The marketing landscape can change quickly from one moment to the next, but one thing is for certain: Vickram Agarwal, Director of Digital Solutions at Black Rock Marketing Group, was ready to make a splash. His marketing journey evolved as new technologies did, and it led him to travel far and wide for new opportunities.
I started my marketing career at General Motors, two weeks after my last day at university. It all happened so quickly; I barely had a chance to catch up. I love the automotive industry and wanted to experience everything it had to offer, so after a few years in manufacturing, I moved over to retail. I always wanted to be my own boss… at age seven I drew up a business plan to start a bakery and convinced friends to lend me money. In 2011, after reading Richard Branson’s ‘Losing My Virginity” twice, I quit my job and started a marketing consultancy.
When I started in marketing, I had a Samsung flip phone, an IBM ThinkPad, Lotus Notes and 2MB Internet speed at home. I did have a Facebook account and a wall of fond messages from friends all over the world… a FB wall as it was then called. In the blink of an eye, I had a Blackberry, and Facebook had introduced ‘Pages’ and the Ad manager. That is when it all changed. I went from traditional marketing to digital marketing and became one of the first across the Middle East to release Facebook Ads for the automotive industry. It was the data during and after the campaigns that was most addictive and what continues to drive my work. I love drawing actionable insights from what I do. Whether it is developing a social media strategy or using technology to solve a marketing problem, the ability to use that information and make things better for the audience - that is what drives me.
After nearly nine years and clients like GMC, Chevrolet, Suzuki, Fiat, Kawasaki, Opel and MasterCard later, I moved to Canada with my wife and daughter and now head the digital solutions business for Black Rock Marketing Group.
Oh, and somewhere along that journey, I also started a content platform for fathers to be better partners and parents. It’s called Daddy’s Digest and we have nearly a million followers on Facebook. I am really proud of that!
I will admit, I was very lucky and blessed to find my first job. In fact, my journey from employment to business ownership, while not completely without challenge, felt rather seamless. My professional challenge came nearly 13 years later when I moved to Canada. Breaking into a familiar industry, under unfamiliar circumstances was hard. But, with the support of well-wishers and a lot of luck and chance, I ended up sitting across the table from the President of Black Rock. I have been given an incredible opportunity, during a very difficult time, and I am both grateful and motivated. I have had, what can only be described as an unusual career trajectory. I went from employment to entrepreneurship and then back to employment, all under very positive and happy circumstances.
I reached a point where I struggled to see the “what next” in business while also prioritizing the needs of my family. Did I want to spend the next decade in the Middle East running an agency or raise my daughter in Canada, my wife’s home? The answer was simple, and I found ways to pivot. I have learned to approach my career with a certain flexibility and agility that allows for weathering storms.
Careers are long, industries change, and it is important not to fall in love with a niche too early. I was in a hurry to climb the ladder and had the best-laid plans. Then life happened, the industry evolved, and I found myself focusing less on learning and more on catching up. Stay general in the early years, learn everything you can, work hard, inspire with integrity. Then find your niche and go from generalist to scientist. Oh, and stop to enjoy the work you have done so far. I wish some days that I had taken more time to appreciate my professional milestones.
My top work values are integrity and hard work repeated in an infinite loop. There is no substitute for being the best moral version of yourself and working harder than everyone else around you. Yes, it is important to find balance, to be there for your family and friends, to be licensed, certified and technically skilled. But being of honest character and inspiring confidence through sincerity and work ethic are what you will be known for.
The last many years have been about data sets, insights, advanced technologies and reaching the customer in innovative ways. This has brought about the explosion of content, infinite scroll and shortening of our collective attention spans. With less than three seconds to capture a viewer’s attention, marketers need to be incredible storytellers. They need to be able to define a digital strategy, release the ads, community manage, track & report, then take future decisions based on all the available data points. They also need to master user experiences, accessibility, platforms, technology… the list is endless.
The next-gen digital marketer needs to know so much more, right out the door. The expectation of young marketing professionals is immense, and the industry is evolving in equal measure.
Many years ago, I read a quote by former U.S. President Obama, that became a mantra for me. It helps me take professional decisions with a greater perspective.
Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential. — President Obama
As the semester winds down, you realize your professional image still needs work. If you’re wondering what to do next, maybe it’s time to start working on your brand.