Industry insights into Marketing: KCL alumna Joana’s career journey (2/2)

Continuing on KCL alumna Joana’s case study, we are discussing the ins and outs of the marketing industry even more. How is starting a career in marketing really like? What’s it like being a woman in the industry and how are diversity and inclusion? Read on the second page of Joana’s 2-part case study.

Joana smiling in a terrace Joana did her BA at KCL in Comparative Literature with Film Studies. After university, she went into marketing and freelanced on the side, eventually becoming self-employed and started running her own marketing company last year. She is also a photographer and writer and has just come back to King’s for a part-time MSc in International Marketing.


What do the words “Marketing & Advertising” mean to you?

A brand’s purpose, to me, is to serve its customers, so marketing and advertising have to be so closely linked to that. It means building and nurturing a community and responding to the customers’ needs and wants.


Did you expect or plan to go into this industry?

I didn’t really have any expectations, to be honest – I didn’t know I was going to go into marketing and fell into it a little bit. It was just what fit my skill set and interests the best, and I ended up developing my skills from there.

I think there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to get a job, no matter the company, just to get your foot in the door. What I’ve learned the hard way is that you learn way more at a job that’s hard and not quite the best fit. There is so much benefit from learning from uncomfortable situations and having to upskill on the job, constantly, and be self-taught in a lot of ways. Working in marketing means you have to adopt a mindset of constant learning early on.


Do you have any other passions which influence and feed into your career?

I loved photography and writing since I was about 10-12 years old, and I was creating things on Photoshop since my teens as well. So it was really no surprise that I chose to work in marketing and creating written, photography and graphic design content for brands.

I have also been vegan and learning about sustainability for about 5 years now, so that made me want to work with sustainable and ethical brands.


What is it like being a woman in your industry?

It’s not an industry with a shortage of roles for women, especially when it comes to entry-level positions and freelancers. However, the higher up you try and get and the more experience you get, the harder it gets to be paid fairly and to be promoted to higher positions. A lot of CMO roles are occupied by women but often, those are the only C-Suite or senior management roles occupied by women, which is good for women in marketing, but not great for women in business overall. I think resilience is key for women in marketing like women in work in general, but there also have to be some structural improvements in the industry in terms of equality.

Personally, I have been underpaid, not paid at all, or paid less than my male counterparts, as well as passed over for pay rises when receiving a promotion. There were also not a lot of female marketing agency owners to look up to when I first started, but there are more now and there is a wonderful community I engage with. Knowing your value and being as good as you can be in your work is very important in a career in marketing (and elsewhere).

Person with pen in hand making notes
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

How does your industry work to improve access to employment, from a diversity perspective?

I think diversity in the sector is not perfect, but there have been huge improvements over the past few years. It’s a similar case to being a woman in marketing – diversity is getting a lot better, especially for entry-level roles, and UK companies are a lot more aware of the benefits of a diverse team. But there is very little diversity in C-suite roles.

When it comes to BAME and LGBT+ inclusion, there are a lot of marketing roles and companies that would welcome candidates, or even have dedicated programmes for them. There are a variety of reports and lists out there about inclusive employers, so I’d recommend doing some research while deciding where to apply.

When it comes to disability inclusion, this is still in its infancy in the marketing industry. There is often agism in the industry too, meaning that you can’t get a leg up if you’re older and trying to get into the industry. Young people are more likely to progress up the ladder quicker.

Over lockdown, there were a lot of creatives and entrepreneurs announcing their openness to mentor others, or have others shadowing them in their work, especially to those from BAME or LGBTQ+ groups, those from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have been left out of work due to the pandemic. I’d keep an ear out or reach out to someone whose work you admire and try and connect on the basis of mentorship.

If you think that mentorship, advice or shadowing an entrepreneur, or someone in marketing, communications, photography might be the best thing for you, I’m happy to have a chat about whether I can help or refer you to a friend or colleague. Please get in touch with me on this email [].


What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your career journey? 

As much as I don’t like the word “journey”, sometimes it’s hard to think of a better one. Mine has been a not-so-straight line, with lots of opportunities but also a lot of rejection.

The biggest lesson that I have learned is to know the opportunities I should take or apply for and being able to say “no” to things that don’t serve me, won’t bring me happiness and won’t progress my career either. So you have to be able to hear “no” (and not take rejections personally) but also to know how and when to say “no” yourself.


King’s Careers Take: Interested in a career in Marketing? Check out our Sector guides on KEATS for further reading and career learning material!