08/22/2014 10:04 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

Women in Business Q&A: Maura Tuohy, Social Media Director at Eleven

Maura Tuohy is the Social Media Director at Eleven. She has launched clients like MasterCard, Nestle, Jack Daniels, Hyundai and Microsoft into social media and has a track record for architecting engaging and impactful social media programs.

She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience around building social audiences and communities, establishing long-term social content marketing programs and helping clients successfully leverage social media across their total comm efforts.

Maura often lectures on social media marketing, and has an international speaking profile spanning Australia, Asia and the US.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I trained as a professional ballet dancer and danced until the age of 24, so that instilled in me a sense of discipline but also some negative competitive behavior which I had to un-learn when I moved into the marketing world.

I've always had a strong personality and felt comfortable in a leadership role, but what has really shaped my management style was a 5-year stint working in Australia. Australians are some of the most open, humble, creative people I have ever met, and I hope to bring back some of that attitude to the US. And some of their rad slang.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Eleven?
I'm a bit of a marketing mutt- I have experience spanning digital media planning, brand strategy and social media strategy which helps me connect the dots holistically, and understand how to integrate social media marketing into broad communications planning.

Social media changes so fast you can never be an expert. One the most valuable skills I have honed over years of practice is the ability to differentiate a trend from a fad and then evangelize what is important.

I also have an MBA, so if I need to ladder up social media marketing conversations to CEO/board-level, it's not so much of a stretch. Because social media spans so many departments and vendor partners, I also do a lot of organization change and change management. Navigating the enterprise can be just as challenging as the social strategy work itself.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Eleven?
When I joined Eleven I really hit the ground running on some of our biggest clients so I felt like I was playing catch up for a little while. We've now scaled the team, made our first few hires and are humming along with process and systems in place, which feels really good. We've been able to embed social at the heart of everything we do in a short amount of time, which sets us up to deliver the right kind of work for our clients.

Social media is not an island, so I end up collaborating with nearly every team in the agency. This would be a nightmare if my fellow Eleveners were not awesome people. Luckily Eleven hires for this, so I am surrounded by people that you would want to go have a beer with.

I am immensely proud of the social team at Eleven, and can't wait to see what accomplish together this year. (We are currently working on an app that just says WORD.)

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking a career in marketing?
Network with everyone you know. And find a way to experiment with what you want to do. Whether a friend needs a marketing plan for a small business, or you want to creative something around a personal passion project, proving that you not only can do the job- but also are motivated enough to do it in your own time- is tremendously impressive.

Also, cultivate your digital footprint. Whether this means getting active on Twitter, launching a blog, or even just dusting off that LinkedIn profile, digital and social media have created enormous opportunities to get noticed.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Anyone who says they work 40 hours a week agency-side is either lying or on stimulants. We work long hours, but we also have flexibility. I make time for the gym, family and friends, and also try to remember to have fun at work. If you can't enjoy what you do you are going to be at a huge disadvantage.

I also try to commit myself to non-work things, so I am forced to manage my time. Whether it's improv-acting or a pick-up bocce league, prioritizing my social life makes me a more interesting person. (Our Community Strategist just did a falconry class. She is my inspiration.)

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I am blessed to work at a place that values strong, smart women, but have not always been so lucky. I think the biggest challenge is being confident in your ability, even as you're navigating uncertain terrain. Never work for someone who does not support you- that is a lesson I learned the hard way, and hope to never repeat.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
This year I actually participated as a mentor as a part of Bay Area Advertising Relief Committee, BAARC, and found that immensely rewarding. Realizing that I had the coaching skills to help a bright marketing-newcomer made me reflect on how far I've come.

I tend to use friends in the industry as mentors when I need another perspective on work problems or career advice. Sometimes it's helpful to talk to someone entirely removed from my world- and for that I have my boyfriend who brings a healthy dose of common sense and perspective to workplace quandaries.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Living in the Bay Area, I really respect any woman working in tech because I know we are the minority and that is always tough.

There are certainly a lot of female entrepreneurs on my would-love-to-have-dinner-with list; Clara Shih of Hearsay Social, Halle Teco of Rock Health and Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway to name a few. These ladies took the leap to create their own destiny, and serve as inspiration for those of us who dream about being our own boss.

What do you want Eleven to accomplish in the next year?
Eleven has been operating independently in San Francisco for 15 years, which is a feat in itself. We have a solid brand practice and have designed social media as an integrated offering to deliver strong, creative marketing built for the modern world.

I have an aggressive agenda around delivering industry-first social media work and continuing to find brand marketers who share our appetite for game-changing advertising.

And I want us to have a damn good time doing it.