DeMello, Head of Digital Media Business Operations, at Woolworths Group (WooliesX). She’s built her career in customer relationship management, digital marketing, and media, across a range of industries – from publishing, retail, financial services, and media.
“I tend to change companies often to ensure I’m continuing to grow and work with different customer and data sets,” she said. “Six years with Woolworths Group is the longest stretch I’ve done! But that’s for a reason. It’s no doubt the best company I’ve ever worked for.”
As part of the company’s Digital Media Practice’s leadership team, Karen “leads the leaders.”
“I lead a team of leaders who deliver digital media and marketing activities for our businesses and partners. We develop and scale the capabilities that enable our teams and businesses to deliver campaigns effectively.”
From her varied career experience and roles developing others, it’s no wonder she has some valuable lessons to share.
“I enjoy leading teams, helping people develop and learn, propel their careers, and getting to know different personalities. I believe in maintaining a strong work ethic, understanding, and doing your job well, and being proud of the value you bring each day.”
So, it raises the question: Are the chances for advancing your career better if you stay in your current role, or try something new?
Here are some questions we explored with Karen.
Do you have to care about your organization’s products or services?
Sometimes, connecting on a personal level with your business’s products or services can provide you with inspiration and motivation at work. At least, that’s what Karen thinks.
“Having variety has helped me understand what I enjoy in a role and the work culture I thrive in. I discovered early in my career that I need to take roles in companies that I like, or that have products I like. I need to understand and connect with products to do my job well.”
While this might not necessarily be a dealbreaker for everyone, it’s food for thought.
What difference does an organization’s culture and values make?
For many of us who’ve experienced a great company culture with values that we connect with personally – the choice is to stay easy.
Karen loves that Woolworths Group is embedded in the Australian community and lives its purpose every day.
“When I first heard the company operates as a family and has family values, I thought it was just ‘talk.’ But I was genuinely surprised when I joined. I could see these values coming through in so many ways.”
For instance, her first interview went over time, because the conversation was so great! During Town Hall forums, she’s seen the company’s family-oriented ethos shine through.
“The team culture is fantastic. I’ve worked with so many experts in direct, data, and digital marketing who’ve helped me learn incredibly quickly. When WooliesX was formed as a central hub for our digital tech, data, eCommerce, and Loyalty capabilities, it really showed respect for what we delivered in results, reputation, and vision for future growth.”
How does your work align with what matters most to you?
Karen has experienced her fair share of challenges throughout her career. If your twenties were defined by working crazy hours – you’re not alone.
“I reached the point where I was so run down, it was affecting my health. But I don’t regret it, because I learned so much, developed specialist skills, and met amazing people at work who are still some of my closest friends to this day.”
Despite long working hours taking their toll, Karen used it as a learning experience.
“It helped me understand more about myself, what I want from a role, a company, and overall for my career. It helped me create stronger boundaries between my work and personal life. Gaining greater control and balance has helped me become a better person, employee, leader, friend, and family member.”
Interestingly, it was a good friend who helped Karen gain perspective.
“My conversation with them made me reflect on what I wanted from my life, job, personal branding, and decide what I was and wasn’t willing to give up. You can do a great job without sacrificing who you are as a person. That way, you can bring the best of you to work, and enjoy yourself when you’re not at work.”
Becoming a mom and returning to work presented another interesting challenge for Karen.
“I felt like I needed to be fast-paced, multitask, think quickly, and get up to speed. But I fell asleep on the bus during my first week back – something I don’t usually do! That was a lightbulb moment for me. No one expected me to catch up on everything immediately. I knew I needed to be kinder to myself, manage my expectations, and adjust to my new life.”
Now, outside of work, her life is all about family time.
“I’m fortunate to have an amazing, supportive husband and beautiful three-year-old girl. Our home is full of laughter, fun, and craziness – how can it not be when we have a toddler? We spend most of our weekends down at the beach and kid’s parks.”
Did you know Woolworths Group offers parental support, pay equity, flexible leave, and more?
Find out more about this and other benefits.
Does your role inspire and motivate you?
Gaining inspiration and motivation from work can be a deciding factor if you’re considering remaining in your current role or trying something new.
For Karen, the people she works with are the key source of motivation for her.
“I get to work with so many amazing, hard working people at WooliesX who are great at what they do. I love the responsibility of providing customers with their everyday needs through thick and thin – from COVID, to bushfires, to floods. I love working for a great company with a strong purpose, directly serving Australia as an essential business.”
During the pandemic, Karen worked as part of a team focusing on supporting the community and team members via digital channels.
“I saw everyone roll up their sleeves, put in the hours, never knowing what was coming next – that was inspiring to see. We came up with innovative ideas and quickly turned around solutions to meet our customers’ needs – particularly those in vulnerable situations. It made me so proud to work in a company with such a strong sense of responsibility, ethics, compassion, and desire to do good.”
How does your work enable you to achieve your own version of success?
Success can come in many different forms – from little wins to big. Often, it means something different to everyone.
“At the end of the day, if I’m happy and my family is happy, then I consider that success. Enjoying work, knowing I’m doing a good job, sharing my ideas, contributing, having the unwavering support of my leaders and peers, and being valued for being me – that’s my version of success.”
So, should you stay, or should you go?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to you. Is career growth important to you? Do you feel connected to a company’s purpose and values? Are you achieving your personal version of success?
According to Karen, a self-confessed job hopper, when you find the right work and workplace – the decision is simple. From her standpoint, you’ll be able to achieve career success and opportunities by having strong principles, knowing your job, doing it well, setting realistic expectations, and being open, honest, and dependable.
“If you’re unhappy with something, be the driver of change, take control of what you can, and determine what you can change so you can find happiness again. Know your value, keep things in perspective and know you always have options.”