So You Want My Job? Azerion UK’s Beckie Underwood: ‘You don’t need degrees for creativity’
Welcome to So You Want My Job? Each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest roles about how they got where they are. Along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting. This week we caught up with Beckie Underwood, head of studio, Azerion UK.
How did you get your job?
I’ve never had a background in creative. I climbed the career ladder twice. I spent 10 years in media sales, mostly in digital but I did TV and OOH too, which was hard work but so much fun. Then for two years I felt burnt out and unhappy in my role, so I took a pay cut and took a junior position at Collective (now Azerion UK).
Beckie Underwood, head of studio, Azerion UK
Everyone at Azerion was so supportive and lovely that it didn’t take me long to recover from my ‘burnout’. When a studio team was introduced to the company I was put forward as someone who could help out. I started as a project manager, but my sales experience meant I wasn’t afraid of picking up a phone or popping in to see clients or creative agencies. The studio team became much more accessible and consultative and I eventually worked my way up to head of studio. The team laughs at my stick drawings of campaigns, but there’s more to creativity than sketching and there are ‘creatives’ in all areas of the industry, not just studios, which we should be hearing about more.
OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?
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I’m a producer. I lead a team of amazing creatives; designers, motion specialists, technical managers, project managers and developers, who produce thousands of digital brand advertising campaigns.
Do your parents understand what it is that you do?
My parents think I make TV ads. I was in one in 1986 for Fruit Pastilles and they assume, since then, that’s what I do. They’ve not got past that, but they are proud all the same.
What do you love most about your job?
The people are first and foremost. I have so much admiration for the talent and work ethic in the company as a whole, but especially in the studio team. We even have our own theme tune – Sussudio by Phil Collins. We work really hard to create better and better campaigns, but we laugh a lot too. I can’t wait to be sitting beside them again when we return to the office.
How would someone entering the industry now go about getting your job?
You don’t need degrees or certificates for creativity. You need determination, faith in your ideas and the ability to work well with others. That last point sounds like an ‘add on’ to your CV, but to actually be a good producer, you need talented friends who like you well enough to collaborate with you.
That means welcoming their ideas, giving credit where it’s due and celebrating your successes. I would also suggest seeing the process end to end. That might mean some short-term internships in several areas of the business to get a good understanding of the life cycle of an ad campaign.
What advice would you offer to anyone entering the advertising industry at this weird time?
I would say to have an open mind. Obviously getting a job at the moment and keeping one is still in a sensitive and challenging place. This isn’t to say you need to settle, but you don’t need to consider a job as your forever job.
Use every job, work experience or internship to learn what you enjoy or don’t enjoy – that can help you focus on next steps. When I started out I was so sure I didn’t want to go into media sales, but at the mention of Disney I thought otherwise and I’m so glad I did. Then, much later in my career, I’m so glad I and my employers were open-minded enough to consider a creative role, as I think this is best suited to me.
What trait best suits you to your role?
I hope that people see and believe that I nurture and grow talent.
Who should those who want your job be reading or listening to?
I work in brand advertising. The team and I help advertisers build a respectful friendship with consumers. Yes, this hopefully means our advertisers sell more, but it’s a long-term relationship that we’re working for.
I suggest rather than reading a load of theory be more active and purposeful when experiencing advertising and social posts from brands and their chief execs. What do they want people to know? How do they want people to feel? A lot of successful creative stems from understanding and true consideration.