Nicole Aysan, Global Creative Strategist at Cisco, discusses her two passions becoming one, the core values young marketers need to develop, advocating for yourself, and the power of mentorship.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by advertising and media. When commercials came on TV, I was always curious about where the concept came from. I thought it would be amazing to have a job where I could transform ideas into art that positively influences people. Initially, I wanted a career in advertising, but after rebuilding houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, things changed. I decided to pursue a degree in environmental studies instead. That’s when I learned about the devastating effects of climate change and how extreme weather would continue to ravage the world if we didn’t do something to stop it. Little did I know I would find a marketing role that merges these two passions into one.
Companies face more pressure than ever from their customers, investors, and employees for transparency and action on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. There’s a knowledge gap in the marketing and advertising professions on ESG, and we’re seeing more positions in this space now than ever before. ESG is a promising field for current and aspiring marketers and the demand for this knowledge is growing.
I’m very proud of the Connected North film and campaign we launched in 2021 after years of trying to get this incredible program the spotlight it deserves. I led all aspects of the project, from the business case, budget acquisition, brief, strategy, creative production, and omnichannel experience on a shoestring budget. It was picked up, featured on our global channels and captured the attention of customers, partners, and employees around the world. It also caught the attention of the team I currently work for!
Below are four core values I believe young marketers need to develop:
Empathy: Great brands know that connecting with their customers means understanding them deeply. Empathy is a more profound understanding that unearths insights about the challenges and unsatisfied needs that must be recognized and addressed to motivate customers to choose one brand over another. This notion often gets lost, and the work becomes far removed because we're more focused on our products and features than showing our customers we understand and can help solve their problems.
Creativity: Creativity helps capture attention, solve problems, and find better ways of doing things. It’s an essential, in-demand and irreplaceable skill we need to continue to develop if we are to flourish in the future. We shouldn’t fear artificial intelligence (AI) taking over marketing jobs. While AI can help us overcome the complexity of data and make our jobs easier, it can’t replace human input. AI can’t replicate the creativity needed to connect with people through empathy or storytelling, nor can it produce original ideas. Without creativity, there’s no innovation.
Learning: The marketing industry is constantly changing, so marketers should never stop learning. To adapt and stay relevant, we must stay on top of everything related to marketing from culture and current events to emerging tools and trends. Learning different disciplines inside and outside marketing has made me a stronger marketer and added more value to my team and company.
Teamwork: Not everyone you work with will see the value in marketing. Sometimes you will have to show the importance and find ways to bring skeptics on the journey with you. As a strategist working across many teams, I always include my clients and stakeholders in every step of my process. This way, they have a sense of personal ownership of the strategy.
Marketing is a competitive field, and it can be hard to get your foot in the door, especially if you didn’t major in marketing like me. Taking a co-op program at university gave me a huge advantage when I graduated. I was nervous in my first interviews but learned how to handle rejection. The more interviews you accept, the easier it gets, and the more your personality will shine, preventing your nerves from taking over. Make sure to apply for all opportunities even if you don’t meet every requirement. I did dozens of interviews and only received one or two offers each term, so don’t get discouraged!
Many young marketers struggle with visibility and self-promotion. They expect leaders to acknowledge their skills and hard work constantly. The truth is, no one understands the extent of your contributions and the impact you have more than you. It’s important to advocate for yourself, because if your manager is unaware of your accomplishments, they won’t recommend you for a raise or promotion. You can also create a development plan and review it regularly with your manager. You are in control of your career, but you must be proactive. Prove you have a growth mindset by being clear about where you excel, where you need to improve, what you want to learn, and achieve. This mentality will fast-track you to more responsibility, raises, and promotions. Remember, if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
My career path has been anything but linear. It took me over a decade of dabbling in different disciplines before finding my place in strategy. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be in a specific role at a certain age. Have an open mind and take the opportunity to explore different areas of marketing. It can take time to figure out where you fit and what you enjoy.
If you’re not satisfied with your current job, build and nurture as many relationships as possible to get where you want to go. What helped me was connecting and staying in touch with leaders of teams whose work I admired. I often asked them to keep me in mind if an opportunity to do a stretch assignment came up. My enthusiasm led to several opportunities and took my career in an exciting new direction! If there’s one thing you should remember, networking and building relationships are key.
I wish I had taken advantage of the power of mentorship earlier. A great mentor will have a massive impact on your career trajectory. They can hold you accountable, push you out of your comfort zone, help you achieve your goals faster, and expose you to unique opportunities you would’ve missed. Putting yourself out there and asking someone you admire to mentor you can be scary. However, putting in the work and developing relationships with one or several mentors is worth it, I promise. Don’t forget to pass on what you’ve learned by mentoring others who want to follow in your footsteps.