Never let yourself be your own inhibitor, says O2’s Sarah Evans, who has carved her successful career by finding and creating her own opportunities.
How long have you been in your current role?
One day. I was formerly Head of Creative & User Experience for O2’s website. Now my responsibility is for the organisation’s small and medium sized business customers. It’s good to be back at the sharp end of marketing!
What was your first job?
After my history and politics degree, I took a job with what was then Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), partly because of the reputation of their graduate training programme, and partly because of the exposure I would get to a wide range of businesses. What I learned there ranged from basic coding, through to a really good understanding of business transformation.
From a technical start, I moved closer to the customer into a project management/product development role at NTL (now Virgin Media). In those days of dial-up, I was involved in building the proposition that was to become broadband.
I left to try a spell in start-up land, building a platform for movie downloads. I wore many hats, from business development to website design, and managing the platform build. Trouble was, the customer wasn’t quite ready to adopt at that time. I learned a huge amount in a very short while, not least about the need to make things easy for customers. In 2006, we didn’t make legal movie downloads easy enough.
What made you choose marketing as your career?
Joining O2. As I moved closer to the customer I became fascinated with understanding the impact of message and experience on customer behaviour.
I had no big master plan and I love new challenges, so when I heard O2 were starting to develop mobile advertising I jumped at the opportunity to lead it. It was here that I decided to develop my core marketing skills with the IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Direct and Digital Marketing, which O2 were kind enough to sponsor.
When I started my career back in 1999, Digital, the internet was still so new that very few people knew exactly what they were doing with it. So we were free to experiment.
If the experiment failed, we would learn from it and go again! It gave me confidence to keep trying new things. I became O2’s Mobile Advertising Manager with very little experience, but the role grew until I took responsibility for creative and UX on O2.co.uk.
What has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My mum. She gave me the confidence to always give it a go – whatever the “it” happened to be at the time. She’s been an inspiration and her belief in me has been a huge emotional support and encouragement. She taught me to never let yourself be your own inhibitor.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges for marketers in the next three years?
Keeping up and knowing how to take advantage of all the opportunities that the digital world presents. There is still so much change that it’s a constant challenge to find new effective ways to engage with customers. Also, knowing which things to invest in – what’s a passing fad and what’s not.
How do you stay current, or ahead in the face of change?
I watch what small businesses are doing –they are more agile and can experiment. I also get inspiration from different people in the organisation. Or from life…
What motivates you?
I love working with a diverse bunch of people. And new challenges. I love new challenges!
Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I’ve learned that the older you get, the more you realise there is more to know – and the only way to learn that is through experience.
What career advice would you give to someone relatively new to marketing?
Be really curious. And don’t be afraid to give anything a go.
What does the future hold for Sarah Evans?
(Laughs). I have no specific plans. I live very much in the moment and will be as opportunistic in my next move as I’ve always been.
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