The Post: Marketing Consultant and Digital Strategist, MySideKick NI
The Post Holder: Sophie Seaton
HOW I BECAME A MARKETING CONSULTANT
As a creative people person a role as a marketing consultant was perfect for Sophie Seaton.
Give a brief outline of your career to date.
After university I joined Ulster Bank on its graduate scheme, placed within Communications and Corporate Services. It was an excellent place for me to start, I was able to spend time in many areas of marketing including; public relations, sponsorship, branding, events and internal communications.
But the big, bad world was calling me and in 2008, I left Ulster Bank to travel, heading first to Africa and then on to Australia. In Sydney I worked for Commonwealth Bank Australia in their Advertising and Sponsorship department – it was an amazing place to work, culturally diverse, full of energy, with an ethos of good fun and hard work.
On returning to Northern Ireland (for a man of all things) I worked in the third sector as a marketing manager for a charity in Lisburn. Whilst very different from my previous roles, it gave me an opportunity to take complete ownership of the marketing for one organisation.
Next up was some time in the media. I started in advertising sales, which anyone who has worked in will know, can be a hard environment but in terms of learning is like nothing else. Subsequently I headed up an events department and had the privilege of running The Pride of Ireland Awards.
Last year, I started my own small marketing consultancy, focusing on creating and executing digital marketing strategies for SMEs. I have been lucky enough to work with some great people, affording me the chance to work on diverse projects – from beer festivals to health campaigns to GDPR and everything in between.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Maths. I always loved that there was a definite answer. Real life is rarely as clear cut!
Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?
I started out studying law at the University of Edinburgh but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t for me and I changed to study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at the University of Ulster.
How did you get into your area of work?
It was the natural fit following from my degree. I have learned to focus on the areas of marketing that I enjoy the most. The more you enjoy your work, the better you will do it.
Is this what you always wanted to do?
Hmmm, no. When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor but I couldn’t bring myself to study all the sciences at A level.
Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?
There are so many routes into working in marketing, I don’t think qualifications are essential but it’s a competitive job market out there. Supply massively exceeds demand when it comes to junior marketing roles so a Marketing qualification will help you stand out from the crowd. I really enjoyed my degree and I would recommend it to anyone thinking of a career in marketing.
Are there alternative routes into the job?
Loads! I think some kind of qualification helps but as with a lot of roles, nothing can replace a positive attitude and experience gained on the job.
What are the main personal skills your job requires?
Possibly the main one is to enjoy working with people. A bit of creativity helps and obviously a knowledge of digital marketing. It’s an area which is constantly evolving so perhaps the appetite to constantly research and read around the topic should be in here too.
What does a typical day entail?
I work from home, so if I have time after I drop the kids off, I try to go for a run. I find it focuses the mind and gets me ready for the day ahead. Then I could be doing anything from writing training content to producing a social media strategy, recommending online advertising solutions, designing marketing literature or working with local media outlets.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?
It is massively rewarding to work with a good client; to explore their organisational objectives and then to agree a marketing plan that complements their growth efforts.
Something which has surprised me is that I love delivering training. I always thought I hated public speaking but I have been delivering some social media and marketing training recently and I have enjoyed being able to help people to understand the social media environment. When people leave your session feeling more able to fulfil their role, it’s very satisfying.
The most challenging bit is switching off at the end of a day, the desire to constantly check emails is always there so luckily I have two toddlers to keep me busy and away from my phone!
Why is what you do important?
I think everyone knows that in the world we live in now, an online presence is not an option, it is a necessity, but for so many business owners out there, the whole area of digital marketing is an alien and daunting prospect. People know they should be doing something but they need some help with creating a strategy and sticking to it. Added to that, most SMEs don’t have the resource to support a full time marketing role but they definitely need the support. That is where I come in.
What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
I would suggest getting a suitable qualification and then finding a good organisation with knowledgeable people to learn from. I found the banks and the third sector hugely beneficial for my career. Plus I would say give everything a go, try your hardest and don’t sell yourself short.
If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?
I always like to imagine myself writing a book. Writing content is one of my favourite parts of my job so I guess it is an obvious choice.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?
To just be friendly and be yourself.
Describe your ideal day off.
A day spent in the sunshine with my husband and our kids, perhaps playing down at the beach or running around the garden. All finished off with an ice-cold gin and tonic, chatting to my husband while my boys sleep soundly upstairs. My life is very simple right now and that’s the way I like it.
And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?
To have faith in yourself. Put yourself forward for roles that sound challenging and stretch yourself mentally – you are probably capable of a lot more than you realise.