A view from Staff

Starting out in media: a view from the top and bottom

Two views from life in a media agency, by Nicky Bradley, marketing director at Maxus and newbie apprentice Rebecca Dawson.

Nicky Bradley, marketing director at Maxus, started in media in 1991

I remember vividly being 16, a school leaver, with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life except to start earning.

Going to university wasn’t even discussed, nobody in my family had been before me. My choice was simple. go to college and get a BTEC or similar qualification or start work.

I’d love to say that advertising was my calling, but in truth, I spotted a job ad in an issue of MissLondon magazine my dad had brought home from the city. It was for an office junior position in the somewhat grandly named media department (six people) within an advertising agency. This was 1991 mind, well before standalone media agencies existed.

In the role, I was "shared" between the media servicing and client servicing departments. A stand out memory of my early career is being instructed by the head of client services to sit outside his office, so he could have "something pretty to look at". Classy.

Staff perks were few and far between. Forget gym memberships and pilates, think long lunches out of the office, and second-hand cigarette smoke inside it.

In terms of training and development, I can’t remember having an appraisal within the first five years. Career progression generally meant getting a leg up the ladder when the person senior to you moved on. And as for contact with senior management, forget it, this was all done via your line manager. It was all a far cry from the meritocratic, open-door policy we see today.

But it wasn’t all Mad Men-style subservience, despite a predominantly white, middle-class, male leadership. I learnt lots, worked hard, and was determined to rise through the ranks.

Perhaps because of my own more humble beginnings, I feel strongly about media’s recent focus on graduate recruitment. Agency intake over the past few years has been dominated by the well connected and well educated, overlooking many bright sparks along the way.

To buck this trend and widen access to the business we launched Maxus Calling, a school liaison and apprenticeship scheme.

In contrast to my early career experiences, our apprentices will be encouraged to explore their options and shown clear paths of progression to excel and thrive in their careers.

They have a more diverse (and increasingly so) leadership to draw inspiration from, and are entering the business at a time of huge transformation and opportunity. I can’t wait to see their stories unfold.

Rebecca Dawson, marketing and new business apprentice, MaxusRebecca Dawson, marketing and new business apprentice at Maxus, started June 2016

It’s just three weeks into my apprenticeship, and I am amazed by how much opportunity I’ve had to be actively involved, from helping with pitch preparation to running the agency Instagram account.

I’d left school to study arts at university, but I hated it and dropped out. I desperately wanted to work, and assumed this would be in an art and design related field. I started looking into apprenticeships and though I found many, I was hunting for something that could progress into a career.

Like many of us attending the initial Maxus Calling day, I had no idea what media agencies did We got a huge amount of information and practical advice, such as how to create an effective jobseeking LinkedIn profile. We even heard a client’s take on the industry.

By lunchtime that day, I had told myself that even if I didn’t end up with an apprenticeship, I’d gained so much valuable knowledge I could put into practice wherever I end up working. But I also knew that I wanted to work in media.

This experience has completely shattered my perceptions of how the workplace would be. Everyone is incredibly friendly and there’s a genuine sense that people want to help each other out. My position by the ping-pong table has been a brilliant ice-breaker.

I had assumed that senior management would be locked away in their office and far too busy or important to interact with newbies. So I was surprised, to say the least, to get a congratulatory welcome hug from Anna Hickey, the managing director. I’ve even been invited into the office of Nick Baughan, Maxus' chief executive, for a chat. That was nerve-wracking, but he was really down to earth.

My first review was two weeks in and I’ll be having regular feedback on my progress. Two months ago, I didn’t know what media agencies did. Now I’ve had some first-hand experience, I’m drawn to the more creative marketing and new business side of agency work. The past few weeks have been a blur and I’ve never been so excited to get out of bed each morning.