Marketing Career Path: Sarah (33), Marketing Brand Manager

marketing career path
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What is your degree in?

1) Bachelor of Commerce

2) Masters in Marketing

Why did you do the degree you did?

I liked business studies in school, so it made sense that I did a commerce degree. While doing the degree, I found the marketing side more interesting than the other subjects.

I specialised in marketing in the final year, but felt what I was learning wasn’t specific enough.

Also, I didn’t feel ready for the working world, so I thought it would be good to get more of an in-depth understanding of marketing and gain a bit more maturity before I got a proper job.

Did your degrees prepare you for your marketing career path?

The marketing masters was brilliant but I’m 100% sure I would have gained more from it if I’d spent some time working for a few years.

What you learn in the postgrad is very abstract and it’s difficult to relate it to real-world examples when you haven’t worked anywhere.

However, the risk was that if you got a job, you would get a bit of money in your pocket and you wouldn’t go back to university.

That’s why I think it’s so important to gain work experience while at university.

Why did you embark on a marketing career path?

My sister was in a marketing type role, and my older brothers worked in tech companies so I ended up working for an IT company in my first job as I thought that’s where I needed to be.

However, I didn’t like it, it was business to business (B2B) marketing and not the big budget marketing that I was looking for.

I spent a year there and it was so wrong for me, but it was the best year of my career as I realised what I didn’t want to do. It was an early blip but it was the best blip I could have had.

What I do now is TV copy, big budget, creative marketing for big multinational firms. Some people might spend 4/5 years working in something and then realise that it isn’t for them, but I found out after a year. 🙂

marketing career path
Did you know anything about what a marketing career path entailed starting off or were you a bit blind?

Marketing is so broad, you have the agency side, and the client side, then within that there are all the different industries – Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Banking etc.

Nobody ever maps out the different career paths for you when you are at university even when you are doing a postgraduate degree and you would expect some guidance.

Are you unsure about which career path to follow? You have a vague idea what you might want to do, but are not really sure?

If so, check out my online course on ‘How to Find Your Perfect Career’. It is 25 tried and tested exercises that I’ve used to take me from jobs I hated in my 20’s to a job I LOVE now!

What percentage of what you learned in university have you used in your marketing career path?

80% – what I learned in university has helped me in my day to day roles:

The human resources stuff helps me to manage a team of people, the economics helps me to understand why people make decisions, and the accounting gives me the basics of managing a profit & loss statement.

(I’m responsible for managing the P&L of my brand)

With the benefit of hindsight, if you were 18 again would you do anything differently degree wise?

Not really as I’m in a good place with my career.

The one thing I would do differently is I would get work experience while I was at university as it would have helped me to figure out what I liked and didn’t like.

What backgrounds do your contemporaries following their own marketing career path have?

Anyone at my level in a big multinational firm will have studied marketing.

The big companies look for someone who has a 2.1 in their undergrad, maybe a postgrad and has come from a similar firm.

It’s bad but people hire those who have similar backgrounds to themselves.

I do it myself, I hire people like me as I want them to hit the ground running.

What jobs have you done since graduating? And what have they entailed?

Innovation Manager, Consumer Goods Company, Ireland

Responsible for the top-line brands in group HQ – trialling new ways of working and inventing new business models

Senior Brand Marketing Manager, Consumer Goods Company, Ireland

Same as below with more people management

Brand Manager, Consumer Goods Company, Ireland

Same as below but for a different company

Brand Manager, Consumer Goods Company, Ireland

Responsible for the seasonal advertising campaigns, on-going content, media strategy, content creation, partnerships, events and store support.

Assistant Brand Manager, Consumer Goods Company, Ireland

Marketing Executive, IT Company, Ireland

What are 3 things you’ve liked most about your marketing career path and 3 things you haven’t liked?


  1. The autonomy – you’re given support but ultimately you can drive your brand, manage your teams and make a real impact
  2. The changeable and fast-paced nature of my job – I like things to be different as it keeps me interested
  3. The scope for progression – the key question for me is ‘am I still learning?’

Don’t like:

  1. The economic downturn was stressful as there were cutbacks, I survived a few rounds of redundancies. I know recessions will happen a few times in my lifetime, so you have to take it on the chin.
  2. People that don’t have the same attitude and work ethic as me. I’m quite ambitious which some people are not but I’ve learned to become more accepting of that.
  3. The pace of change – technology changes so fast, for someone like me who likes to be in control, it can be a bit scary and exhausting.
Which would you prefer to work for? a small company or a big company, and why?

I would prefer the bigger company; better structures, hierarchies, training, big budgets, you learn what’s best in class.

In a small company, you will get less opportunity to work on big deals, it can suit people who are more entrepreneurial, and don’t need good structures in place.

I do think I would step down to a smaller company later in life, but I’d advise starting big where you get the big budgets, the training etc., then get one or two promotions and then move to a small company.

When you are interviewing for marketing roles it is all about what campaigns you have worked on, you want to work on the big ones that people will have heard of.

Has it been much fun following a marketing career path? and if so why?

Marketing is fun, the agencies take you out, you make a lot of fun advertisements, you are working with creative minds and interesting people etc.

You see a product in decline, then after a campaign that you do, people come back to it, it can be very rewarding.

Check out the culture of the company, that is the most important thing – research it and talk to people who are working there.

Several big well-known companies have approached me to work for them but I have turned them down as the culture wasn’t right.

marketing career path 3
What is the difference between agencies and clients in marketing?

Agencies are the creative people who make the ads for the products.

I am the client who hires the creative agencies to make the ads.

Even within that, there are other paths – there are people who just research, they sell the client what are called customer insights, the client then takes that to make a brief, which the agency then turns into a TV ad.

If you could start over and you were 22 again, but you know all you know now, would you do anything differently career-wise?

No, as I always felt I was learning and progressing.

There was a time during the recession that I was heading up a couple of brands that weren’t doing well, I thought maybe I should have jumped ship and worked for someone else.

What tips would you give a young person now?

Before university, make sure you go to the best one you can and get your 1.1 or 2.1. After university, go for a big FMCG.

They will have a checklist for new hires, a 2.1, maybe a masters etc.

Get a work placement, if you don’t know anyone in the industry, ask your lecturers, they’ve seen it all, and they know all the top people, they will put you in contact with some good contacts.

Also, make sure you have passion projects on the side i.e. blogging, reading industry mags, or marketing books.

Don’t worry if you do start off in the wrong career, if you realise you don’t like it then great!

Your career will change so much in your lifetime it’s really no big deal if you do something for a while that you don’t love.

What tips would you give young person who wanted to follow a marketing career path?

If you are confused as to what type of marketing you should pursue, do your research, map out the different options.

Ask yourself do I understand all of them, the hours, the typical day, the locations, the companies you would work for. If not, go ask people!

Once you build up some knowledge, there will be a sense of what you want to do?

Then once you know that, get some experience, can I help out for free for two weeks?

Are you unsure about which career path to follow? You have a vague idea what you might want to do, but are not really sure?

If so, check out my online course on ‘How to Find Your Perfect Career’. It is 25 tried and tested exercises that I’ve used to take me from jobs I hated in my 20’s to a job I LOVE now!


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