Changing career paths smoothly: remaining curious, resilient and flexible

Woman working in office, working at a desk, female entrepreneur

Having graduated with a 1st degree in Palaeobiology in 2008, excited to start work, the crash happened; and instead of entering the workforce I was entering a recession – faced with businesses having recruitment freezes.

I had completed a science-based degree but didn’t envisage a career along the path of oil and gas which my degree essentially lined me up for. Instead, rather than just waiting around for the economy to revive, I decided to commit to doing a PhD.

Three years of research in earth and planetary science, gave me plenty of time to decide what I wanted, and didn’t want, to do with my career. I knew the unpredictability of a research career wasn’t for me. Despite having a first-class degree and a PhD, I was turned down for an entry level role at an investment bank because my GCSEs and A-Level grades were not high enough. Computer literally said no.

What wasn’t taken into account by the investment bank’s HR software, was any environmental factors that might have impacted my earlier education – including the fact that I am dyslexic which wasn’t diagnosed until I left school. Whilst this might sound outrageous for many now, this was the reality that job seekers navigated until recently. Interestingly, this challenge and subsequent obstacles in the recruitment process, is something which has really stayed with me now I myself am in a position of hiring for entry level roles.

Exploring new sectors

My biggest fear was starting to unravel that I would never get a job with such a specialist background. With family within the digital marketing sector, I decided to get more of an idea of what was involved, as it wasn’t a career choice that I had been particularly exposed to.

What I hadn’t considered at that time, and which recognition of gave me the confidence and impetus to pursue this path, is the fact that my degree had provided me not only with an understanding of human anatomy and the habitability of Mars, but with a wealth of ‘transferable’ skills including, excel, data manipulation, statistical analysis, a testing mind set, attention to detail and generally a love for all things analytical. During my career, writing java script codes for the team in digital marketing and using macros to automate tasks in Excel, was invaluable to them, and became an increasingly important area, which I loved

Once more, having recognised where my skills lay, and where I could build on these, I looked to upskill myself through a combination of evening classes and trial and error. It transpired that so deep were my insecurities in my worth, that it took a while for me to be reassured that this was in fact the case – that skills were transferrable, and you could make that shift if you wanted to.

Why digital media doesn’t just mean creative

Whilst media skills can make people think of creativity first and foremost, digital marketing is in fact centred on data analysis. Whilst some creative flair is ideal, possessing the tools to be able to analyse data is far more important, and coming from a science background gave me just the skills I needed to thrive in this new career. I didn’t fully believe people when they told me that my skills were transferrable, but it turns out, they were right.

And so I persevered, explored, had conversations and stayed positive. I now love working in a career which marries creativity with data driven analysis and having that data first mindset and understanding of statistics has been invaluable in building my career and my team.

What my experience has taught me

Now as Head of Paid Media and Planning at iCrossing UK, the agency I work for prioritises hiring people into the business who are having a career change or have had prolonged time out of their career as our preferred recruitment path. What I have taken from my own experience is that it is not what you know, but your attitude and mindset that are the most important traits for a satisfying and rewarding career.

Lottie NamakandoAbout the author

A senior marketing and advertising industry leader with over 10 years of experience leading media solutions teams. Highly analytical and martech savvy, Lottie has worked across iCrossing clients including M&S, White Stuff, Virgin Experience Days, Fidelity and Welsh Gov. Previously: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused in Earth and Planetary Sciences from University College London and has held senior consultancy roles at both Brainlabs and iProspect.


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