THE TALENT REPORT: Do external qualifications trump internal training as a means of getting to the top?

THE TALENT REPORT: Do external qualifications trump internal training as a means of getting to the top?

Industry experts often differ over whether education or experience is more important for potential recruits who have ambitions of climbing the ladder to assume senior positions in marketing.

No: Roison Donelly, corporate marketing director, Procter & Gamble

Nothing beats on-the-job training and coaching tailored to understanding your business and helping you succeed in your role.

From day one as a Procter & Gamble graduate brand manager, you are running the brand, owning the budgets and building campaigns and, from then on, you never stop learning. Our philosophy is to develop personalised training and development on the job.

This is complemented by P&G marketing university programmes and a variety of external speakers and sharing sessions. We also have online training to do, when you need it.

In P&G, your manager is your coach, and all P&G managers are assessed on how effectively they build the organisation, as well as building the business. Training is in our DNA, and a key priority.

External qualifications can add breadth and help you focus externally and learn from other industries, but a more time-effective way to do this is attending events and visiting online content from The Marketing Society, IPA or other industry bodies.

Maybe: Troy Warfield, vice-president family care, Europe, Kimberly-Clark

Tertiary qualifications will definitely provide the first step in a career in marketing, with most big companies requiring this as a prerequisite for entry. Achieving the degree means you have demonstrated some aspects of intellectual rigour, sustained performance and application.

However, once you are working for an organisation, this will not give you the passport to success. Experience across the integrated fields of marketing, and in functions such as category management or sales would definitely help in enabling the candidate to make decisions with a wider perspective of the business.

Gaining experience in channels such as digital will also help. As the marketer develops, further tertiary qualifications, such as an MBA, may be advantageous.

When I studied for my MBA, I majored in finance, as it is crucial that marketers can understand how their decisions and investments affect the company's bottom line. Overall, a balance of tertiary qualifications, and real on-the-job experience, can provide a powerful combination to get to the top.

No: Alex Batchelor, chief operating officer, Brainjuicer, and chairman, The Marketing Society

I joined Unilever long ago, when the HR departments of big companies were worried there weren't going to be enough graduates. They recognised that we didn't know anything and taught us the basics of both marketing and business.

I got an external accounting qualification and did a lot of internal courses and remain grateful for all that I learned. I am a huge fan of external qualifications and internal training. The sad truth is that no one is interested in any of it any more; not my Oand A-level results, not my degree, not even my accounting qualification.

The only questions I have been asked at interviews in the past 10 years have been about what I have done. Relevant experience outweighs both external qualifications and internal training.

A company may be interested in things that help them tick the boxes of intelligence when hiring - but once you are through the door, they are interested only in what you can do.

No: Will Orr, marketing director, British Gas

I suspect that neither qualifications nor training are the biggest factors in getting to the top in marketing.

As with any profession, I am sure that attributes and experience gleaned "on the job" are more important than anything learned in the classroom.

Having said that, both have a role in developing people to be great at what they do, and at British Gas, both are part of our "marketing capability" plan.

For example, our more junior marketers take CIM qualifications, while the whole team benefits from our recently launched marketing academy.

We have an external partner helping us to design and implement the courses, but the academy's success will depend on the participation of an engaged senior team.

In the future we like to think our marketing leaders will be "home-grown" from the academy. I certainly believe we'll value that more highly than external qualifications when it comes to identifying top talent.

For more discussion, visit

The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to inspiring bolder marketing leadership.