Lunch & Learn with easyJet & CEO Carolyn McCall

When I applied to be part of The Marketing Academy and Reuters decided to follow my progress it was Carolyn McCall who was one of the highlights who featured in the video. It was right at the beginning that I hoped to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ for the Lunch & Learn. The lunch & learns are a special part of the scholarship where a select group of around 8 scholars get chosen to attend a lunch with someone at the top of their game. On this occasion 29th August 2012 it was Carolyn. Initially not on the list, not one to miss an opportunity a last minute cancellation meant I had a few hours to get myself from a meeting in central London to Luton Airport.

We arrived at the easyJet orange hanger at Luton Airport to sit on the Aeroplane seats in reception waiting in anticipation where we were greeted given a brief intro and overview and then given a behind the scenes tour of the Luton and the running of easyJet which felt quite akin to an episode of Airline however not quite as much drama.


It was amazing to see the operation room where flight attendants need to check in an hour before their flights and the clarity and importance of data. Up on the board you can see in green or red if the flights have left on time or not. It is amazing to understand just by sharing this information you go a long way to engaging employees to help them understand what they can do and need to do to make sure the flights are on time and really focuses the mind.

As a frequent easyJet flyer it was really interesting to understand their positioning making flying easier and more affordable. With Carolyn coming from a sales background in Media the challenge was to join easyJet with a view to turn the airline around with customers in mind. As we discussed the challenges of people in organisations and having the right people on board it reminded me of the Jim Collins approach of ‘Having the right people on the bus.’ It was also made clear how important the operational side of the business was who have most contact with the customer and how important it is for the marketing and operations teams to work so closely together. Low fares are simply not enough there is a focus on a friendly service and ultimately if something goes wrong you will be looked after.

What was inspiring about the session was to see Carolyn’s passion and high energy. Her commitment to getting things done, being approachable at the same time tough and firm when needed. Whilst she admitted it is all consuming and she never really switches off she seems to really care which was refreshing. A typical day could often start at 4am, being at the airport with the first shift before the first flight, checking-in with the teams often flying to one of their bases, meeting local politicians, building relationships with all the different stakeholders as well as keeping a balance for time with her family. Constantly on email and accessible she recalls at the beginning challenging honest emails coming through that as things have turned around they’ve now changed and regularly receives positive messages it is a great benchmark to understand very quickly how things are going.

Leaving the orange hanger in Luton I felt honestly humbled to have been given the opportunity to understand a bit more behind the scenes about easyJet as well as getting to experience first hand an inspiring leader who I believe to be an amazing role model for people in business today. I hope one day for our paths to cross again or to have the privilege to work with people like Carolyn who displayed what I think it means to be a great leader today. To have a clear vision, passion, drive and the energy to deliver and inspire. Thank you to Carolyn and her team for their time and allowing us in. Where are you going?


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Bracknell The Centre of my World – Serendipity strikes again

During the session I ran at Marketing Week Live as part of my session I asked for a Volunteer. The person who volunteered it turns out worked for Hewlett Packard. After my presentation we spoke and she asked me if it was possible for me to come into their offices to run a session about The Beans Group, the story behind, enterprise, making the most of opportunities and being entrepreneurial within organisations. A few days later she called to arrange the date. She asked if I was free on the 18th July at 10.30 – I had a look in my diary and I was free then but needed to be in Bracknell for my mentoring session with Emma Beale from Waitrose. I asked where they were based and she responded Bracknell around 10 minutes from the station. I couldn’t believe it out of over 100 people in my presentation, the person to volunteer, the company she works for being based in Bracknell, the date of the year all combined – I just couldn’t believe the serendipity of it all. So thats how my day started running a presentation for about 60 of the team from Hewlett Packard, I had lunch at their offices and worked there for an hour or so and then made my way over to Waitrose Head office.

Meeting Emma was an amazing experience as it helped provide an understanding of the different types of work environment from two very contrasting experiences. From being the Marketing Director at Pepsi Co to the Instore Communications Manager at Waitrose.

