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The Marketing Society’s Global Conversations: Why Upskilling Matters Now More than Ever


The Marketing Society’s Global Conversations: Why Upskilling Matters Now More than Ever

Starting this November, Communicate covers The Marketing Society’s “Global Conversations” monthly webinars, featuring senior marketing leaders from around the world to discuss critical issues for the industry.

This month, upskilling is in the spotlight.


Sophie Devonshire, Chief Executive at The Marketing Society


Wendy McEwan, Head of Marketing & Digital – APAC at Knight Frank from Singapore (representing APAC)

Mark Evans, Managing Director Marketing & Digital at Direct Line From London (representing the UK)

Sherine Moneim, Marketing Director Beauty & Personal Care at Unilever from Egypt (representing MENA)

Upskilling should be one of every marketeer’s priorities right now. In a very fast-moving, fast-changing, and ever more challenging world, marketeers need to keep learning, developing, and make sure that they do it fast. However, there are new and smart ways of doing it.

What the most important skill a marketeer need to have today is

Wendy McEwan. Confidence to experiment and to challenge the status quo. Do differently. Don’t be afraid.

Mark Evans. Curiosity. It is arrogant to not realize that you need to be curious and continue to improve yourself. Staying paranoid is really the thing there. As we move to agile, just make sure you find your blind spots because you don’t know what you don’t know until you do. There’s always a brilliant insight just lurking around the corner, waiting to be discovered, that could transform a brand or a business, but also a person. You just have to be curious enough to go and find it. It may not be a skill, but it defines which skills you go after.

Sherine Moneim. Technology and the use of data will become the cornerstone of any organization’s competitive edge. Data-driven marketing is the one thing that today’s marketeer needs to upskill themselves to become future-fit today and tomorrow. Knowing how to use data in order to analyze and leverage it to understand how we can create the relevant content, repurpose our communication to address a target consumer cohort and, accordingly, move the needle throughout the journey into purchase.

Why there is a pressing need for upskilling

S.M. Technology and native digital talent will continue to disrupt and transform the future of work. We’ll see many jobs being displaced, being introduced, or eventually disappear. We need to understand that we are in the middle of a global re-skilling emergency. Otherwise, we will turn out to be outdated professionals.

How to find the time to upskill in marketeers’ busy lives

W.M.E. We’re actually learning by doing. Speaking on a webinar enables us to learn about how to produce a better webinar. Speaking on different people’s platforms enables us to learn about how different webinar tools actually work. Speaking on a podcast, participating as a speaker at an event, being part of an industry association… You’re always learning. The challenge is finding the time. So, scheduling to be a part of these things so you can learn by doing, is a really good thing.

[In addition,] we teach each other. Tap into your network for expertise and then, find courses, events, and tools. Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, industry associations have very practical ways to look for that. And ask your customers as well.

M.E. And just be really efficient in substituting the commute time for stimulus, because it is the role of the marketeer to bring the outside in.

In these crisis times, many people will be, might be, or fear experiencing redundancy. But in the rearview mirror, it can be a gift, because you’re likely to be moving to a better role in a more successful company, but very specifically because it does give you a moment of reappraisal that is forced.

S.M. We all have busy schedules and you might not have the chance to have structured training and upskilling programs in your company, but you have the potential to upskill yourself. Intentional learning is a very important and pressing skill that you really need to adopt. That’s basically the practice of using every experience as a learning opportunity and developing your instinctive, everyday approach to upskilling. Make use of every situation, every conversation. You don’t need to lock a specific time. Intentional learning takes two things: a growth mindset – becoming a better version of yourself every day – and a curiosity mindset.

The importance of role modeling

M.E. You’ve got to practice what you preach. You have to demonstrate your own desire and ambition to improve, have a growth mindset, and sign up for lifelong learning. Otherwise you can’t really expect others to do it. Ultimately, what you really want is for people to own their own personal development.

S.M. Upskilling is the only way to win. At Unilever, we created a learning marathon, called “Learn for a cause,” in partnership with UNICEF. We donate to UNICEF on behalf of anyone who completes a 15 course that addresses the top three skills of this function, in order to give a child access to a good quality of education. What could be better than developing yourself and bringing a brighter future to a child who doesn’t have access to quality education? We have seen massive traction within the organization. We also created Unilever TED Talks, where we bring some of the expertise from around the world in Unilever to speak about a topic that is important in the current crisis.

Upskilling in the context of agile transformation

M.E. Organizations’ needs are going to be much more fluid, and therefore we’ve got to be much more accepting of that fluidity. If everyone accepts that agile is coming, it starts with the mission, and the mission can be fulfilled in many different ways. So, you have to be agnostic. People who don’t really, fundamentally accept the need to have a broader set of skills will be worthless in an agile squad. They’ll just be dead weight.

W.M.E. There are many skills that you need to be able to do everything right. If you don’t go deep, you will always skew to what your actual skill set is. If you come from a PR background, you’re always skewed to PR. If you come from a content marketing background, you’re always skewed to an owned kind of distribution.

S.M. Those who are able to pivot quickly are those who are able to win in uncertainty and in times of crisis. History taught us that an economic impact and inevitable recession are coming our way. As business leaders or marketeers, we need to pick those trends, preempt those trends, and introduce innovations in a much faster manner to meet the market demand.

One piece of advice

S.M. Take charge of your development. You are the only one responsible for bringing out your best version. Gone are the days when the career progression was viewed with the lens of vertical progression. Career progression is about diversifying your experience, upskilling, and exposing yourself. The more you bring richness to your profile, the more you can really progress within your career.

W.M.E. Make yourself as rich as possible. Don’t invest in a linear career path; invest in working with people, industries, and companies that help you grow, and in finding talent to help you grow as well. Don’t expect to always learn from people in your own company, from people above you or peers; acknowledge that you can learn from interns as much as you can learn from the CEO. Just be open and always be curious, learning, and experimenting.

M.E. Many people fall into victim mode around that development and career progression. They might be tied to stuff that doesn’t come and then get a bit disillusioned. There’s a great book called “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl; the net of it is that in any circumstance, you choose your attitude. It’s inescapable, it’s inevitable, it’s undeniable. It’s really down to you to choose your attitude around learning, and don’t expect too much from others. It really is your own attitude and your own thinking around your own development that really matters the most.

To learn more, watch the full webinar:

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