What I learned… in Madagascar, with ClickThrough’s Macy Edwards

Digital marketer Macy Edwards tells us how her experiences in Madagascan conservation shaped her career

Macy Edwards is director of digital transformation and innovation at ClickThrough Marketing. What you might not know is that she started her career on the island of Nosey Be, Madagascar, where she was a conservationist. We chatted to her about how she went from wildlife to websites, and how her time in Madagascar has shaped her career in marketing.

Hi Macy! I understand you spent some time in a place most of us just dream of visiting – Madagascar...

When I was 18, I went to university to study Ecology and Wildlife Conservation. After that, I went and worked in Madagascar as a research assistant on an island called Nosey Be. I was studying birds, lemurs, and butterflies.

Growing up I had always loved animals. I used to breed chickens and ducks, which inspired me to study the area and secured funding to pay for me to go out and work there.

I imagine it was a new physical environment for you?

The site was very basic, we lived in wooden huts, and just had roll mats on the hard floor. The shower was a hose pipe, and the toilets were holes in the ground. There were no roads – the only way to access the sites was via a boat and hiking in. So, its fair to say… it was an adjustment! We were a team of people from around the world, so I had to learn about different languages and cultures.

Madagascar was colonized by the French, so they speak both Malagasy, which is more African in origin and French. I quickly had to learn what the local phrases were to ensure we blended in with the local people. My phrase book was invaluable!

That sounds like pretty good early training in communication and cultural understanding?

I learned so much about communication, different personalities and how to adapt your approach to support teamwork. When you’re living and working with people in isolated environments you have to learn fast to survive psychologically – otherwise it can be very lonely.

It also taught me about self-awareness and respect. Living in low-income countries you see a lot of poverty. It was humbling to experience and embrace that way of life because they are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, and the sense of community was something we just don’t have in the UK.

Has that perspective stayed with you for your marketing career?

I lead my teams with vulnerability and compassion. I feel it’s important to show you’re human and be clear about your values. That’s something I learnt early on; it helps you take people with you when driving change and in new roles through building that trust and driving value in terms of what the team delivers. I have a very open mind which I think comes from my experiences.

If a young colleague got the chance to go to Madagascar for a conservation job, would you recommend they take it?

Grab any chance to live in another country and experience a different culture. It definitely shaped who I am. Working in the high pressure, fast moving, digital sector can be hard but then I just think back to the beaches, blue sky, clear water, the incredible fish, lemurs and birds which had every color of the rainbow in them and they remind me this is a small part of a very big world.