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Olivia Walker, Channel Planner, PHD

5 min, 53 sec read
12:15 PM | 6 February 2015
by Adam Oldfield
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Olivia is a 23 year old Channel Planner working in the Unilever Global Strategy Unit at PHD. Having initially entered into the world of books she decided to take a career detour into media in mid-2013 and hasn’t looked back since. 

Working on high profile campaigns for billion dollar brands including Hellmann’s and Knorr, Olivia has gained experience in providing effective global communications strategies across all media channels, developing innovative brand partnerships in both traditional and digital spaces, and ensuring global recommendations are implemented at a local level.

Where did you study and how did that help your career choices?

As with lots of almost-freshers I was swayed by my choice of university with thoughts of spending summers by the sea, winters in the pub, and a not too unbearable train journey home if the going got tough. Portsmouth University offered all of these things and was one of the few places which offered a joint course in English Literature and Media, the two things which I really wanted to focus on in my degree.

”I found myself questioning what it was that I really wanted, and went into my final year feeling like I was back at square one.”

I’d grown up with aspirations of working in magazine editorial (oh, the glamour of the fashion cupboard and free samples!) and thought that it would offer the perfect route in, but with no opportunities for placements or a year in industry, hands on experiences were few and far between. Through sheer luck I secured a few stints at Conde Nast for Wired, Traveller and Glamour, and whilst these did a lot to boost my CV, they did the opposite for my career focus. I found myself questioning what it was that I really wanted, and went into my final year feeling like I was back at square one. I moved away from a focus on English Literature and began a Media focused dissertation and modules, including Advertising. Although I didn’t graduate feeling dead set on a specific path, having access to variety of areas definitely put me in good stead for the future.

How did you get your lucky break in the creative industries?

My lucky break was just that – pure luck. At the time I’d been working in a publishing office for coming up to a year, and was considering throwing the towel in and heading back to Kent with my tail between my legs – things just weren’t going well, the role wasn’t what I’d expected and I didn’t feel any connection to what I was doing. But this was 2012, an extremely tough time for anyone to be looking for a job, and who was I to turn my nose up at any kind of job when so many people were struggling?

"This was 2012, an extremely tough time for anyone to be looking for a job."

As with lots of professions the creative industries are all about networking, which is what led to my CV landing on the HR desk at PHD in May 2013. Luckily for me (and hopefully for them too) the Unilever Global Strategy Unit were looking for someone to fill their position for Team Executive working across the Foods Brands (Flora, Hellmann’s, Knorr), the only junior level position on the team. After a pretty intense interview with my line manager to-be, with a spontaneous introduction to the Managing Director, the job was mine.

What’s life like in a media agency such as PHD?

Life on the PHD Unilever team is fast paced but extremely rewarding. There’s a phenomenal level of combined talent within the office, meaning that due to the unique team structures those on a more junior level are consistently exposed to a wealth of knowledge. It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it for the moment when everything finally ‘clicks.’

What does a channel planner do day to day?

The role of the Channel Planner is to support the wider category team with providing effective global communications solutions. In simplified terms this means working with the Strategy Director to develop the strategic thinking around a client brief. Helping the Innovation Director to scope and develop relevant partnership opportunities alongside the client and other agency partners.

"The role of the Channel Planner is to support the wider category team with providing effective global communications solutions."

Whilst working closely with the Market Engagement Director to co-ordinate local market cascade calls, briefings and workshops. There’s also great opportunity for personal ownership over specific projects to help develop specific skills and carve out your own niche within the team.

Which skills do students most need to land a job in the media industry?

Working in this industry isn’t necessarily about academic achievements and ticking off skills from a checklist, but more about making sure you’re pro-active and make the most of the opportunities you’re given.

"You need to be adaptable, and in some cases fairly thick skinned."

You need to be adaptable, and in some cases fairly thick skinned, willing to grasp any chances to learn and develop your skills, take yourself out of your comfort zone and really go the extra mile to prove yourself.

What's your ambition for the future, whether that’s your career or projects?

With PHD I’ve been given the opportunity to get my foot in the door, and in a lot of cases that’s the hardest part. Moving into a team which rewards achievements and encourages learning is really something which I want to take advantage of.

For me it’s a great opportunity to start carving out a specialism within strategy, with the goal for the future being to progress into a purely strategic role.

If you had an extra day each week what would you do with that time?

If I had an extra working day I’d try and use it productively to look at the great work which the other category teams are doing in the office (Dove, Rexona etc.). It’s easy to get caught up in the work going on inside your own category and forget the amazing projects which are being produced by the people around you on a daily basis. That and read more industry news.

An extra day at the weekend would be conducive to a multitude of delightful activities which I can’t bear to consider in their absence, although I’d try and prioritise baking and running, in that order.

What advice would you pass back to your younger self at the beginning of your career?

You get out what you put in. Don’t expect things to go your way unless you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make them happen.

"Don’t expect things to go your way unless you’re willing to put in the time."

It might look like other people are getting what they want the easy way, but you can bet they’ve worked their ass off to get there.

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