Creative Careers 2022 Interview: Kathryn Wharton

In the first of our Creative Careers interviews, our Head of Culture speaks to Kathryn Wharton, marketing manager at digital consultancy company Monstarlab EMEA

Maud Webster
14th February 2022

First up in our series of Creative Careers interviews is with Kathryn Wharton, the marketing manager at digital consultancy company Monstarlab EMEA. We chatted about what her role entails, what it’s like to go with a major career shift from the culture to the tech sector, and how her degree at Newcastle has helped her so far in her career.

You’ve recently started at Monstarlab EMEA, so how’s it going? How is it adjusting to a new office?

This is the end of week two, it’s been a really great couple of weeks getting to know the team and how the organisation operates. Monstarlab is a digital experience partner focused on accelerating growth for our clients. We use human-centred design, engineering expertise, our open partnership approach and our extensive network of global talent to achieve this. It is a very large company which is organised into 3 main markets: the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific with 30 offices and more than 1,200 people globally. In my previous company, hedgehog lab, we only had 100 employees and I was the only person in marketing so I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know the UK and global marketing teams. The Newcastle office only opened in November 2021 and I am employee number 3 so I am looking forward to more members of the team starting in the next few months.

What does being a marketing manager entail, what do you do on a day to day basis?

My three main objectives are to support the wider team to attract new business, engage with our current clients and promote our employer brand. I do this by running online and offline campaigns which might include writing white papers or using social media to drive traffic to the website. It also includes event management for our clients and partners and finding PR opportunities which might include submitting award entries.

I do different activities throughout the year, some new business campaigns are targeted at specific industries but something that is really important for 2022 is building our brand because we aren't very well known in the UK.

As well as attracting new business, building our brand is also important for talent acquisition, Monstarlab has very ambitious aspirations to grow the team. At the moment in tech, there’s a lot of movement in the sector and a lot of competition for the best talent, so it's about building our brand and saying why Monstarlab is an amazing place to work.

What inspired your career shift from the cultural to technology sector?

For eleven years I worked at some of the region's best loved museums, and it is something that I absolutely loved doing - getting involved in the exhibitions, running events and delivering the education programmes. But I got to the stage where I felt I had done everything, and there wasn’t really that opportunity for me to grow anymore. So I decided to retrain in marketing because when I looked at all the transferable skills that I had (e.g. communication, teamwork, campaign planning)  it just made a lot of sense to transition into marketing. Marketing gave me a lot of opportunity to apply for jobs across different sectors and types of organisations. I’ll be honest, I did just kind of fall into tech.

I applied for a job at hedgehog lab and when I got offered it I thought what is the worst that can happen? After nearly two years I still think tech is a really exciting space to be in. New technology is emerging all the time and as someone who loves learning new things it definitely keeps me on my toes. If you think about where tech was ten years ago, the sector is accelerating so fast, what are the next ten years going to look like?

What has been one of your top achievements / something you’re most proud of since moving into the tech sector?

In December 2021 I won rising star of the year at the North East Marketing Awards. After a whirlwind 18 months career pivoting into marketing tech from an 11 year career in the culture sector this reinforced that all my hard work had paid off and that marketing is something that I not only enjoy but I am good at. I am really looking forward to seeing how my career develops in future. 

How do you manage a work/life balance, do you have any tips?

If I'm being honest I probably haven't got the right balance just yet, and I think working from home over the past 18 months has made it really hard to find that balance. I love going into the office (when it is safe to do so) and use the commute as a way to take a break from work and switch off.

When I was working from home I tried to have a separate work space from my main living space so that I'm not constantly in the presence of my work kit. When I'm on holiday or I don't want to be disturbed I delete all the work apps from my phone so I'm not tempted to check in. I also try to book things like gym classes, hair appointments or dinner reservations in after work so that I have to switch off.

What did you study at uni and how has it helped you in your career so far?

I had the best time at Newcastle, my undergraduate degree was in Archaeology and Ancient History, and my Masters was in Museum Studies. As part of the Masters I did a placement at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum, which is one of the venues within Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) which is who I was offered a contract with after graduation.

I was with TWAM for 11 years, spending part of my career at Sunderland Museum, Discovery Museum, and then I ended up on campus at Great North Museum:Hancock.

My background in archaeology gave me the historical knowledge and the ability to tell stories through objects. The enthusiasm I have for archaeology, which was nurtured during my time at Newcastle continuously came across when I was working with the museum visitors and when I went for promotions. Also, I remember when I was doing my degree we would do group projects, so you were developing your team working skills, communications skills and adaptability which is really important in my career. 

What would be a piece of advice you’d give to a recent graduate, who is looking to find a job after uni?

My top practical tip is if you look at a job description, and you can do three quarters of what is on there, then apply. If you can’t do three quarters, then maybe it isn’t the right opportunity for you, but you don’t need to be able to do one hundred percent because the reason that you are going into a job is to learn. And secondly, always be nice to people. Newcastle is such a small place, and you don’t know when you’ll bump into someone again!

One final thing to say is that when I was a student I thought that you go to university, you go into a job, and then you do that job, in that sector, forever. And I think that probably was the case in the past. And I think it took me a few years to get my head around the idea that it is okay to do a career for three, five, ten years, whatever, and then you can have a career change or career pivot like I have done. And it is not like a waste of your education, because, as I said earlier, you’re building up teamwork, communication, adaptability, all of those things that are very transferable across all sectors and all jobs.

Join us for our annual Creative Careers event on Wednesday 9 March at the Newcastle University Students’ Union to hear from a variety of industry professionals to find out what it’s like to work in the creative sector.

See here to find all the great events happening during the week - there are limited spaces available for each session, so make sure you book your place in advance. Be sure to check out Kathryn's talk at on March 9th, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM - sign up here!

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/22 academic year

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