It’s been a year! I got less funny. From a low base. by Ross Farquhar


About a year ago, I wrote this post about why you should apply to the Marketing Academy.  Since then my year as a scholar has come to an end, I’ve jumped the fence to join 101 London, I’ve got half way through the IPA Excellence Diploma, and I’ve written fewer blog posts than I’d like.  Now that nominations for the 2012/2013 scholarship are open, it felt like a good time to remedy that.

All 28 reasons to apply that I wrote about last January still hold true.  It’s an incredible opportunity that I’m truly grateful to have been given, and worth it for the Singstar opportunities alone.  Plus One Alfred Place’s canapés selection continues to go from strength to strength.  At the same time, when you’re no longer receiving regular mentoring and coaching it becomes clear what, of the stuff you learned, rises to the surface on a day to day basis.  Undoubtedly different for every individual, but here’s a few of mine:

Just chill out a bit, yeah?
There’s an interesting tension between the drive that singles you out in your very early career, and the need to either change or temper that drive as time goes on.  I think I probably went into the Marketing Academy with a strong career-oriented drive, partly because of my competitiveness and partly because the corporate world and all it’s hierarchies plays to that kind of individual.  Having come out of it, my drive has changed to focus on different things (and stop caring about others), and it probably looks a bit different on the outside.  It might have taken me another decade to realise that needed to happen were it not for the Academy and its many wisdomful mentors.  Or I’d have burnt out and had to go to my back-up career, Starbucks barista.

Life’s too short to let it be dull
In the words of famous and influential philosopher Sheryl Crow, “every day is a winding road.”  How far ahead of her time she truly was.

Most of the people I met through the Academy told me, in one way or another, to stop looking at my work in a formulaic way and to be more adventurous.  Amanda Mackenzie from Aviva told us all to “risk it for a biscuit” and not worry about the things you do, only those you don’t.

If I hadn’t had that kind of chat from people on the Academy, when I was considering leaving Diageo for 101 London I’d have only thought about what I was risking by leaving the comforts of a huge, inspirational company with an unparalleled stable of brands to join a start-up whose office is, frankly, too tall and thus has far too many stairs.  It’s turned out to be a move that’s made me incredibly happy, and given me thighs of steel.

Importantly, that’s not to say the Academy leads you to leaving your job.  The majority of scholars from my year remain with the employer they started with, and have moved up into increasingly challenging roles.  Given the churn rate our industry faces, a positive result for all concerned.

Be a nice person
Syl Saller from Diageo told us that good relationships start with positive intent – set out to help people and they’ll be there to help you when you need them.  I can pull out lots of other quotes from the people I met that form a theme of just generally trying to be nice.  It helps.

Consciously remembering to both embark on interactions with positive intent, and assume that positive intent exists in others, has been big for me.  We all get frustrated when something goes wrong – with a project, a conversation, a lunch order.  Reminding myself that, behind all of that, people don’t set out to get that outcome has helped me avoid that frustration*.

*A bit.  I still carry around a Timmy Mallet-style mallet to deal with such instances, obviously.  As the people of Pret Tottenham Court Road will tell you.

So one year on, I’d still heartily recommend you either apply for a scholarship, or nominate someone you know for one.  If nothing else, just think of the free biscuits all those mentoring sessions will involve.


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The Scholarship – a 9 month, free, part time program for 30 of the UK’s fastest rising stars in Marketing, Advertising, Media and Communications.

The Fellowship – Equips CMOs and Marketing Directors with the tools, knowledge and insight to make the move onto Boards and into General Management / MD / CEO roles.

12 month full paid Marketing Apprenticeship for young adults who because of challenging backgrounds, lack qualifications or poor life choices are normally overlooked for this kind of work experience