Benjamin is the Principal of Brand Strategy, Messaging and Content at IBM North America
Connect with Benjamin on Linkedin
1. Why did you choose advertising/marketing as a career path?
As a child, I always wanted to be a Hollywood movie producer. In high school, I vividly remember how much I enjoyed 'Business Studies' - particularly the Marketing and International Business components - and thought that was a great way to combine strategy & creativity into something I could actually make a realistic career out of.
2. What's the best advice you'd give to your younger self who's just started their career?
Take every opportunity that is presented to you. When you start out, you don't know what you don't know, so take every stretch assignment, new project, travel opportunity, whatever it is to test it out and try it out to get a feeling for what you are good at and what you might need to work a little more on. These experiences will help shape the future of your career and what opportunities you take later on in life so don't be shy about putting your hand up for new things or asking for help.
3. What do you look for when hiring young people?
Irrespective of someone's age or background, I will always hire for attitude and aptitude over experience. In marketing and particularly in technology, the products, offerings and solutions across the industry constantly evolve so hiring people willing to constantly learn, try new things and evolve as a practitioner and a leader is critical to their success and ours as a business.
4. How do I make my resume stand out?
Having a clear and well formatted resume is the basic requirement from a hiring manager.
Think of your resume as a marketing campaign for your personal brand however. Your audience (the hiring manager) has never heard of your brand before and you are trying to pull them all the way down the funnel to call and interview you (a product trial). This requires more than just a single interaction, so consider what additional piece of content you might need to provide to get to the next step in the buyers journey.
Perhaps from your resume, you might want to drive people to your LinkedIn page which showcases some of your volunteer experience or university projects, to a video where you introduce yourself or to a whole website that showcases your skills and experiences.
Everyone stands for something a little different, so take the time to consider what you want to be known for - and how this might align to the jobs you are applying for - and build your content accordingly.
5. What skills have been most beneficial for you?
Having a growth mindset has been critical to my ability to differentiate myself from others; the ability to approach every experience and interaction as an opportunity for learning, development and personal growth, but also as one for growth and evolution of our brand and our organisation.
6. Do you need a degree?
No. Degrees provide you the base knowledge needed to understand and articulate marketing challenges, but these principles grow and evolve over time. The biggest benefit of a university degree is the networks with others in the same position as you and a level of confidence that you know what you are talking about when you actually join the workforce. There are absolutely other ways to gain knowledge, networks and confidence beyond a formal university degree however!
7. What was a key lesson you learnt in your career to date?
If the best leaders are those who don't have all the answers, you don't need to put the pressure on yourself to appear confident that you have all the right answers all the time either. Don't be afraid to ask the questions, make the suggestions or propose to do things a little differently because that is something that every growing organisation needs to thrive.
8. Have your reasons for joining the industry changed over time?
Definitely. I joined Marketing as I saw it as an opportunity to combine my strategic and creative minds, but I now also see the potential that our industry has to drive growth for our businesses but also to drive shifts in the social fabric of our society. Those of us with the privilege of building content and putting it out into the world have a responsibility to reflect the societies within which we operate, giving voices to those who may historically have been marginalised or not seen themselves reflected in the world. The ability to do work that nobody has done before and showcase things that most people may not have seen before is what keeps me in this industry, and hopefully will for the rest of my career too!
9. Have you ever failed? How did you react?
Absolutely, all the time! If you don't fail at something, it means you are not trying hard enough, not pushing the boundaries far enough and not challenging yourself and your team to evolve. The main thing is to look at every failure as an opportunity to learn; what can you take from that experience when you try again so you don't repeat the same behaviour?
10. If you had the chance to re-do your career knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
There are two types of senior leaders in marketing. Those who are really really good at one thing and reach a ceiling within their organization and across the industry, and those who are generalists who build a breadth of experience across their marketing organisations to position themselves for a career of eternal growth and opportunity.
I am not saying that you can't go far doing one thing really well, but taking opportunities as they come to you and being a little more flexible in your career path can open up incredible opportunities for growth and development that you may never have considered.
I have been really fixated on a single career path for myself, and while I definitely do not regret the decisions I have made, who knows where I would be today if I had been a little more open to other things that came my way!