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Here's the Scoop: Sophie Hirst

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Sophie is the Team Lead of Brand & Reputation Marketing at Google Australia & New Zealand

1. Why did you choose advertising/marketing as a career path?

It was pretty haphazard. Growing up in regional NSW I didn’t know anyone from the world of business and had never studied it at school. I was a science kid. I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Biotechnology at USyd and had my career as a genetic engineer very neatly mapped out in my mind. A week before I started, while on a camping trip, a family friend said "do you actually know what scientists do day to day... I think you'll get bored". To this day, I’m not sure why I listened or if it was the right decision, but I pored over the UAC guide until I found the most exciting sounding industry and, of course, Marketing was where it was at.

2. What's the best advice you'd give to your younger self who's just started their career?

There's the right way, then there's the smart way. Try to approach things a little differently to everyone else when it comes to getting a foot in the door or progressing your career. Getting experience doesn’t necessarily mean doing an internship or entry level role for someone else. Think about starting your own side hustle business while you’re still studying instead of just working part time for someone else. Or try to find the people at the very top of your field and do whatever you can to learn from them - whether that’s a once-off coffee chat (you’d be surprised how many leaders are willing to do this if you ask in the right way) or working for free for a few months or walking their dog. Look at all the steps you're meant to take to start a career...and then do something else.

3. What do you look for when hiring young people?

Low ego, curious mind, someone who asks lots of questions and has a real appetite to learn.

EQ is important, someone who reads the room well and can nurture relationships.

Some level of role related knowledge is important - but we typically hire candidates that can (and want to), stretch across lots of different product areas and disciples within marketing, so you don't need to be a subject matter expert on everything. Being (really) good in a few areas is a fine place to start. We don't have a criteria for a University degree.

Demonstration of leadership or entrepreneurship helps — through an example of someone starting something, building something, growing something — of their own. Be that a side hustle, a running club, a product they sell on Esty, a Substack.

Finally, I always look out for a candidate that's really into something — a passion, a hobby, a wacky interest — something they dedicate time to and that brings them joy. I always find that correlates with a curious mind and someone who's on 'the pursuit of better'.

4. How do I make my resume stand out?

If I look at the way we hire people in my team at Google, the most effective source is always personal referrals. So to that end, it’s less about what’s written on your resume, and more about the connections you have and relationships you’ve nurtured. Try to expand your network through things like volunteering on non-profit organisation projects, upskilling through industry courses or just being really social ;)

5. What skills have been most beneficial for you?

+ Learning how to listen properly. Recommendation > subscribe to this podcast

+ Learning how to write well. Recommendation > pay attention to how the best leaders and creatives do it and then put the time in to hone your own craft.

+ Speaking the same language as the art director. Recommendation > take a Visual Design short course.

+ Never forgetting that culture is everything. Recommendation > swap the marketing podcasts for literally anything else and watch a lot of TikTok"

6. Do you need a degree?

Most people say "no but it helps" and I'm not sure even that is true anymore. The training you can get through online micro-credentials these days is often more practical, current (and IMO better) than a degree. Most employers are more interested in what experiences you've had so refer to question #2 above and getting cracking on your side hustle.

7. What was a key lesson you learnt in your career to date?

People probably won't remember the project, but they'll remember the way you made them feel. Make the experience good. Take time to understand people. Care about them and what you're building together. I love this quote that Droga5 used to use "caring isn't in the brief but we do it anyway".

8. Have your reasons for joining the industry changed over time?

For sure. At the start it was all about ‘how many countries can I travel to’ and ‘how many celebrities can I meet’ through my job. Now it’s about recognising the power that marketers have in shaping the way companies operate and the good (or bad) they do in the world. That’s what keeps me here.

9. Have you ever failed? How did you react?

Could anyone answer no to this? All the time! There’s a lot of science to support that the best way to learn is by making mistakes, so the trick is to quickly pivot to “that didn’t work but here’s what I learnt so I’m glad it happened”. I remember one of my first jobs as junior marketer at Myspace (don’t laugh) and our CMO skipped several layers of management and emailed me asking me to create a “topline youth engagement plan” for her. Despite that being a ridiculous brief, I didn’t ask any questions, didn’t ask anyone for help and didn’t show anyone what I put together. It bombed. I don’t even think she replied to my email. But I think about it all the time as a reminder to ask questions early and share your work often.

10. If you had the chance to re-do your career knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

I would have given myself the opportunity to try out a few industries before deciding on my uni degree and settled into a career - whether that's through short courses or working reception for companies I loved or doing internships.


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