PepsiCo being a fast paced environment with constant change. By contrast Waitrose having a partnership structure creates an elevated level of ownership invoking passion and commitment to the brand that is quite unique to the organisation. With this also comes loyalty and whilst there may be less risk taken as people in the organisation feel more ownership – there is increased loyalty and many of the team at Waitrose are there for a signifiant amount of time with 5 – 6 people in the team having been there over 25 years.

3 Key Learnings and Take aways from Emma included:

1. Be proud of what do. Further than that a good way to look at this is do you think your children will be proud of what you do?

2. The importance of Talent Management – develop the team and build their capability.

3. Realise what you are good at. What do you bring to the table? When you know… you should bring it! Take every stretch opportunity and build on the things you are good at.

Emma clearly cares a huge amount about the work she does and it was inspiring to understand more about how Waitrose values it’s people and the work it does. It certainly makes me think differently every time am in my local Waitrose store.

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Round 2, 3 Key Learnings from meeting Ita Murphy

Meeting Ita Murphy, Managing Director, MindShare

My session with Ita was very structured and she struck me as a formidable person. I could see why she had risen to be the Managing Director of Mindshare. She is extremely driven and came across as having a great grasp for the bigger picture and what is needed alongside what has made Mindshare one of the best companies to work for as part of the Times 100.

My 3 key learnings and take aways included:

1. Network now for the job you want in 5 years time.

2. Get clients to love you think from their perspective.

3. Have a cup of tea and listen to people – it is often through the listening that the real difference can be made.

We spoke about a wide range of topics but 2 key stories that stayed with me included one around Transactional Analysis where often in work and in our lives we fall into the trap of I’m Okay – You’re not Okay where we play into Parent / Adult Child relationships when we are more often in an Adult / Adult relationship and the best place to be is I’m okay and your okay.

See here for more information about the model:

The other story that was shared included a situation relating to how people feel and how we often have a habit of believing things are worse than they are. A useful question that can be asked is on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is it? Often on reflection a situation can be built up to be something that it isn’t and the question helps provide a bit of perspective. Is it really that bad?

Conversely using the same metrics and powerful and useful question what 3 things can I do today to make my day a 10/10 great day? Focusing on these things that can really make a difference can provide the clarity as to what’s needed to be successful whatever it is we do or want.

As part of the role of the Marketing Academy to help create leaders it was Ita’s words that reflected that it isn’t necessarily what she does as a leader but really the importance is how many leaders she helps create. The Marketing Academy is really leadership in action. A big thank you to Ita for helping me on my leadership journey.

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A year on and back to the beginning…first up Steven Overman from Nokia

So after my first few posts a lot of reflection and a year on I’m going back to the beginning to share my experiences and shed at least some light on what it’s all been about!

First things first!

So after the first bootcamp and where Steven Overman, Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Creation at Nokia came came and spoke it was a few days later then where serendipity happened to strike again. We were both speaking at Marketing Week Live – whilst Steven was on the main stage we were in the Mobile & Social Presentation Arena.

As we were speaking within an hour of each other I was sitting in the speaker lounge Steven ended up sitting on the table next to me – had I not met him at boot camp a few days earlier I wouldn’t have known introducing myself to him as I shared I was to be meeting again in a few days time for our session.

Stephen shared honestly the way he started out back home in the US. Working at the bottom where everyone begins he worked his way up as an executive assistant living and breathing the detail. Acting like a sponge and absorbing everything he could to be able to achieve and succeed.

Nokia as a brand is in an amazing position and having listened to Steven share how passionate he is about the organisation it was genuinely inspiring. When I asked where his drive and passion comes from he reflected that he does things 100% until he either wins or looses and until either happens he continues to steam ahead. I definitely subscribe to this – so many people spend their live with mediocracy not realising their full potential but not applying themselves and that is the real missed opportunity. The most precious thing we have is time so if we aren’t applying ourselves then what’s the point!

