Q&A with Gareth Main, PG Dip IDM: Class of 2018

“Nothing in work really prepares you for stepping up more than this course has for me”

Gareth Main didn’t knowingly start out as a ‘marketer’ – he simply saw himself as someone who was passionate about connecting people with things he cared about. It was only when he started studying for his IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Direct and Digital Marketing that he realised he’d been a successful marketer all along. After 7 years at the Guardian, Gareth has just taken up a role as Marketing Director at a FinTech start-up. We caught up with him to find how his IDM qualification helped him step up.

2018 has been quite a year for you. Tell us a bit about the high-lights and where your IDM qualification ranks among them.

Very highly. As with many marketers I have a decent number of side hustles and creative projects – I've had pieces published in the Guardian about experimental music in Uganda and Indonesia, and my podcast – Independent Music Podcast – had its 200th episode and features across the media, so those all rank highly. It has also meant that 2018 has been very busy generally, and managing to get one of very few distinctions in my Postgraduate Diploma ranks as a very high achievement for me.

What made you decide to study for your Postgraduate Diploma?

A few things – I was encouraged by my boss but mostly I wanted to fill in gaps in my marketing education. As with many people in the field, I fell into it rather than going down a traditional education path. It meant that – although I was very skilled and knowledgeable – I didn't have all the tools and information to tie it all together into being a fully rounded marketing expert. The course gave me that, as well as the confidence that the instincts that I used in my work as a marketing strategist were right.

What was it like being back in a classroom again?

Brilliant! I absolutely loved the lessons. The teaching was good, but the real value for me came from being surrounded by working marketing experts from all kinds of industries. The discussions that were provoked in the classes resulted in learning that you simply can't be taught – either in work or in a lesson plan.

Which aspects of the course do you think have been/will be the most useful to you?

The confidence it has given me will live with me forever. It's nice when people recognise the achievement, and I think there's a real value and authority that comes with it.

How important do you think qualifications and training are for today’s marketers?

It's a really interesting question because – before I did the course – I would have said 'not very' and would always prefer on the job experience over training and qualifications. However, nothing in work really prepares you for stepping up to Marketing Director level more than this course has for me. It's rare (if not impossible) to find a job that gives you a fully rounded, strategic view on marketing without having done it before, and that jump from purely executional to strategic marketing is a difficult one to make. In my experience, executional marketers grossly underestimate the value and difficulty of strategy, going on a course like this would change that pretty quickly.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to take their career to the next level?

It depends where they're at and where they want to go, but a fully rounded experience should always be valued. What the course gave me was the confidence that I could be a marketing strategist in any industry because my assignments saw me having to write strategy for companies in fintech, ecommerce, and fashion. Those three are vastly different, and the fact that I got distinctions on all of them gave me that confidence. I think it also appeals to forward-thinking employers who want new, different and interesting thinking.

Training is important. It isn't everything, but it's good to remember that you're never too old (or young) to learn and develop. What the course proved to me is that you never know everything, and you will always get ideas from surrounding yourself with people from outside your organisation.

Is that it now, or do you think you will do more training?

I won't say never, but I think the blisters on my hands need to heal before I do any exams again!

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