As Head of Brand Strategy and Communication with Syngenta, Australian Kirsty James shapes visual identity and corporate advertising, and is responsible for corporate publications and online delivery for the Swiss agribusiness. That’s a tall order, but James—who has 20 years of industry experience, including eight with Syngenta—loves a challenge. MScom dovetails perfectly with her commitment to bringing fresh perspectives from other industries to her role with Syngenta.
With a marketing diploma from Sydney’s University of Technology, James has experience across a wide variety of industries, from building materials to automotive retail. Prior to coming to Basel in 2006, James was marketing campaign and communications manager in Syngenta Australia. She transferred to the company’s headquarters in Basel to work in regional internal communications. Today she heads up corporate brand strategy and communication globally.
“In every professional endeavor, there comes a time when you want a new challenge. That can often mean going to work in another industry, but I really enjoy working for Syngenta, so I was looking for ways to bring in new ideas from outside our industry,” she said. “I had heard about MScom and was most interested so I went to Lugano, attended the 10th anniversary celebration last year and sat in on some lectures.”
Although James was eager to participate in MScom12, the program was full and it was only by a stroke of luck that a participant dropped out, creating an opening for her to join the class.
The energy of MScom
“MScom has a really fresh and dynamic feeling, not at all stiff like some educational institutions can be,” she said. “It feels up to date and modern, and part of that is due to the staff’s commitment. It’s clear they’re passionate and believe in the program.”
That energy carries over to the program itself, James said.
“I’m getting a lot of new insights, and not just from the faculty. Our class is a highly international group of career communicators from diverse industries: power, automotive, steel, banking, consultancies and non-governmental organizations, to name a few. This diversity adds tremendous value to our classroom discussions and to the overall learning experience. Talking through situations, hearing what other MScom participants think is very powerful.”
In turn, James brings a marketing focus and experience in an industry that many people might not know a lot about. In addition, she has worked in a variety of industries and at country, regional and global levels.
Up to the challenge
James pointed out that while MScom is an engaging educational challenge, it’s a lot of work.
“Taking part in MScom and holding down a full-time job at the same time can be demanding. I’m fortunate in having supportive friends and a fantastic team at work who keep things running professionally while I’m away.”
James returns to the workplace from MScom with fresh ideas on tackling professional challenges.
“I find myself less focused on the immediate and taking more of a long-term, strategic view,” she said. “It’s great to be able to regularly get together with 27 communication professionals and discuss issues and challenges that are relevant to our careers.”
Text based on interview carried out in March 2010.