For this month’s MA Member Story, we chatted to Caroline Ah Chong-Douglas, General Manager Sales and Marketing at SkyCity Entertainment Group.  

Caroline graciously joined us at the Marketing Association in Parnell to share her story and encourage the 15 Māori and Pasifika students in their own marketing career journey, as they kicked off this year’s Marketing Futures Collective programme.

Q: Caroline, tell us a bit about yourself – your background and your career to date.  We understand that you grew up in Samoa, moved to New Zealand to study, and then landed your first job as a Marketing Assistant at the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association.  

Yes indeed, I was born and raised in Samoa and moved to NZ when I was 18 to further my education, completing a Bachelor of Business majoring in Marketing from UNITEC.  I come from a Samoan, German, Chinese background and hold my strong Samoan heritage in high regard.  Samoa is home to me and proud to say that I am an extremely proud and strong Samoan woman.

Q: Tell us more about this experience and transitioning into the working culture of a New Zealand organisation. What was it like and is there anything you wish you’d known then?

I held other roles while studying towards my degree in marketing, however this was my first full time role out of uni and I had mixed emotions heading into a big organisation.  I was excited to get into the workforce, but it was also daunting being the young newbie.  I have always believed that you have to make the most of opportunities that are presented to you, so I soaked it all in, asked questions, made friends, learnt everything I could and just worked really hard.  I reported through to the Sales Director who I still, to this day, hold in high regard. He was kind, clever and compassionate and a leader that I aspired to be.

What I wish I had known then was that it’s ok to fail and that you don’t need to know everything… I’ve always set such high standards for myself, however it’s ok to fail so long as you learn from those mistakes.

Q: What do you regard as some of your career highlights and key achievements to date?

I am super proud of where my career has taken me today…. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow within SkyCity and a career highlight was when I moved into the role of Director of Sales & Marketing for our Hotels Group and now my current role as General Manager, Sales & Marketing.  I feel so blessed and fortunate that I am able to work in an industry that I am so passionate about.  Other highlights include me being a part of the BEST Pasifika Leadership programme in 2013 which really was a catalyst in my Leadership growth.  I am also a proud Samoan who was fortunate to lead the International Samoan Netball team which really was the introduction for me into leadership and leading teams.

Q: Tell us about your current role at SkyCity?

I am currently the General Manager, Sales & Marketing for SkyCity and my role is responsible for leading a team of marketing and sales professionals across the SkyCity Auckland precinct which includes Gaming, Hotels, Food & Beverage, Attractions and Loyalty.

Our team purpose is to deliver vibrant, safe and exceptional customer experiences with entertainment at the heart.  We are there to live out our purpose of creating these special moments for our customers and ensuring they have unforgettable moments.  I lead a department of 40+ passionate individuals and no day is ever the same, you could be working a marketing campaign that drives hotels occupancy one day to launching a new restaurant the next day to giving away an Aston Martin on our gaming floor the next… it’s a very exciting and vibrant space to be in.  

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in a marketing role?

I love that I work for a business that delivers on its purpose, I love the vibrancy, culture and values of the organisation which aligns with my passions and purpose in life. I love leading a team and influencing to be a better version of yourself each and every day. I love that we are all there to achieve a common purpose and that I can influence that in some way.

Q: What does ‘brand promise’ mean to you?  

Brand promise is so important for an organisation, but most importantly for you as an individual.  Your personal brand and promise is how the world sees you and defines who you are.  We work hard each day to deliver on our brand promise of creating vibrant and exceptional experiences for our customers.  This underpins our marketing strategy and sets the foundation of what we need to deliver as a team.

From a personal perspective, your personal brand and promise should follow suit.  I have a clear brand purpose and promise that I try to live out each and every day.

Q: What advice would you give young marketers generally – and Pasifika students specifically – who are just starting out in our industry?  

Believe in yourself, work hard and be brave.  You will no doubt go through seasons in life where you will fail but it’s all part of building character and resilience, don’t ever give up as the present day always passes.  Take the learning that comes with the challenges, it only makes your stronger.

To my Pasifika friends, have confidence, you are as good as the person beside you. Use what makes you unique as an asset that offers a different perspective and insight into doing business.  Trust me, your ideas are valuable, you all deserve to have a voice at the table, you just have to work hard, believe and listen and learn.

Q: What do you see as the main challenges for Pasifika students in terms of breaking into the marketing industry?

I think the challenges most often than not starts within the person and the lack of confidence and belief that they can achieve and are worthy of opportunities that others also have access to.  Most organisations are very clued up in the diversity and inclusion space and embrace all cultures and what they bring to the table, so there are more opportunities that exist more than ever so grab it and give it your all…. set high standards to achieve and work towards your goals.  

Q: What values and uniqueness do Pacific Islanders bring to the industry?  

We add a vibrancy, energy and passion that we should be proud of.  We are also natural leaders having come from upbringings where we have chiefs (matais) and leaders who manage large households who we look up to and learn from so it is bringing those learnings and ways of thinking into the industry.  Diversity of thought and challenging the norm.  Pasifika is also a growing culture in NZ with projections of 1 in 3 people in NZ in 2026 having some sort of Pasifika heritage.  We have advantage here that in marketing we are therefore able to talk to these customer groups in a way that they can relate to.

Q: Who are your own role models in the industry?  

My role models aren’t necessarily in marketing roles but more who I look up to from a Leadership and values perspective.  I am very spiritual and therefore my number 1 role model is the man above. He sets the foundation for me in all I do and when I go through tough times, I know with my belief that he always comes through with key learnings in any situation.  

My current COO who has a strong background in the Hospitality industry is a role model and is a visionary leader and puts a lot of focus and emphasis on ‘people’.  I also have a lot of sporting heroes who lead by example on and off the field and the relevance this has across the corporate world.  It’s important for me that I look up to role models that align with my values as a person.

Q: What do you see as the role of the MA in helping young marketers into the industry?

Providing an awareness platform that there are so many opportunities that exist in our industry.  The Marketing Association is a channel we can use in our organisations to highlight that the opportunities are endless.

Q: What do you hope to see come out of the Marketing Futures Collective initiative long-term?  

I would love to see more and more of our young marketers, regardless of what their backgrounds are, have a kickstart into what can be a thriving career.  It’s a wonderful initiative and I hope that it continues for years to come as it provides a pathway for our young people.  Thank you to the MA for developing this initiative for our people.

For more on the Marketing Futures Collective please visit