The career-defining moment which inspired global directors

Q&A with senior leaders

At three years old we are sent to school, to learn and grow into adolescents. At college we take on the subjects we think will prepare us for adulthood. We undertake a degree to start our dream careers, eager to climb the corporate ladder. 

But somewhere between climbing that ladder and our hectic adult lives we stop enriching out brains and learning. We stop going to evening classes or reading self-help books to better ourselves. 

Which, in some ways, leads us onto how, 15 years ago, we came to start the International Marketing Leaders Program (together with Brand Learning), with the aim to coach senior marketers on making the next step in their career. 

So ahead of IMLP's 15-year reunion party, we caught up with some of our alumni - as they reminisced over career-defining moments and how far they've come since being on the programme. 

Annabel Venner, Global Brand Director at Hiscox and CMO at DirectAsia

Class of 2012 
Marketing Director at Hiscox at the time, promoted in September 2012.

What makes an outstanding leader?
'I believe that you need to be passionate about doing/creating something and need to engage and inspire people around you with your vision. This leadership element needs to go hand in hand with the more technical side of the marketing role which needs to be centred around the consumer.'

 Still friends with 
'At least half a dozen people from my course and it has been fantastic seeing them have success in their careers.'

Jon Walbancke, Marketing Director at Unilever 

Class of 2015 
Shopper Marketing Manager at Unilever at the time, promoted in February 2016.
Biggest challenge since the programme
'Honestly – having two young kids, managing sleepness nights and chaotic weekends while still turning up to work focused and on point. I clung to a tip Anni Townend gave us around how to be conscious of our mental and physical energy levels. Once you are aware, you can make a choice on how you show up. Great leaders don’t let external factors dictate their output – they dictate that themselves.'
Top tips
  1. When you work in marketing your role is to simply create value. Create better value for your consumers by creating outstanding experiences to drive sustainable growth.
  2. Speak the language of the board – as a leader you need to be able to enthuse, inspire and get people to change. To do this you need to speak the language of business.
  3.  Be personally aware. Know how your feeling, where your energy levels are, what mood you’re in. Your shadow grows as you move up through an organisation, and the best leaders are those that take control of these energies to drive a conscious outward projection.

Raj Kumar, Global Director at Aviva

Class of 2014 
Group Head of Marketing Strategy & Planning at Aviva at the time, promoted in May 2017.
Most memorable moments 
'I remember a few things, “FED” is drilled in my memory and serves me well. The comradery and great people I got to interact with, some of whom I am still in touch with and finally my biggest takeaway was in the area of personal management – prioritisation and taking time to think about my own leadership style and goals.'
Any funny stories?
'Plied with good wine at evenings mean I don’t remember the funny stories, just the laughs.'

Francesca Davies, Marketing Director UK/IR at Weetabix

Class of 2013 
Head of Brand at Weetabix at the time, promoted in October 2014 and again in June 2017.
Biggest takeaway
'The inspiring individuals I met – so much of what I heard from the speakers and the individuals on the programme has stayed with me. My biggest takeaway was the importance of being clear on the type of leader I want to be and what is authentic to me. It’s been a game changer for how I walk over the line every day since and how I approach my career plans and decisions.'
How to be a leader
Focus on 'transformational goals that will benefit both your consumers’ needs and your company’s needs is what will give you the right to lead the organization and drive transformational change.'

Tim Clarke, Group Marketing, Innovation & Sustainability Director at innocent drinks 

Class of 2009
Global Marketing Manager at Bacardi at the time. He was since promoted four times during his time with Bacardi before moving to innocent drinks this January.
Favourite speaker
'Let me answer this in two ways: Steve Radcliffe had a lasting impression because he made leadership seem simple and tangible, and also because he’s a proud northerner. Secondly what I remember from the speakers was that great leadership comes in all shapes and sizes – and that finding your own authentic leadership style is what’s important, not conforming to a model in your head.'
Life after the course
Since then it has been a busy time: I got married, moved to China, returned to UK, and now have a 2-year-old son and my dream role leading marketing and innovation at innocent... The programme prompted me to think about what really drives me both professionally and personally.

Fiona West, Vice President Global Brands Director at Brown-Forman 

Class of 2016
A déjà vu moment
Sitting in the room and reminiscing about my wedding reception which took place there! 
How the programme has affected your professional life 
'It gave me a heightened awareness of what it takes to succeed in a general manager role.'
How the programme has affected your personal life
It 'made me think more about the need to manage my energy across my job and life outside work.'

By Orianna Rosa Royle, Digital Assistant at The Marketing Society.