3 Key Take aways that also resonated with me:

1. On the most basic level for marketing to know your audience one great way is employing them.

We constantly have a stream of students and interns working with us to keep relevant to the youth market.

2. You will never get everything done – and thats okay there is not such a thing as done.

Running a business there are always more things to do than can fit in a day. As I reflect since I co-founded the business in 2005 there has never been I day that I have been done!

3. The role of the leader is to inspire the team. That said Madonna is amazing on stage but day to day she is a tough cookie.

It’s important to be playing different roles and to adjust your way of being depending what the environment is.

When asked what books do you read – amongst the recommend list was:

Read cook books – they have a short story always with a happy ending!

Leaving the session I felt the bar had been set high – if this was the first I knew I was in for a lot more to look forward to.


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It’s The Marketing Academy! (again)

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 (, 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.

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).

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Nuggets and gems from my final boot camp

My pick of the best things I learnt at Boot Camp #3

  • Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment
  • What is your elevator pitch? – who are you? what do you do? what are your values? what are you passionate about? what do you want?
  • Someone needs to make the hard decisions, sometimes you need a certain level of ruthlessness
  • Recruiting the enemy is twice as effective as killing them
  • Point your team in a clear direction, give them lots of encouragement and trust.  Then being good will boost their morale.
  • Be a squirrel – collect and store information and stimulus
  • Ask ‘so what?’ (I do that a lot!)
  • Dare to dream.  Make it happen.
  • How far do you dare yourself to go?
  • What do your fears/weaknesses help you do better?
  • Set challenges to your team out of their comfort zone and nurture/encourage and offer safety
  • If you have talented junior people in your team get them sponsors and supporters across the business.  Encourage them to hand raise.
  • Grit plus self belief will bring success
  • Don’t give time to worry, it’s time wasted
  • Get a regular dose of people who excite and motivate you
  • This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.


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An Army Major General, Inspiration, Creativity, Microadventures & some scholars it can only be Boot Camp 3

Well what can I say – when I applied for the academy and got the agenda and dates for the year ahead and the different boot camps, boot camp 3 was just this distant date in 2013 that was something to look forward to but very much in the distance. As I’ve reflected over the weekend the last few days have been amazing for a number of reasons. I’ll share some highlights of the sessions but as this years scholars were brought together for officially the last time at Moor Hall it’s been an honour to share this experience with such an amazing group of talented people. Sherylin along with her team have done the most amazing job of selecting a cohort of people who I know are going to continue to develop and do some amazing things. Whilst it’s not over yet and there are a few months to go we’ve been challenged, stretched, networked, learnt, grown, shared and been inspired – everything I had hoped for and more.

Boot camp 3 started Thursday morning with a session that related back to the Living Leader course we did last summer at the 1st boot camp with a focus on a number of models to do with motivations one of them being Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is amazing as a model how it can help you understand what you need as well as help from a management perspective understand your colleagues and team around you. What’s needs are being met, what might be missing as well as then what can be done to ensure the needs are being met going forward.

Gerald Ratner Boot Camp 3

We then had our first of a series of external speakers Gerald Ratner where is shared very openly about the speech made a speech at the Institute of Directors on 23 April 1991. During the speech, he commented: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap.’

This cost him his business but he shared how he picked himself up with a new idea of a health club as there wasn’t one for miles. Rejected and rejected bank after bank he decided to get an artistic impression drawing of the health club in the newspaper, waive the sign-up fee for any new members who signed up with a £50 a month direct debit. He got 850 people sign up from the ad – he then took this to the bank as collateral – they still said no apart from one who said yes, the reason being his wife had taken out a membership! He went on to sell the health club a few years later for £3.9m. Since then he’s re-entered the Jewelry market online setting up now doing close to £50m a year.

Warrior not a Worrier

An amazing story and an amazing way to kick off. A very different person then followed Major General Arthur Denaro an incredible story about his experience in the british army, leading his regiment into battle and the importance of leadership litterally on the front line. With some key themes about ensuring the team have a clear direction. Professionalism and how second best just isn’t good enough. How being a leader can also sometimes be lonely the the importance of having the right support structures in place to help you through.

