I’m a Dubliner with French roots and insatiable short term curiosity. Just about anything fascinates me for five minutes to five weeks and then gets replaced by something else. As I write this I’m really into bike maintenance and the question: “what makes a social cause matter to an individual?” One of those is for a client…I’ll let you guess which.
My career kicked off in the international aid sector, which involved a lot of unconventional settings, and even more unconventional tropical illnesses. Many aspects of life grabbed my attention during that time, but one particular observation endured. Whether it was in post-earthquake Haiti or rural Congo, communications - the profit driven, the political, the philanthropic - seemed to be profoundly impacting people’s lives, and sometimes changing them for the better.
I came to WPP to learn from the sector that creates so much of the marketing we see in the world. During my first year I’ve worked on everything from a global anti-slavery initiative to America’s greatest department store as a planner at JWT, the agency many say invented the discipline. It’s been a blast, I’m learning every day and can’t wait for what’s to come.
One tip. If you’re reading all these bios, feeling intimidated, and wondering why on earth WPP would pick you…apply! I can guarantee you every one of us felt just the same way.
When I was 16, I used to dream about travelling around the world, studying and living in different countries, embracing their cultures and languages. But what did I know about it? I was just a girl from a small city in China. My Chinese classmates and teachers used to laugh at me and call me a daydreamer, because most people had one focus - to study hard to get into a good Chinese University.
Two years later, I was sitting with a group of international students from America, England, Germany, Japan, China and Mexico, singing the song “Aux Champs-Elysees” at our French professor’s home in Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower and Seine, chatting in French, English and Chinese. In two years, I had overcome what seemed impossible to my peers.
Ten years from then, before I knew it, I have already completed my studies in France, Canada, Scotland, Italy and Sweden; lived and worked in London, Belgium, Shanghai and New York.
The idea of combining a career that is creative, truly global and operates across cultures and languages seemed like a dream. However the Fellowship has inspired and enabled me to make my dream come true.
‘When you truly want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ The Fellowship is the best example I have found to prove my life motto true.
“Well, it’s not all bad,” said the careers advisor. “The banks and law firms are still hiring…and if you’re feeling a bit creative you could even go for management consultancy.” This was it, I thought. The culmination of 16 years of education for my career to be decided by which industries “hadn’t cut back that much”. If you wanted to try something else, you should get ready for many more years of unpaid internships and uncertainty.
Thankfully, the WPP Fellowship was set up to offer an alternative to the safer careers that vacuum up graduates because of their more structured programs. The Fellowship has a structure, but not one that defines the type of person you are when coming out the other side. There is no required reading list, no jargon to learn, no mandatory work experience. You just need a passion for brands and a curiosity to see how companies build them around the world in different ways.
No two people’s Fellowships are the same. Each is shaped by a mixture of your own ambitions, the company’s needs and sometimes by the most unexpected opportunities that arise from working in such a diverse and respected group.
I began at JWT London as a planner, starting out alongside JWT’s own graduate intake (and being given all the Kit Kats I could eat by the Nestlé team). The following year I went to Hong Kong to work on digital strategy for luxury brands at OgilvyOne, having never set foot in Asia before.
Despite my excitement at the new job and new continent, a few months later I had a call from London saying there was an opportunity for a Fellow to work for the UK Government - in the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office press team. Three weeks later, I was away from the sunshine of South East Asia, shivering, and being shouted at by a BBC cameraman on Downing Street. The Prime Minister’s car was blocking his shot, and I felt in no position to be giving parking tips on my first day.
My six month secondment was extended several times as I moved around different departments and eventually finished working for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, advising how we should communicate government policy on the digital economy.
You never know where your next move in WPP will actually take you, and so I cannot wait to start year three.
I have colleagues who have helped set up new agencies in Myanmar, worked on environmental campaigns for Al Gore, and some who have even written speeches for Prince William - all in their first three years. I cannot think of any other graduate scheme where this is the norm. Take the plunge, fill in the form!