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'Judging experience based solely on university is irrelevant' – Niki Grant of Maxus UK on starting a media career early

The Drum's Diversity Census invited individuals from the marketing and media industries to tell us how their experience of being ‘different’ has shaped their careers.

Niki Grant, performance account director, Maxus UK, is the latest to share her perspective in our 'Talent is Talent' series.

My first proper job at 17 was as a PPC account manager and I was the youngest employee (even though the rest of the team were only late twenties themselves). I had so many conversations that included the phrase “You’ll understand when you’re older”, even including one conversation about the fact that I don’t like red wine!

Any difference in opinion or taste was put down to age and for about three years, if I disagreed with anything, I was treated like a petulant child, as opposed to a colleague with a valid opinion. It wasn’t until I was out from under the ‘teenager’ label that my stance would be taken a little more seriously. 

I got in the habit of not telling anyone (clients, colleagues) my age until they had a chance to gauge me on my results, knowledge or personality. It remains the case to this day (as a 24-year-old account director) that my age becomes a topic of discussion. People will try to calculate my age based on the number of years’ experience I have (more than seven) and will decide that I’m about 30.

I’ve also had colleagues at former companies complain to me about other people and say: “It’s because they’re so young, they’re not even 25 yet”, to which I reply, “Neither am I.” The hasty response I receive is usually: “Yeah, but you don’t count.” This is followed by a garbled argument about how I have “an old head on my shoulders”.

As I made the decision to drop out of college, I had a lot of unsolicited advice that if I didn’t go to university I would never make anything of myself. There was a real view that I was throwing my life away by leaving college a year early. As far as I’m concerned, I earned three years of experience that my peers missed out on. As well as working in media, we are all consumers. To judge one person’s experience based solely on attending university is completely irrelevant.

Diversity is experiences that you have had, whether that’s from socio-economic factors, education or the choices you have made.

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