Factory settings

Factory Settings: How technical skills can help shape and grow your career

By Lydia Martin, Strategist, as originally featured in New Digital Age.

Welcome to Factory Settings, a content series from some of the women in digital at The Kite Factory.

This series aims to myth-bust misconceptions about the digital industry by showcasing the journey and talent of some of our fantastic women in digital. You’ll hear from women with a wide range of experiences and career paths – from Mohini Lakhani (Senior Digital Account Manager), who quickly made the switch from a career in neuroscience to Digital Marketing when she realised the lab life wasn’t for her; to Maria Tudor (Planner Buyer), who studied a masters in digital marketing and has tried her hand at PR and comms before settling on paid planning and buying.

They’ll share their perspectives on some of the most important things they have learned in their careers.

Intro to me

In the last instalment of the series, Naomi touched on the importance of confidence and of rationalizing the natural imposter syndrome that most of us have experienced at work. This resonates strongly with my own experience and background. Armed with a firmly arts and critical thinking-based higher education, I studied Classics at the University of Bristol, which focused on a combination of language, history and cultural studies. In short, I was passionate about digesting a challenge, making it make sense to me, and giving my own take on it.

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to start a career in communications, marketing or advertising, so applied both extensively and indeterminately to roles in that field. At the time, lots of digital media agencies were hiring to expand their specialist performance marketing teams, and so I soon landed an entry level role in programmatic, planning and running display and video campaigns for various clients. Going back to Naomi’s point about imposter syndrome, I was now in a role with a big focus on data interrogation, reporting and budget management, which for some time I found a steep learning curve, given what I thought of as my “natural” skillset. Over the course of 4.5 years, I threw myself into the industry, learnt a huge amount about programmatic planning and buying, as well as digital channels and attribution more broadly.

During this time, I also learnt that across the different aspects of my role in digital, I was most passionate about the process of making informed, data-led decisions to shape media plans. This catalysed my decision to move into a planning-first media role, that would give me exposure to a wide variety of media channels, including but not limited to digital. So began the next stage of my career, as a strategist at The Kite Factory. Here, I still work closely with digital teams, but my role is to distil market, consumer and brand insights, along with broader marketing theory, into actionable strategies and plans for clients.

What one achievement in your career are you most proud of?

In the context of this career path, Naomi’s question to me was what one achievement in my working life I am most proud of. The specific answer to this is a project on “planning for attention” in media that I led on in my role at The Kite Factory earlier this year.

Probably more interesting is the reason I’m most proud of this, which is down to the synergy of skillsets it brought together for me. The input for the project was data-led, requiring technical understanding of tools, manipulation of statistics and as always, making sense of the numbers. My experience in digital and the skills my time in programmatic harvested were invaluable to this exercise. Alongside this, I had an existing understanding of attention testing and thought leadership in the digital marketing space from my previous role. The output of the project was a series of reports released by The Kite Factory via whitepaper, podcast, and LinkedIn webinar – the type of written and oral communication that played to my more natural strengths and skills honed at university, of writing, presenting and critical thinking. Encapsulated in a single achievement, this proved to me the versatility of a career founded in digital, and the power you have to forge your own path, building on known strengths and developing new skills.

I conclude with three pieces of advice to anyone considering a career in digital and interested in opportunities for side steps in discipline within the industry.

Embrace the unknown. A career in digital is suitable for any background, provided that you are curious, energetic and analytical. All other skills that will arm you for success in the industry will develop naturally, so don’t dismiss a digital role if, like me, you don’t have a strong numerical or data analytics background. The chances are you have other talents that will be useful across one of the many parts of the job, and the rest will take care of itself.

Take your time. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you start any new job, particularly one in digital where the pace is fast, the landscape changes quickly and attention to detail is key. Give yourself enough time in a digital role to immerse yourself in the industry and invest in your own development. With time comes confidence, both in your work and in what your greatest passions are in the role, which will help shape any moves you make in the future.

Be proactive. In a previous article in this series, Mohini spotlighted the value of building relationships in media. This is crucial to getting the most out of a role in digital. Connect with colleagues in other media teams, understand your role relative to theirs, and seize opportunities to upskill wherever you find a new area that interests you. This is the quickest and easiest way to keep your options open from a starting point in digital media, and to decide where to take your career next.

Up next in our Factory Settings series is Digital Account Director Jodie Brookton, with my question to her being, “How we can we make the technical side of digital less intimidating to women?”