Marc Lewis


Next up was Marc Lewis from an amazing interactive session that got our creative juices flowing. The school is an amazing opportunity for creatives to get into the industry as well as a great opportunity for brands to get their briefs tackled by some amazingly talented students. I’d definitely recommend any brand looking to get a different take and a fresh approach on a creative campaign to get in touch with them. A couple of takeaways amongst many others were solutions to problems cause more problems & the more we consume the more creative we are.

The day ended with a night at Sherylin’s house treating us to an amazing dinner and drinks.

With such a varied first day the bar had been set high it was going to be a challenge to make sure day 2 delivered. It was just like an amazing cake that just kept getting better layer upon layer.

We started off with Simon Devonshire who has one of the best jobs in the world running Wayra the best incubator and accelerator of businesses, on earth. With a background in both the startup and corporate world he encouraged the room to ‘Build a rocket.’ The one key message keep focused. The reason behind success many people say is luck. You can build your own luck! Trust your gut and be remarkable.

David Wethey took over and delivered a session around the importance of partnerships vrs relationships. The way agencies have come to work doesn’t make sense in the new economy and how there needs to be a shift in how people are working together. He touched upon a few models including how to make meetings more effective by starting with 2 people in a meeting first of all the decision maker and the person they work together. Then bring in more people. It’s referred to as The Step Ladder Technique.

Decide – Better Ways to Making Decision is his new book. We often don’t make decisions and that’s the problem. If there are ways to make decisions in a better and quicker way to do this then it’s likely we’d be more effective. Makes sense! The biggest challenge that stops us when running the business is when decisions aren’t made. I’ve heard this before but worth bringing up here is that most people are afraid of making decisions because they are afraid of what might happen. When making any decision two things can happen either it helps move you forward to where you want to go or takes you further away. If it takes you nearer do more of it. If it takes you further away stop doing it and do something else, make another decision.

Amanda Mackenzie Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Aviva plc then opened with some thoughts and she set the scene imagine if you were looking back at your life the age of 80 on a park bench – first things first make sure you get a pension – breaking the ice on a joke but being quite serious she then shared passionately about journey and how she rose to be the first woman on the executive board at Aviva.

There was so much to take away but the three key things for me:

  • Be clear of what you want and what you don’t want.
  • Nothing is more powerful than the truth.
  • Say yes and then work out how you’re going to do it. It’s always better to regret you’ve done too much.

My summary doesn’t do justice to her session but her amazing sense of wisdom and authenticity was very humbling and empowering.

A short lunch break then led us into a session with Ellen Marzell Director of Partnership Management, Global Marketing, Innovation & Transformation at NOKIA. A session where she shared the amazing work that has been done around all different elements of sponsorship and partnerships and what that really means today. The importance of Global and Local and the opportunity of real money can’t buy opportunities that create the ultimate connection between brands and consumers.

Shaa Wasmund CEO and founder of then raised the energy in the room with her Stop Talking, Start Doing atitude helping people to confront what they really wanted, what was stopping them or holding them back and then coached them through how they can make their wants a reality. Powerful and direct it was an awesome session that set context for the final speaker Alastair Humphries who did just that Stopped Talking and Started Doing. He shared his story about the 4 ½ years he travelled around the world on a bike and shared the challenges, trials and tribulations. Following various other adventures across the world he brought it more recently closer to home by doing #microadventure’s. One included walking around the surrounding M25 area – 150 miles in a week, sleeping outside, eating ketchup and break. It had all the elements of a true adventure and makes you grateful for what you have.

Inertia kills everything. Think big. Think Small. Do Start.

Some much stops us everyday in realising our potential. It’s important to have dreams and think big, but often we stop ourselves before we have even begun.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Adapted from Marianne Williamson.

Think small allows us a way to break it down and provide a starting point. That is the key starting.

