A great pleasure to welcome corporate communications guru, Simone Pregellio, as guest reviewer for the Marina Go memoir, Break Through

break-through-9781925183542_lgLike many Gen X women, I remember my very first Dolly magazine, bought and devoured on a holiday to the Gold Coast when I was 13 years old.  The reason I remember ‘my first’, and the start of what would grow into an unhealthy and costly, multi-decade obsession with magazines, was because I was also petrified when my mother picked it up for a bit of a read.

Oh no I thought, what would she think of that story on SEX AND CONTRACEPTION?

I just remember her reading the magazine from cover to cover, tossing it back to me and saying, “What a load of rubbish.  Apart from that story on contraception.”

Marina Go was also 13 when she first picked up Dolly Magazine but at 16 she had decided that one day she wanted to be the editor.

And she did, at age 23 or as Kerry Packer once eloquently described while screaming at her during their first meeting, when she was ‘too f*cking young to be an editor’.

Break Through is Marina’s part memoir, part how-to guide.  It provides a rich and personal insight into a media career that has spanned more than three decades, detailing her evolution from journalist, to editor, to managing editor, CEO, board member and Chairman.

Marina grew up the western suburbs of Sydney, the daughter of a Hong Kong and an Italian immigrant.  Home was a very traditional environment where Marina and her sister where relegated to the household chores rather than her brother because he need to relax because ‘he would work hard to support a family one day’.  This attitude did not go down well with a young Marina and meant that she started her battle against traditional stereotypes for women at a very young age.  She is currently the first female chair of the West Tigers NRL club.

After deciding her goal as a teenager, Marina wrote to Lisa Wilkinson, the then editor of Dolly magazine and told her she wanted to write for her.  Lisa wrote back to her and told her to become a cadet at a newspaper.  So she did.

Starting as a volunteer production assistant at her local newspaper, one night a week while she worked at her first job working for the Reserve Bank, Marina graduated to cadet before moving to News Limited publication the Daily Mirror.  It was during her time at the Daily Mirror that she found out that the role of Dolly editor was up for grabs.

Marina didn’t get the job, she was appointed deputy, but after nine months or so, the role came up again and she became editor, a role which she held for five years and which would become the launch pad for her leadership and dominance in Australian magazines for decades to come.

When summarised, Marina’s career can look quite linear however throughout her book she details the misses as well as the hits, the many sideway steps, redundancies and resignations that have been part of her journey from newspaper cadet to Chairman.

Many of her career steps appear to have started with a phone call or coffee with someone she used to know or work with, a reflection no doubt of both the size of the Australian market and the old ‘its not what you know but who you know’ undercurrent through the media and publishing industry.  However what becomes clear in the book is how deliberate Marina has been with her long-term career strategy, beyond just snagging the editor role at Dolly.

Marina always knew she would eventually want to evolve from editing and publishing and started her MBA in her late 20s while pregnant with her first child, a degree that she would take seven years to finish as she balanced it for the most part working full-time and having two children.  Armed with this executive perspective, she appeared to navigate her transition from editor and publisher to ultimately ultimately CEO, board member and Chairman, traversing industries as she climbed.

As a memoir, I really enjoyed this book for Marina’s honesty and her generosity.   By describing both her wins, her misses and those pivotal moments in her career only discoverable in hindsight, she provides a narrative which many women who have a decade of experience and over will be able to relate to regardless of industry or profession.  She is generous in providing her observations of others, and whether correct or not, she appears to offer an objectivity to her own perspectives in a tone that appears fair and balanced.

Personally, I would have liked to have read the memoir in one go, rather than read memoir chapters sandwiched in between chapters with self-help titles like ‘Learn from mistakes’ or ‘Prioritise: family first’.   The instructional tone of these inserts seemed at odds with Marina’s generous tone used to tell and own her own story without judgment of herself or others.  It also in parts disrupted the flow of the memoir narrative.  If the chapters were designed to be read as individual topics or units, this could also be challenging to read in this way as many contained sequential information.

As someone who has grown up reading about Marina Go and has had a career in public relations and media and therefore familiar with some of the names mentioned in this book, I found the memoir a really enjoyable read.  There is equal comfort and inspiration to be found by sharing career journeys and I am a grateful reader when writers are as generous as Marina is in this book.

I would recommend the memoir aspect of the book to mid-career women but feel the instructional strategies may better appeal to women just starting their career who are also able to appreciate that is Marina’s personal perspective based on observations of her own unique career.

– Simone Pregellio

Thank you Simone for that considered review. I knew you were the right person for this job. Thank you also to Simon Schuster for providing the review copy.

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