The Creative Data Academy: Emily Priest's Experience


Emily Priest is a Creative and Media Writing student at Portsmouth University as well as a freelance writer, social media consultant and performance poet. Next year, Emily will be studying a master’s in digital marketing and seeks a future in the marketing sphere.


Several months ago, I received an email from my university career’s portal telling me that applications for DMA Talent’s Creative Data Academy were open. Interested, I followed the link and applied on a whim. Although I have worked and volunteered in the local marketing world, I didn’t expect to be accepted - I wasn’t doing a marketing degree after all.

But I was.

When I received confirmation that I was going up to the DMA, I was delighted. Not only would I learn new and valuable skills but I would start my journey towards a professional career in marketing.

In the lead up to the event, I received all the information I needed to get ready for the academy – accommodation, train times, daily agendas. I was introduced to James and Jessica, the course leaders, and was added to a Facebook group to connect with my peers. I was even given the opportunity to run DMA Talent’s Twitter feed and create a video promoting the course. Not only was I fully prepared for the academy, but I was given a chance to show off my talents and prove myself to potential employers.

To start, we had our keynote speaker, Jamie Brookes, a DMA Talent Summer School alumnus. He made big data less scary and where I was once intimated by segmentation or analytics, I was now inspired to learn more.

We were then joined by Code Worldwide who gave us a very exciting project – create a marketing campaign for Ralph Lauren. Nervous and excited, we were put into groups and set to work. Although I felt a little out of depth, I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I jumped in head first. That was the moment I knew I had made the right choice to come to the academy. These opportunities and networks, that we couldn’t get elsewhere, were an invaluable springboard into our futures.

Afterwards, Ross Taylor, founder of Hidden, gave us some key career advice. We covered everything from CVs to interview techniques. This may sound boring to some, but it wasn’t. Ross’s careers session was fun and down-to-earth and revealed the secrets to getting hired. By the end of his talk, we all had an essential toolkit to furthering our careers.

To finish off a great first day, we all talked over pizza and discussed what we were most looking forward to on day 2.

For me, it was the talk with Scott Logie and Chloe Mo, from the REaD Group, about data analytics, targeting and segmentation. As someone who has not studied data, this talk was crucial to filling in the gaps of my marketing knowledge. They both made something as daunting as big data and segmentation accessible and simple.

Later in the day, we developed our Ralph Lauren pitches with the help of mentors Andrew Webber and Daniel Johnson from Human Theory and Jo Thomas from Jo Malone. Although working in a team is sometimes a challenge, I found these experiences allowed us to learn from one another and share skills. Even if we came from different universities and courses, we helped one another and came together as a team.

After a quick change back at the dorm room, we headed to the Old Bengal Bar for the evening’s networking event. There, we were joined by members of the DMA and other leading names in the industry. There were companies such as Amazon, Thames Water, Amnut and RAPP there as well as some of the speakers on the course. It was a valuable opportunity I may have never gained if I hadn’t applied for the academy.

When the prosecco began flowing, so did the conversation and I was able to win over some influential contacts. Sometimes, quite literally. At one point, I challenged someone to a Connect 4 game. If I won, I said, he would have to give me a chance at his firm. He agreed and, after a lucky win, he said we will have a talk with me about my potential position within the company. Happy, and slightly drunk, I skipped off home with an empty business card holder and Ross Taylor’s advice ringing through my head, ‘connect with your networks on a human level.’

On the last day of the academy, however, I woke up sad. I didn’t want the academy to be over as I felt I had only scratched the surface on what the DMA could teach me. But it was just the beginning. DMA Talent offers Creative Data Academy students free online IDM courses and the chance to go to their summer school. ‘We are here for you even after you leave,’ Jess said. ‘If we can help you with anything at all, let us know.’

The final day started with CDA alumni, Fergus Redsell, Hannah Javid and Guy Davis, who shared with us their personal journeys since leaving academy. I found Fergus’s talk the most inspiring as much of what he said resonated with me. Like me, he didn’t study marketing at university and felt as if he wasn’t good enough to work at a large agency. But, in time, he learnt his own merit and pushed through to build himself a brilliant career. Fergus’s honesty motivated me to follow the same path and proved that you don’t have to fit the mould to excel.

After some Q&A, we worked in our groups for the last time before we made our way to RAPP headquarters. When we arrived, we were escorted up to the kitchen area. It was laid out with several tables and chairs and plates full of cakes and fruit. As I sat down, and the teams started their presentations, I thought, ‘I could get used to this.’

After some questions from the judges, members of Code Worldwide, a winner was finally chosen and we all celebrated each other’s successes over the past few days. Then, suddenly, like Cinderella at midnight, the magic was over and we left to make our way home. Not to do the household chores, but to propel ourselves into the future of data and marketing.

Being at the Creative Data Academy was an eye opening, inspiring and motivational experience. I was given so many opportunities and made valuable connections that will last me months, or maybe even years to come thanks to the DMA.


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