As I look back to when I was 22 and founded The Beans Group & what we have done and achieved is amazing on reflection. I didn’t know how hard it would be – yet I did think big, and think small and started. Today as we continue to grow the team with 35 people we reach approaching 2 million visitors a month I know we have created something really special. Alastair’s stories remind me what we are all capable of.

I could only imagine what The Marketing Academy could do for me when I got nominated – it is difficult to do the sessions justice in summary there is so much more that was gained from each and every session, really you’d just have to be there. If you’re reading this and you are in a position to nominate someone for next years in take please do – you have the opportunity to really make a difference for someone not just for the next year but for their lives and many years to come.

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Two Bomb Scares, Bupa Healthcare, a touch of serendipity & a feature on Reuters

As one of the Entrepreneurs on this year cohort of scholars it’s been such a full on few months and an amazing journey so far it isn’t natural for me to stop and reflect as I am always looking forward. That said with the start of 2013, the nominations for next year’s intake now fully open and the deadline drawing near I wanted to take the opportunity to share my story of my Marketing Academy Experience so far, some of the learnings and hopefully make a difference to those reading whatever your background or aspirations.

Where it all started… It was nearing the end of 2011 and I was at Microsoft’s offices, invited as one of the UK’s group of founders and entrepreneurs to attend an event Silicon Valley Comes to The UK that was spearheaded by a number of people including Linkedin Founder Reid Hoffman.

It was here I first met Gregor who was the Founder of Morphsuits – we were both put in the same group to talk about growing a business and the associated opportunity as well as challenges. There was then a bomb scare that forced us to evacuate and continue conversations on the streets of Victoria. Suffice to say Gregor and I continued to talk sharing about our different passions for business and it was then I first heard about The Marketing Academy.

A few weeks later on a sunday walk with a few friends including Emanuel who worked at Kraft Foods we were sharing what we were up to and Emanuel also then mentioned his involvement as a Scholar for The Marketing Academy. When I mentioned my chance meeting with Gregor it turns out that they are golf buddies and I felt that I was clearly in good company! The conversation continued over the coming months and when the nominations opened I was fortunate enough for them to both nominate me.

Nominations closed and the whole process for me as an entrepreneur was quite alien. As I founded my company The Beans Group when I was 22 I’ve not had a formal full time job. That said, following the process, I revisited my CV, got an endorsement from my board and got to work on preparing my 2 minute showcase. I had just 2 minutes to stand out, share, convince and in my mind hopefully inspire the selection panel to put me through to the next stage. I thought about getting help from other people but in the end created my showcase myself from scratch, which can be seen here:

I’m an Entrepreneur Think Different

After that it was no longer in my control and the waiting began until we heard if we were through to the next stage. Towards the end of March, I found out I had been successful through to the next round of phone interviews on the 2nd April, I was completely over the moon.

It was strange sitting on the other side of the table, as it were, answering questions about my strengths and weaknesses. I remember hoping that I’d shared enough and done everything to make a difference, at the same time knowing there was nothing I could do about it. All I knew is I really wanted this opportunity.

I then got the fateful email that I was again through to the next stage that involved various online quick thinking and psychometrics tests along with a final round of face to face interviews with a panel that included Craig McCoy, HR Director – Bupa and James Hart – SVP Global Marketing, AVG. The date was set; 26th April.

As I prepared, did the tests and mock interviewed, things continued and the Marketing Academy already seemed a source of great conversation. On the 17th April having been invited to speak at the University of Hertfordshire at an event called Internet Pioneers I was introduced to a reporter, Zak from Reuters to share my thoughts around current internet trends and being a web based company founder. As chance had it I offered him a lift to the station initially he declined but as I left the building Zak was still waiting for a taxi so ended up sharing the ride. As we neared his drop off point we were talking about up and coming plans and I shared the interview I was due to be having at the Bupa offices in London for the scholarship. Thinking nothing more of it I dropped him at the station. The following day I received a phone call thanking me for my lift and saying he had spoken to his editor and they were interested in running a piece about The Marketing Academy for Reuters TV.

