Case study

Director of marketing and advancement — Emma Leech

Emma's qualifications and passion for learning and education led her to her current role at Loughborough University. Discover what she enjoys about her job in marketing and advancement

What course did you study and where?

I did my first degree - a combined studies course (English with Politics), part-time at The University of Huddersfield while I was working.

How did you get your job?

I went to work for a fashion and consumer PR start-up straight after my A-levels and quickly discovered that I'd found a job I loved. A few years later, I started thinking about moving on and realised that everything advertised included the term 'graduate caliber' so I self-funded my degree through evening classes.

I've always enjoyed studying and I went on to do my CAM Certificate and Diploma, a postgraduate marketing qualification, my CIM Diploma and an MBA at The University of Bradford. It took me twelve years of part-time study on top of a full-time job but it was the right decision and I've never regretted it.

I worked in local government and tourism PR before I landed a job in education in 1997. I love it. There's so much variety, so much to learn and every single day is different.

What is a typical day like as a marketing director?

My job is incredibly varied and spans everything from marketing, recruitment and events and PR, to web and digital campaigns, crisis communications and fundraising. I also do a lot of presenting internally and externally, which focuses on showcasing our work to the wider world as well as pitching ideas and linking projects and initiatives from across the university together to maximise their potential.

A typical day includes a lot of meetings - mostly coming up with campaign ideas or project managing things - alongside day-to-day management, a lot of trouble-shooting and plenty of researching and writing.

I manage a number of large teams so the people management side is really important to me. Great people deliver great work and it's important that we get the best out of them and that they enjoy what they do.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Education is my passion. It transforms lives at a personal level and changes how we live day-to-day. The key for me is the variety and freedom in my role. I know what I have to deliver and it's down to me to make that happen.

I can be as creative as I want but I also get to develop my team, take on new projects, and work with people who are bright and enthusiastic. It's hard to get bored when you're working with world-leading experts in so many fields.

What are the challenges?

In marketing and communications, the pace is intense and there are very few let ups. Social media has transformed the way we do business and teams like mine are on the frontline when it comes to dealing with issues and getting good news out there.

It's also challenging on occasions, as some of our stakeholders are not quite so current in their marketing knowledge so we have to spend time taking them on the journey with us and building engagement and advocacy internally.

You need a strong work ethic, plenty of resilience, a good grasp of data, a creative mindset and sharp attention to detail.

In what way is your degree relevant?

English is fundamental to my work. The ability to write, craft narrative and tell stories is something I use every single day. We often hire English graduates as they have an affinity for language and are great at nuancing things and seeing angles.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

At the moment, I lead more than 150 people across a range of areas and integrating our activities is one of the things that has helped me develop new skills and strengthen what we deliver as a team.

In terms of ambition, I've always wanted to be the best version of me, so I work hard, try hard and seek to benchmark what we do alongside the best. That drives me and keeps me happy. I've achieved a lot in terms of level - there isn't really any further to go - but doing new things and being given new challenges is where I remain ambitious.

What advice can you give to others?

I'd say work hard, take opportunities, step outside your comfort zone and never be afraid to learn and build your networks from a very early stage. People are often happy to help you with advice, tips, pointers and opportunities.

I'd also say try to gain professional qualifications and commit to continuing professional development (CPD). Marketing and communications are fast-paced environments and it's easy to get out of date.

If you're passionate and enthusiastic in what you do it shows. Always take responsibility for your own career and never stop learning. Above all, be honest with yourself and if you have weaknesses, address them but do your utmost to play to your strengths too.

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