Sara Alam is 26 and the Marketing Manager of Saddington Baynes. She is talented and passionate enough that her determination and ambition will lead her anywhere, guiding her steady steps in a much competitive industry. The best part? She did not need a degree to get there.
It was just about a month ago that we wrote about the need (or lack thereof) for a degree in advertising and we stand by what we said at the time: though a degree could give you a competitive advantage, it is not a requirement to work in this industry. What you can do is often a much stronger indicator of your skills than your qualifications. So when we were approached by Sara and learned her story, we had no choice but to be compelled to share it.
Sara believes in learning from one's mistakes, in the power of ambition and creativity, in determination and in proving your worth, even if that means being sharper and quicker than everyone else. Looking at her energy and passion, we can see how she got to where she is now. Today we are Getting to Know a much talented marketing manager from the industry, learning more about her story and her personal background.
Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?
My days always start brimming with caffeine! I'm working from home so once the coffee kicks in, I'll Zoom into our team's daily scrum for the usual run-through of tasks, and that’s where the typical day ends. There are two sides to my role - the analytical and the creative.
As Marketing Manager, there's not a day that goes by that I don't have at least ten excel sheets opened at once. But there's more to it than numbers and excel formulas - I get to stay in touch with my more creative side, often designing and creating new digital (save the planet people) marketing collateral for our team to use.
With Christmas creeping up, our team has also been busy coming up with ideas and visuals that'll delight our SB team and clients for the holiday season.
How did you enter the industry without a degree? What was your most powerful motivator?
I'm a stickler for a plan, so going to university without a vision for my future just wasn't for me. Instead, I was keen to get onto the career ladder. So with deaf ears, I ignored the stipulation that I wouldn't succeed without a degree and signed up for a Digital Marketing and Web Development apprenticeship. A few years after growing my portfolio and credentials, I joined a post-production studio called Taylor James. From there, I was sought out by Saddington Baynes and was able to take a few more steps up my career ladder to be where I am today - with no debt and absolutely no regrets!
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
Proving that I can do it. Being a young female from a mixed ethnic background and no degree, I took on the notion that I needed to be sharper and quicker than the rest of my peers to prove that I'm good at what I do. I'm sure many can relate to being discriminated against due to their age, gender, or ethnicity - and sadly, I've experienced one or two of those. However, the bad doesn't outweigh the good. I had and currently have employers who saw my potential and gave me the opportunity to learn and grow. I've been encouraged to get out of my comfort zone and supported to excel. Without getting too cheesy, I've been very lucky.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
I grew up in North London and for as long as I can remember, film and art have been constant inspirations in my life. I remember watching “Spirited Away”, an animated film by Studio Ghibli, which inspired my artistry and imagination from a young age. It gave me the hunger to work in the creative industry.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
Looking at my career so far, I guess I think my biggest career-related win would be where I am today - Marketing Manager at 26, in a creative studio, surrounded by amazing people!
There will always be up and downs in life, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I don’t believe in career "losses", because every time things have been tough, I’ve learnt, grown and got through it! From my perspective, it ends up being a win.
What’s your secret to remaining inspired and motivated?
Creativity and people keep me inspired and motivated! I’m in awe of what people can achieve and am constantly finding new work and creative outputs that inspire me!
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I’ve always loved Japanese animation, especially any work from Studio Ghibli - everything from the art, story and music is simply heartwarming, as if their world were alive and real. If I need inspiration, I’ll just pop it up on Netflix.
How has COVID-19 affected you?
I know I’m not alone in saying this, but the serial lockdowns did impact my mental health somewhat, plus working from home doesn’t have the same atmosphere and buzz that being in the studio does. However, it did reignite a passion and I felt motivated to pick up my paintbrushes again and found that it was a great outlet for expressing myself.
As Saddington Baynes begins to open its office doors again, I've found it hugely comforting and enjoyable to be back at my desk and socialising with my colleagues and team.
If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done something differently? Do you have any regrets?
Although the idea of a time machine is appealing, I wouldn’t want to change anything in my teenage years for the fear that my present time would change… ...unless I’m in the Avengers and needed to return in time to get the six infinity stones to save the world.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I’ve always had a passion for art and I suppose if I had gone to university, I would have taken an Art course with the hopes to be an artist - so not too far from our current creative industry!
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
To be more inclusive - for those who don’t have the experience to be given equal opportunities and the tools required to succeed.
What is your one piece of advice to aspiring creative professionals?
Don’t think it’s impossible for you.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Watch your fair share of behind the scenes content - whether that’s the making of a commercial, film, etc. It will help you understand and appreciate the production process that being in Marketing can sometimes be overseen. And “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull - a highly recommended book by SB’s CEO who subsequently kindly ordered the Marketing team to read.