Amy Kirkland graduated from BCU with a first-class degree in Marketing, Advertising and PR and now works as a Global Brand Planner at Avon. We spoke with Amy to find out a bit more about her career.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was very young, I wanted to be an astronaut, which probably wasn’t a good idea considering I hate rollercoasters! When I was doing my Standard Grades (Scottish equivalent to GCSEs), I wanted to be an advocate which is like a barrister. So I did a complete 360 to now be doing something creative!
What do you wish you would have known before starting your career?
It’s difficult, because you look back in hindsight and think, ‘Oh this would have been great to know’. But at the same time, everything that happens gives you the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
It’s good to know that sometimes it’s okay to say no. I’m a massive people pleaser, but actually, sometimes people respect you more for saying no rather than half-heartedly saying yes.
What’s a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day! It changes all the time.
Usually my day starts by getting a coffee, some porridge and going through my emails.
Then I’ll work on any presentations and strategic work. Currently I’m working on size of line reviews and brand architectures, to understand where we want our brands to be in 2 to 3 years.
I’ll also make any decisions that need to be made, like reviewing and approving products.
Around midday, our global teams in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico etc and our Research & Development (R&D) team in New York start to come online. So, I’ll come back from lunch to answer 20 or 30 new emails!
From about 1-4pm, I have what we call Matrix Meetings with our global teams such as Sourcing, Costing, Design and R&D. Then there’s meetings with Commercial teams around the world, who actually launch the products in their markets.
I also have feasibility calls, which happen at the beginning of the product design process. We discuss things like what kind of product we want and how much it’ll cost to make.
At about 4pm, I’ll do anything that needs to be urgently done before the end of the day and follow up on things from earlier meetings.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I would say it’s getting a finished product on your desk. It’s the strangest and best feeling to see an idea that I had 18 months ago, go from being an idea to seeing the actual product on my desk, in brochures and online.
What do you find challenging about your job?
Meeting cost targets is a challenge. You have to create a product at the right price for your consumer. Sometimes two or three cents (we measure everything by dollars) is all that it takes to put you above your cost target.
What are the top three skills that you think are essential for somebody who’s applying for a graduate marketing role?
Being confident in presenting. Not just for formal presentations, but also being confident in presenting yourself as a person. I think there’s two sides to you as a graduate. There’s you at work but you’ve also got your own personal brand. Presenting, from formal presentations to just having a conversation with your manager, is key.
Being adaptable to whatever situation that you’re thrown into is another one.
Being curious about the outside world and how it influences both your role and your consumer is your biggest skill as a marketer, so that you can meet their needs.
Do you have any tips for someone looking to get work experience or an internship?
Firstly, network as much as you can. Always say yes when you’re invited somewhere that’s out of your comfort zone. Speak to people even if they don’t work in marketing, because they may know people who are in marketing that could help you out.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Apply speculatively to companies that you’re interested in. You may get knocked back but it’s important not to give up. The company might not have any openings for you at that time, but months later they may come back to you and say, ‘We’ve got this opening now, would you be interested?’
You work in a global role; do you think that’s more difficult than working for a smaller, local company?
There’s positives and negatives to both; they’re both difficult but in different ways. For me, the challenge with a global role is that you have a very different set of consumer needs in each country. For example, in Russia they want an extremely high coverage foundation and won’t accept anything less. Whereas in Brazil for instance, they hate foundation and just want something like a tinted moisturiser.
So, it’s very difficult to balance your consumer needs and still provide a product that is globally relevant.
I would say in a local company the challenge is different because you might not have as many resources. In Avon I think we’ve got over 50 thousand people working in Global roles, whereas in a local company you may be a jack of all trades who does everything. That means you’re challenged more in the long term and can maybe climb the ladder a bit more quickly.