Chapter 1: Getting In (AKA the front line story of someone who’s done it)
It was probably pretty grey the day I first heard about The Marketing Academy.
I’d have been sat, I imagine, at my desk scrolling through RSS feeds or unread emails and pretending to listen to James , my colleague, as he unpacked the crap from his pockets and hauled off his coat.
“Where you been?” I would have asked, only vaguely interested.
“Dude” said James, as is his style, “have a look a this…”
James, like a lot of people in the modern era, likes to communicate via pixels rather than puff. He pinged me a link. I scanned it, then probably browsed Wikipedia for a bit.
And that was the first time I heard about the Marketing Academy.
Fortunately for me, and my moronic ignoring of James’ emails (seriously though he emails me like 10 links to animals doing capoeira every day), I was about to hear a lot more about it as he embarked on year one of the Academy as one very lucky scholar. A lot more. In fact he wouldn’t shut up. Seriously, I actually had a conversation with HR about moving him away from me. But The Marketing Academy will do that to you.
“So what is The Marketing Academy?” I asked one day over a Berwick Street burrito.
“It’s awesome” said James.
“But what is it?”
“Can you imagine if you were an eight year old aspiring ninja circa 1993, and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles AND the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers said they wanted to personally develop your Ninja-ing skills as part of a year long scholarship designed to develop you into the most awesome ninja ever to walk this planet or any other in any dimension, animated or otherwise?” 
“And then Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Ra’s al Ghul all agreed to spar with you until you were as good as you could possibly be”
“And then someone also taught you how to smelt your own death stars, forge your own nunchucks and sew your own costume”
“Well it’s like that. But for marketing”
I was sold.
Fast forward two years and James drops me an email.
> Did I lend you my Flash Gordon pants? (also, wanna be nominated for The Marketing Academy?)
>> The ninja thing? Dude, I’ve just started wearing a 34 waist.
>>> Remember it’s not actually about Ninjas… * _ *
>>>> LOL. Do it.
So he did.
Then, one day in March 2012 I got an email. It congratulated me for getting nominated. I respond well to congratulation, so I read on.
Apparently 500 or so other people had been nominated too. Nice one guys I thought, trying to work out the universally recognised online signature for ‘pat on the back’ (or if there is one). As I read on however, something dawned on me. The Marketing Academy only had – at most – 30 places for the year’s
Ninjas Skills workshops activities.. Ouch. I wasn’t sure if I had the wherewithal to fight off 471 other ninjas. Luckily, I didn’t have to. The Marketing Academy is, after all, focussed on developing leadership skills in marketing talent. And I had a newly installed copy of Powerpoint 2012. These guys were going down…
Step 1. The application
There are three parts to the application. A CV, an employer’s endorsement and a showcase. I was just done blessing my uncle Marvin for becoming a carpenter when I read what they meant by showcase. The CV’s a known quantity. Safe territory. You know what you’re working with. The employer’s endorsement is out of your hands. Do they buy into The Marketing Academy? Is the pope catholic? If they do, and they will (or the next piece of paper you ask them to take a look at should be your resignation letter), then you just need to convince them to say lovely things about you. Or tell the truth. Maybe both. The showcase however, is the killer.
“In under two minutes, give us a flavour of who you are?”
Tough brief. At this point it hit me. I’m a Creative Director. I make my living literally doing this task. Sweat built in places I didn’t even know I had flesh. Then, after one of those montage sequences where I screwed up paper I hadn’t even written on, bounced a ball off a wall and displayed worrying signs of OCD I hit upon an idea. It did the job. You can see it here. Actually, you can’t. That’s just a fake link. If you’re putting a ‘Showcase Me’ together yourself then you should approach it free from the inspiration of anyone else. It’s about you, not anyone else. Bring out your personality, your passion. Highlight your drive and your desire. Do something else that nicely alliterates and comes in a set of three. Be you.
Step 2: The phone interview
I’d only ever had one phone interview before this, and I was giving it. More memorably, I also stapled the tip of my index finger and had to call the candidate back. This one however was a bit of a blur. It was at this point the reality of The Marketing Academy hit me. I’d spent the previous night hoovering up every bit of info about the programme, those involved and those who’d been through it and I wanted this to happen. I really did.
Step 3: The tests
I’ve got to admit something first. I love tests. Tests, quizzes, puzzles, problems, love triangles. Anything complicated that needs resolving, I love it. Not everyone does of course and it may be rare that anyone looks forward to an evening with nothing to do but eat chocolate custard and complete psychometric tests but hey, that’s who I am. I’m Robbie and I’m a puzzle-holic custard guzzling fool. I’m still not sure what they were really testing for here, but I got a bloody lovely PDF full of numbers out of it, so I was happy.
Step 4: The face to face interview (AKA, The Interview)
I don’t generally mind interviews. I spend my working life presenting things far more likely to trip me up than ‘myself’, so it feels safe ground. But I was nervous about this one. Everything about the Marketing Academy was suddenly tangible. So, I prepped my responses to questions I thought might come up, I ironed a shirt (and forgot to wear it) and I practiced my best considering face to use before every response…
The day that the final results were communicated was horrible. Seriously, check the Met office stats. And the TfL delays. Worse still was that it lasted two days. So, like a high school cheerio waiting for an invite to the prom from some bloke called Chad, I stared at my phone. All day. When they tell you that taking part in The Marketing Academy will take-up 20 days of working time, they lie. It will take up 21. But on Friday, the final day, the call came. I was in.
“Hey James, how’s things?”
“Busy man, really busy, I’ve got like a million projects on”
“You should go on that course”
“No, the course on how to stop exaggerating and articulate yourself properly”
“You’re funny, you should write stuff more often”
“Yeah, I try, but life’s busy”
“Look I’m just ducking into a meeting, what do you need?”
“I got onto The Marketing Academy”
“I just hi-5’d the phone”
And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship (with The Marketing Academy, just to clarify). If you’re about to go through the process of applying (on paper), applying (yourself) and applying (ointment to the nervous rash you develop by fretting over it all) then relax. Sure, it’s a tough process but then what thing worth having didn’t require some hard work?
If you’ve got the drive, the passion and the skill to make it through this blog post, then you’re in with a shout.
I’ll be writing a follow up to this post on my experience throughout the year, tentatively called ‘Getting It‘.
When I do it will be linked to here. James may or may not feature.