How to upskill to maintain a competitive edge
Rachel Clynes, marketing manager at Interxion. Image: Interxion

How to upskill to maintain a competitive edge

8 Mar 2018719 Views

The rate at which skills are falling into obsolescence can be daunting. Rachel Clynes, marketing manager at Interxion, has a solution.

The idea that college constitutes halcyon days of partying, and that students are moony and unaware of the demands of the outside world, fails to take into account one simple fact: college is hard work.

Even the laziest of students will still find themselves pulling all-nighters and spending punishing amounts of time in the library to meet the requirements of tertiary education.

So, what do you do when you not only complete but excel at your college degree only to find that the rapid pace at which technology has progressed has rendered all of your skills obsolete? Well, according to Rachel Clynes, marketing manager at Interxion, you upskill.

When Clynes finished at the top of her class in her degree in marketing, she quickly found that the rise of digital meant a lot of the knowledge she had acquired was past its expiration date. So, with the support of her employer, she reskilled in digital marketing and hasn’t stopped striving to improve ever since.

We spoke to Clynes about her most valued mentor, how she got to her position as marketing manager and how to effectively upskill to keep pace with the modern world.

What first stirred your interest in a career in marketing?

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t immediately think technology was for me. I fell into the old stereotype of thinking a career in technology or STEM was just for engineers or science degrees. My immediate area of interest was marketing, and this came through rather an unusual route.

One of my first jobs was in retail and it was here I began to see very clearly the impact that marketing can have on a business, its bottom line and, as such, its survival.

From then on, my mind went into overdrive and I began to think of all the creative solutions and ideas I had. Right then, I knew marketing was for me.

It was marketing that led me into my career in technology, not just in terms of my work in a data centre, but in how I approach digital and online marketing.

What education and/or other jobs led you to the role you now have?

Once I knew I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, I began to do my research into the best course for me and, in the end, studied business marketing management at Institute of Technology, Tallaght.

I knew I wanted the opportunities that education offered so I pushed myself to get the most out of the course and worked hard.

I went on to achieve a first-class honours degree and was awarded Student of the Year, something I could never have dreamt of when I first started.

When I received Student of the Year for the highest overall result, it really gave me the confidence to continue.

I always want to better myself so, in 2015, with the support of Interxion, I completed a diploma in digital marketing and social media with online PR, Google Adwords, SEO and e-commerce from the Fitzwilliam Institute.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path, and how did you deal with them?

I think, for me, it was realising how quick things change within the marketing industry. It is always evolving and, as a marketer, I need to continuously adapt to these changes.

Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to see what the future holds but now more than ever, there is a constant need to be creative and generate new ideas on almost a daily basis.

The way we deliver messages to customers is changing. If you’re working for a technology company, gone are the days of billboards, radio and TV ads. I believe it is going to continue to change; from social media and email marketing to SEO and blogs, there are so many ways to reach your audience.

It is a challenge to make sure you are staying ahead of the game and up to date on new technologies to ensure you have the skills to exploit all available platforms.

When I left college, I needed to upskill myself almost straight away when I joined Interxion, because digital marketing was still so new and I hadn’t been exposed to it during college.

Coming out of college and almost immediately having a degree that in some ways was out of date was a big challenge because I had always tested myself in college.

Now, I really value the importance of continuously upskilling, and look at ways to do so on a yearly basis to ensure I have the skills to do my job to the best of my ability.

If you are doing work you love, you will want to seek out opportunities for growth. You will want to get better to grow more and to widen your knowledge of your specialism.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

When I was younger, I was very much my own driver and knew marketing was what I wanted to do – it was my first choice on my CAO application.

In college, I had a close friend who shared the same ambitions and passion to succeed, and we pushed each other to do the best we could.

On the bad days, when we were feeling the pressure with exams or assignments, we would remind each other why we were there, and this was the initial motivation I needed to keep going.

But today, and in my career to date, I can honestly say that my manager and the MD of Interxion in Ireland, Tanya Duncan, is and continues to be an incredibly powerful influence in my career development and growth.

In the beginning, I always doubted myself and didn’t have the confidence to believe I could do the job and do it right. I am now seven years working in Interxion and I can honestly look back and say that Tanya pushed me to do my best and challenged me every step of the way.

She helped me step out of my comfort zone, develop, take risks, and gain the experience and skills I needed to progress in my role from marketing support to marketing manager with Interxion.

She gave me the self-belief to push myself and to work hard. Having good leadership makes developing in your career easier and much more rewarding.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really enjoy the way every single day is different, and most of all challenging.

I love the challenge of having to think on my feet to come up with creative solutions. I’m also quite lucky to have a lot of scope for being creative in my job, and this is always encouraged.

One thing I love about my job is that the people I work with are passionate about what they do. In my role, I get to work with all of the different team – not just in Ireland, but internationally as part of the Interxion network.

If I want to do the best job I can for Interxion, I need to reach out to the network and collaborate with different experts. We really come together as a team to succeed in all aspects of the business.

For example, the marketing teams across Interxion in Europe meet quarterly to share ideas and work through problems together.

So, while we have a small marketing team in Ireland, I always feel like I have the insights and support of the 13 other cities across Europe where Interxion has data centres.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

My never-give-up attitude and willingness to go the extra mile has helped me get to where I am today. No matter the industry, you need to be passionate about what you do and focus on being the best you can for your own personal development, but also for your company.

It’s important to be open to change in both marketing and technology, and to think creatively, and that’s what I thrive on. I think a combination of these personal attributes has really helped me develop and make me suitable for this exciting job.

How did your current company support you on your career path, if at all?

Interxion continuously supports upskilling in the workplace and encourages people to enhance their skills and expertise in every aspect of their role.

When I joined Interxion in 2012, I knew all the theory and tactics behind marketing but had no real-life experience in a marketing role.

On day one, key objectives and career goals were set to stretch and challenge me. From the get-go, this pushed me to work hard to not only achieve my objectives, but to exceed them.

When the opportunity arose to be promoted to marketing manager, it opened the door to further internal training and progression opportunities, which benefited my career and the company.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in marketing, or just starting out in one?

In the marketing industry, you need to be open to change and realise what works today might not work tomorrow.

To be good at your job, whether you are working for a data centre or finance company, your messaging and communication needs to be constantly refreshed, updated and transformed in order to make sure your message is being heard.

My advice is to be open to change and always adapt, be creative and never hold back on sharing your ideas, no matter how crazy you think they are!

When I started my career first, I wanted to be excellent at everything, but it’s not about being an expert in all areas.

Yes, you need to have a certain knowledge of all areas, but it’s more beneficial for you and your company if you nail down your area of expertise. Focus on what you are good at and ask for help with the things you’re not.

When I finished college, I was so happy to finish my exams and the long nights of studying, but I now know you never stop learning and trying to develop your skillset.

The industry is ever-changing and you to need to upskill to deal with these changes, and this in some cases means going back to studying.

My advice is to study hard, work hard and, most importantly, love what you do. Always remember that hard work will always pay off and, if you invest your time and put the work in, you will succeed – no one gets where they want to be by chance.

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