Summer School: Learning from the Experts: Andrew Girdwood
This summer we are taking you back to school! We are focussing on education in Digital Marketing: what is the best education, what background is important? Questions you will see answered throughout the summer by those you can learn from the best: the experts. Those that already earned their stripes and are now willing to share with you how they got there and what you should do to get that far as well.
Today we listen to Andrew Girdwood. Andrew is Media Innovations Director at DigitasLBi and happily spends his day deep in digital marketing.
What type of education did you have?
I had a varied education; one year in a public school, then to a private school, to university once and then back again. My biggest learning year, though, was the work placement arranged by my Napier, my second university.
Is your education related to what you do now?
A little. I have a Computing BEng and still try stay close to the technical side of work. It’s not like riding a bike though and the sort of scripts and programs I have written in the past would probably challenge me today to re-create.
How did you get into digital marketing?
I was an early adopter and did “SEO” before it was called that and before Google. As a digital native born before his time I immediately found a home online and was one of the geeks who would compete (just for bragging rights on Usenet initially) to get websites positioned well in early search engines and directories. That hobby grew around me until it became digital marketing.
Did you need extra schooling? If so, what type of extra schooling did you get?
I spent some time in an Australian farm with school assignments managed over CB radio. When I got back to Scotland I had both a lisp and a stutter. Verbal communication was a nightmare (one of the reasons I was so attracted to the internet) and had extra schooling to get rid of both. I’m much better today but for someone who finds himself engaged in conference speaking I still stumble over words or re-think slides based on what I think I can safely pronounce.
How do you think the state of education in marketing is these days? Do marketers learn what they need to learn?
I can’t say I’m a fan of the formal education system in any part of the United Kingdom, although the Scottish university program seems to have advantages over the English and Welsh.
In fairness, the deck is stacked against education when it comes to digital marketing. What you’ve learnt at the start of a three or four year course will be redundant (sometimes unwise) before you even graduate. Digital marketing evolves that quickly.
How do you feel about online training courses?
I’ve yet to find one that works for me or that I would recommend to another. However, the I see the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses) as very important and a potential game changer.
What is your tip for those that want to learn more?
Learn by doing. Run your own blog. Try and make money from it. If you’re not confident in that approach then find someone in the industry with the teacher/mentor gene and see if they are able to act as your guide.
What resources are best to learn marketing?
There are people in this industry who are very successful and who share their insight online. That’s a strength of the digital marketing landscape. Find these writers and the blogs that feature their thoughts and subscribe. I think the best resources to learn marketing have RSS feeds.
What’s the last lesson in marketing you learned?
I was at an affiliate conference at the start of the week. A common theme I heard from that was the rising need in “tenancy” as a way to secure placement with affiliates. It’s an interesting issue. Affiliate marketing is often sold as a CPA activity and yet standard tenancy flies in the face of that. This presents all sorts of challenges but I also learnt about some interesting solutions.