Hello, Working Girl: Danielle Williams-Smith
Meet Danielle, account manager and creative force behind lifestyle blog My Sydney Life. After Danielle reached out to That Working Girl for a cross-global blog collaboration, we couldn't wait to learn more about the Aussie blogger! Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of Danielle's career as well as her advice for young women in the industry. Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in the media industry? Did you know it was something that you were cut out for?
A: I never set out intentionally to work in the experiential industry, it’s actually something I fell in to. I completed a Bachelor of Tourism and Leisure Management majoring in Event Manager, so I always had my heart set on a career in ‘events’. I completed my final university exam and moved from my hometown of Brisbane to Sydney the very next day. Before I left however, I invested what seemed like a very large amount of money at the time, in printing 50 resumes and cover letters and set about Googling ‘event management’ companies in Sydney. I sent out every single resume and cover letter I had printed and only received one call back for an interview – this was July 2009, at the height of the GCF here in Australia.
I landed my first full-time job in what was to become my first Sydney agency, at the time I didn’t even know what an agency was. Now five years and three agencies later, did I know it was something I was cut out for? When I was fresh to the industry, definitely not, however as my knowledge, skills and personal confidence developed, I love my job and now have the self-confidence to know that I’m good at what I do.
Q: Walk us through what a day in the life of Senior Account Manager is like – what are some things that you encounter on a daily basis?
A: Everyone who works in an agency will always answer this question this way, however, every day is always different, and that’s what I absolutely love about my job. We have a saying in our office which goes “you know you work in Experiential when you…” meaning we find ourselves doing weird and wonderful things for our clients every single day.
I could find myself Googling the meaning of ‘telekinesis’ and having a discussion with my colleagues about whether it constitutes as a real ‘super hero power’ (yes, this is a true story!) to traveling around the country, bumping in a huge activation for a client’s sponsorship, or from managing a million dollar budget through to negotiating discounts with suppliers. A lot of my job is highly creative (that’s the part I most enjoy) however a lot of it is being a mediator or a middle man, being the person to drive the clients agenda and to ensure everyone is doing what they’re meant to be doing, to deliver a successful campaign. On a ‘normal’ day, my day-to-day entails reading and writing lots of emails, running client meetings and generally just making things happen. They say variety is the spice of life and this certainly rings true for my industry.
Q: What has your biggest professional challenge been so far, and how did you overcome it?
A: A huge (and sometimes challenging) component of my job is people – managing clients, managing both ‘down and up the line’ to colleagues, suppliers and campaign stakeholders. Managing stakeholders effectively and being able to set their expectations is definitely something that comes with experience. Managing clients is one of the most challenging parts of my job. Sometimes a difficult client can really set things off-track, so having confidence and conviction in the campaign idea is crucially important – we always tell our clients we’re not precious about the creative idea, but when push comes to shove we will always fight for a good idea and I think this is really important.
Q: What would your best advice for 20-something career women be?
A: Firstly, find a mentor, whether it’s someone from your industry or not, having someone impartial to be a soundboard for advice, complaints (to give your other half or girlfriends a break every now and then) or to give you guidance. Having this support is something that will become invaluable to both your personal and career development.
Secondly, make mistakes (trust me, there will be plenty of them) but make sure you learn from every one, and never repeat the same mistake twice. Ask lots of questions, I know people say ‘there is no stupid question’ but if you haven’t really thought about the answer before you ask it, sometimes there definitely are (trust me, I’ve been there!).
Thirdly, fake it ‘til you make it. The workplace is all about perceptions and once someone has formed an opinion of you (whether it’s good or bad) it’s pretty hard to shake whatever brush you have been tarred with. Showing initiative and willingness to learn will take you incredibly far in your career, you don’t always have to have all the answers but thinking laterally and ‘outside the box’ can be your biggest asset. As agency people, we really only need to know about 5% more than our client, however there’s nothing wrong with politely telling someone (a client, a colleague or a manager) that you don’t have the answer there and then, but will be able to come back to them with the right information.