29-year-old Jess McCallum is proud of her journey from working as a social media manager for mobile network companies to being one of the most impactful people in the Australian anime community at Madman.
“I’ve been in social media for a while, so when I saw that opportunity I couldn’t think of anything better.”
Jess was first involved with Madman as a fan of anime culture, having discovered the job opportunity while working at Telstra as a social media manager.
“I’ve always had an obsession with Japan since I was really young,” she said. “I was learning Japanese at school and would always write essays about Japan. I’m not quite sure where it started though.”
“I didn’t have any real connections with Madman before I got the job outside of going to the conventions and buying their DVDs,” she said. “I saw the job position being advertised on LinkedIn and went for it.”
“I never thought I’d be able to get a job at Madman, as I never thought they’d have a role that suited my experience and I knew it would be extremely competitive. When [Madman] advertised this job which was similar to my past experience at iiNet and Telstra, I went for it. I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to get it because I didn’t feel cool enough – not that being cool is a factor in getting a job. I just thought, ‘there’s no way they would choose me’.”
Jess described her current position as Madman’s Head of Social Media and Brand Engagement as her dream job having grown up on anime and simulcasting programs like Crunchyroll.
“It is my dream job,” she said. “When you think of anime in Australia, you think of Madman. I never really thought I knew loads about anime but once I started working there, I realised I knew quite a lot.”
“I’ve also been addicted to simulcasts and try to watch every show that comes out each season,” she continued. “I love the community that’s around simulcasts. Being able to talk to people about what’s happened in the latest episode and what will happen next is amazing.”
When Madman first founded AnimeLab at Madman in May 2014, Jess worked with a small team to build the streaming service’s popularity up from scratch.
“We didn’t really have any social media presence at the time, so I really had to drive that,” she said. “I was also the only person managing the social media channels for the last year and a half.”
“I created most of the content that went up on our social channels, every announcement, as well as a lot of convention and public relations work…,” she continued. “It felt like a 24/7 job until this year, as I’ve been lucky enough to have a Social Media Ninja assisting me with the workload.”
Jess sees the simulcasting service as her child having helped create it into the near one million Facebook-liked site it is today.
“[Since] start[ing] in 2014, I haven’t been able to take much time off,” she said. “When I took two weeks off over Christmas and it almost felt like I giving [my] baby away. I was nervous but [the site’s] still growing.”
Working at Madman has provided Jess with an abundance of opportunities, including travelling overseas.
“I went to New Zealand last year for [the pop culture convention] Armageddon…[around] the time when we launched our PlayStation app,” she said. “I team[ed] up with the PlayStation guys in their massive booth [and] promoted the AnimeLab service dressed as Asuna from Sword Art Online.”
Jess was also given the chance to meet big personas of the animation industry, including the voice of Transformers’ Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen.
“He was very different to anyone I had interviewed before,” she said. “I had questions for him he hadn’t been asked before so he was a little bit surprised and his answers were also really surprising.”
“I absolutely love going to the conventions – working together with the team to set up the booth and talk to other fans about anime; it’s something I definitely wasn’t able to do in my past roles.”
Jess’ time at Telstra was also very different to her experience with Madman, but it provided her with the base skills needed for the role.
“Telstra really push[ed] [me] to do things out of my comfort zone and grow my skill set,” she continued. “I felt I really had to prove myself to gain extra resources to push the success of the project I was working on. [Either way], I always love a challenge and I’m very happy with where I am now.”
Jess also described her experience at anime conventions and the different emotions between attending as a fan and as an event manager.
“I hadn’t done a lot of convention work [before getting the job at Madman] [but] I had organised a Japanese themed festival in Perth to raise money for the Red Cross Japan and Pacific Disaster appeal…back in 2010,” she said. “[Now that I’m working at conventions], [I] try to engage more with fans and think of ways to improve their con experience with our brand.”
“[Last year at] Supanova Brisbane we had a new mega booth and our very first Animelab booth,” she continued. “We had [popular party games based on cult-classic anime such as] Sailor Moon ring toss, a One Punch Man challenge and screenings. It was really fun [and] something a little different to what we had done in the past.”
While the future offers plenty of new experiences for Jess, she believes she could see herself working with Madman for a long period of time.
“Madman will probably develop a lot and change from what it is over the next five to ten years. I can see myself at Madman [in the future] but don’t know if I’ll be in the same role,” she said. “I absolutely love anime and can’t see myself working in any other industry.”
Jess’ most recent project at Madman is assisting with marketing for the Madman Anime Festival at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in September.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “I’m hoping this convention will bring Australian anime fans even closer to the genre we all love.”