Torn between if I should be recorded or not and for fear of not being accepted – I decided in the end it was an opportunity in itself and either way it would be a good opportunity for everyone involved.

The 26th April came round and I met Zak and filmed before the interview and then got a taxi over to Bupa House – arriving in good time only to discover the traffic and being caught up in yet another bomb scare this time more real and involving gas canisters!

To find out more about the interview and the process, as well as how I got on you can watch the Reuters Coverage here.

I know this is just the beginning of the story and really I just wanted to set the scene. Over the coming weeks I’ll be updating a number of posts about the boot camps, mentoring, coaching and the journey of the last few months but for now if you’re looking to develop yourself and have the right marketing experience find out more here. If you know someone that is a Marketing superstar already but perhaps they could do with some support in getting to the next stage of their career and broadening their horizons and experience time is running out please nominate them here.

Thanks for reading this far!

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It’s The Marketing Academy!

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 [1], 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.

True story.[2]

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?” [3]
“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[4]? (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[5]. 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[6]? 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[7]. 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[8].

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[9], 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”
“Time management”
“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”
“You there?”
“I just hi-5’d the phone[10]

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?[11]

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[12].



[1] Names have been left exactly the same to preserve ego

[2] Might be made up. I can’t remember

[3] I wrote this, James never said it. Don’t give that guy any credit

[4] James definitely wrote this. Or something like this. Probably something worse

[5] Screw you Marvin

[6] Yes, I’ve just checked

[7] This is entirely true & why I now need an HR team member present at all times

[8] Note to self: buy frame

[9] Funny how Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania don’t have the same ring

[10] Witnesses say he really did

[11] The answer is: shop bought chocolate custard

[12] He won’t

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Nuggets and gems to end 2012

As the year comes to a close I’m prompted to take stock and make plans for 2013.  It’s been a happy year, for many many reasons, and the Academy has played a part in that.  Through the Academy I’m very clear about who I am and what matters, and I’ve met the most inspiring people.  I struggled recently with my mentoring sessions and was worried I wasn’t getting as much from them as I did at the start.  I turned to my fellow scholars who responded with advice, support and practical tips.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a little star struck by the mentors you meet but it’s the scholars who you’ll probably develop the strongest relationships with.  On top of that I have the most brilliant coach, what on earth will I do without her!

Here are some top tips for getting the most of mentoring.

  • Be specific – what exactly do you want to get out of this session, what issues do  you need to raise and ask for help with?
  • It’s not all about leadership, you can talk marketing too
  • Think about the bigger picture, this is a great opportunity to explore your values and beliefs
  • Be ‘in the moment’ and discuss live issues to make it feel relevant and current
  • Just have a nice chat
  • And my coach pointed out the difference between coaching and mentoring to me – coaches help you find your own answers, mentors share their experiences in the context of you.

And some learnings from my most recent mentoring and coaching sessions

  • Take the lead, define yourself and your role.  Say ‘we’re going to do it this way unless you say otherwise’, then run with it.
  • Ground your career plan in what you enjoy and are good at.
  • When managing a large team be very clear about what you want them to do, then leave them to get on with it.
  • When prepping for a meeting think ‘what is the most positive outcome of this meeting for me?’.  It helps you stay on track, because you have a track, to get the desired result.
  • I’m instantly excited about projects and get frustrated when they move slowly, so my coach suggested I am honest about that and plot out milestones of when my interest will peak again.  It helps with managing stakeholders and my sanity!
  • I’m also most productive and do my best work when busy and under pressure.  I’ve learnt to schedule my diary so I have short bursts of productivity at my desk between meetings.
  • Write your life plan.  Sounds intimidating at first but if you do it conceptually it’s less so.  Then decide what skills and experiences you need to achieve it.  You can judge opportunities against it and make a clear, thoughtful decisions.  That’s not to say you can’t deviate from it, but you can do it consciously and understand the reasons for it.
  • Just because someone doesn’t shout at you or scare you doesn’t mean they don’t expect the very best from you.
  • Create an environment for people to do great work, then get out of the way.



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