September 01, 2020 4 min read

Breaking into the marketing industry requires determination which Cassandra Morello had in spades. Her tenacity to put herself out there despite the odds plus strong communication skills led to her role as a Senior Marketing & Program Professional at Staples. Gain encouragement through her story and insights on how she learnt the best way to put her foot in the door.

Communication Is Key

To me, communication is a critical component for both professional and everyday life. Without marketing and communications support, the world we know today would be a very different place. Forms of communication in various settings, particularly a corporate environment, and how communication processes, information technologies, and mass media shape and transform our societies, cultures, and perspectives. I am naturally an extrovert with a confident communications style and was always intrigued by the communications process and impact on the customer journey. The big brands I’ve known to love have managed to win my heart and keep me spending after all.

IPortrait of Cassandra Morello looking over shoulder on trail. t’s through those customer journey touchpoints that not only cultivate a positive brand image, but connect customers at their core, their likes, interests, desires, and create positive experiences. Whether it’s online or offline, creating such a memorable impact, inspires customers enough to talk about it. Aside from school textbooks, I would read books and articles on consumer behaviour, defining marketing strategies, brand messaging and how to create sticky customers. One of my favourites is by Seth Godden.

Knowing this about myself helped me pursue a career in marketing and communications with my journey starting at York University in the Communications Studies Honors degree program.

Finding the Missing Piece

Within the first few years of my studies, I discovered it wasn’t what I expected and that something was missing. I wasn’t quite sure how some of the mandatory courses I was taking would apply, so I decided to expand my horizons that held my interest in which led me to pursue a Minor in Marketing. It was here that I was able to combine both marketing and communications and be exposed to all facets of marketing.

I knew that as a millennial, it would be tough to land a first job in the corporate world and I wanted to be sure that I had the experience required under my belt.

So, throughout my university career, I pursued various contract roles: marketing at a wholesale distribution company, business development at a risk management firm and lastly brand marketing for an insurance company through a digital agency. I wanted to obtain as much corporate business experience as possible so sourced and secured these possibilities myself.

After completing my honours degree, I started my full-time career at Staples Canada as a Category Specialist even though I hadn’t graduated yet. Staples took a chance on a fresh graduate right out of university because they saw my potential and my understanding of the business. It was the right opportunity, at the right time.

The Struggles & Triumphs

Searching for jobs in various industries, within the marketing communications field, was tough. It was a competitive market and while I fit the requirements for a job, there’s a good chance that others were a better fit. Even though that may have been the case, it only made me push myself further, to continue searching and being aggressive to find the right role for me.

Portrait of Cassandra by tree. I’d apply for roles where I would pass the HR phone interview, every time, and in most cases, meet face-to-face with the hiring manager and other colleagues. After one interview, I asked for feedback and was told that my contract terms were not considered to be full-time years of experience.  So, I had to push harder to market myself for the job.I had to show my value and share the message that despite my career thus far, I had gained valuable knowledge and experiences that applied to the role in question. I created portfolios that showed results I achieved, brand analysis presentations showcasing areas of perceived success and opportunities, and much more. All of this demonstrated my values of constantly learning, growing, accepting challenges, and developing brands for the business and the customer.

The Sudden Shift to A New Reality

The recent pandemic has dramatically impacted and shifted every part of society, for consumers and businesses. Across the retail industry, it has been observed that a new reality has formed. eCommerce remains strong with consumers and businesses relying on online shopping, delivery to home, or curbside pickup more than ever to stock up on key essentials they need that may be different from their original purchases. This sudden shift in our society has made us pay closer attention and adapt as needed, the customer experience. Re-thinking customer journeys and shaping touchpoints that are in line with the new world experiences, ensuring customers are comfortable and trust our brand as a source for their needs.

We’ve been observing these changes in our customer base at Staples as well and have had to adapt our strategy to be in line with the new reality and modify our offerings in a way that understands and resonates with business customers who are going through these challenging times.

Let Experiences Shape You for the Better

Smiling Cassandra sitting and holding pillow. One thing I learned as I look back at my career journey so far is that you are going to go through experiences. They can be positive and rewarding experiences or they can be negative. Those experiences can be fueled by a team, a colleague or yourself. It can be you making a mistake on a big presentation or being called out in a meeting. Or maybe you meet an amazing colleague where you automatically hit it off with a great connection or the opposite where you get off on the wrong foot.

Whatever the experience is or what has happened, it was meant to teach you something. Always have a positive outlook and mindset and be grateful that these experiences happened because one day when you look back at the early stages of your career, you will see that those experiences shaped you as a professional one way or another.


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