Chapter 2: Getting On (AKA making the most of the opportunity of a lifetime)
As a new crop of Marketing Academy scholars prep their applications and wonder quite what they’re letting themselves in for, here’s a run down of my experience as a Scholar during 2012/13…
On Monday 14th May 2012 I managed to successfully avoid a rather boring (but entirely necessary for any of my team reading this) meeting about time sheets by attending the Marketing Academy gala party at The O2. This was, as you know, to be inducted as a Scholar on the 2012 Marketing Academy. I was excited. You could tell, because I’d ironed my socks.
Arriving at North Greenwich tube station, I strode towards the O2 with all the giddy joy of a JLS fan who knows they’re mere moments from a evening of Aston and Marvin thrusting and winking. 9 months later, the elation has built to the point where I feel like I’m actually in the band. As it were.
What follows is a run down of my experience in each of the six core elements of The Marketing Academy, plus a bonus element that in many ways I consider the most valuable…
The first thing that new Marketing Academy scholars do is attend a Boot Camp – the first of three – in Cookham, location of the CIM’s conference centre, Moor Hall. Over three days in the Sir Steve Redgrave Room (they have an oar and everything) you are given a glorious battering of the soul and senses that will set you up to take advantage of everything the next twelve months has to offer.
You know that thing you always see on TV (often Blue Peter, or something else with Matt Baker) where army trainees are sent to Norway and dunked in an ice hole in their pants? Boot camps offer that level of invigoration. But with flip charts.
The rough gist of Boot Camps is that they involve you cramming as much inspiring and challenging information as possible into your cerebral lobes before your eyes water and your nose bleeds. Then you retire to the bar. Once lubricated, the words of agency stars, brand mavericks, explorers, leaders, innovators, inventors and more echo amongst the buzz of questions, theories, stories and ideas spilling from every orifice. It’s awesome.
I see the Boot Camp and scholar relationship a little like that between a tee and golf ball. They set you up in prime position to absolutely smash it.
I love mentor sessions. They’re some of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent in recent years – and I’m including visits to petting zoos in that. 90 minutes to ask questions, discuss challenges and uncover pearls of wisdom is 90 minutes exceptionally well spent.
Lunch and Learns are like mentoring sessions for a group of you. They also include lunch which, in my book, means you’re already onto a winner (as my agency colleagues will be tell you, I’ll attend any meeting in which food is available, often when I’m not required or even wanted). Given the group dynamic they are more formally structured and generally focus more on imparting wisdom than on dialogue. But hey, when you get to chat to Nigel Bogle the day after BBH has just been sold to Publicis – and he’s willing to talk about it (well, a bit) – you’re more than happy to sit back and soak it in.
Admission: I’m a sceptical bugger. I refuse to trust those machines in banks that let you submit cheques with minimal reassurance they’re more than fancy bins, I believe there to be many ways other than Essex and, in May 2012, I viewed coaching with a raised eyebrow and pursed lips. How wrong I was.
Over the past year Tracie, my assigned handler (I swear that’s how she feels having to deal with me), has shown me the benefits of deep consideration and of pushing myself on subjects and areas that are more convenient to ignore, resulting in visible improvements in the way I go about my day to day business (at work, and beyond). In addition, thanks to Tracie, I am now able to bank cheques far quicker.
HELPING, Donate 28
A great feature of The Marketing Academy is the chance to use developing marketing and leadership skills to help a charity. Each Scholar is nominated an organisation in need of help based on their background and interests and, in my case, this was the FSI (thefsi.org), who offer guidance and advice to small charities in order to help them thrive. They’re a lovely bunch handily based mere moments from my office in Soho (this was my key criteria, that and good biscuits) and I was very pleased to be able to give over some of my time to help them out.
Over the course of the year scholars attend a series of Faculty Days, each specialising in a different spoke on the marketing wheel (using ridiculous turns of phrase was not a Faculty Day, which may surprise those outside the industry).
At the time of writing days have been hosted by JKR, Albion, Brand Learning and PhD – each offering a focussed look at their area of expertise. The days offer different things depending on your background, experience and job function but they always throw up points for discussion on the day and beyond, and a platform for healthy debate.
THE BONUS: CONNECTING
It’s not one of the official pillars of The Marketing Academy, but it is – in my humble opinion – the most valuable.
Over the past months I’ve had the privilege to spend time with a group of people – scholars, mentors, speakers, the awesome Marketing Academy team – who manage to simultaneously make me feel like I have literally no idea what I’m doing, and possess the skills necessary to change the world.
It’s a buzz better than crack(ling).