“Several years ago we would only ever look at graduates,” admits Wavemaker Manchester CEO Mick Style, “which is ridiculous. I’m so pleased that we’re smashing that paradigm now.” He’s talking about how in recent years the WPP media agency has made a concerted commitment to cast its net wider, extending opportunities to younger people and those with a different educational background than a university degree. “We have a real responsibility to make sure our industry is accessible and diverse. It’s important that the apprentices we get are diverse from backgrounds and skill sets,” he says.
Creative manager Kally Boshnakova is a great example of the sort of talent his agency wants to nurture. Having discovered Wavemaker’s (then called MEC) apprenticeship scheme and starting in social media at the Manchester office in 2016, she’s now a creative manager. After learning simultaneously on the job and through education provided through the scheme, she's progressed quickly.
In a national industry dominated by London and a handful of creative advertising courses, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Kally to find out more about how her route into this career shaped her.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what were your early thoughts on what you’d do after you finished school?
Kally> I’ve always been around Manchester. I went to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, which is just down the road in Cheshire. It was always so academically focused and I think pretty much everyone took the traditional route and went on to university.
My main dynamic coming out of school is that I was really strong creatively and academically, so it was finding the right way to marry up the two.
LBB> So advertising seemed like a good compromise to you?
Kally> I had an awareness of advertising as a potential route. And after researching a couple of different options it seemed like the best thing for me. It balanced that logical side of things with creativity and innovation.
I hadn’t had that much exposure to the industry at all. Other than a few friends’ parents, I didn’t know anyone that was working in it. My view was from the outside looking in. But obviously we all consume media every single day. So advertising seemed a way that content and design manifested itself in the world around it. That’s what I wanted to be involved in. That relevance and real world impact is what won me over.
LBB> Did you toy with the idea of an apprenticeship for a while or were you thinking of going to university?
Kally> University was what I thought I was going to do. But at the end of school I still wasn’t sure exactly what direction I wanted to go in with my career. I was thinking of studying history of art and graphic design at uni - maybe an art foundation course. But in the end I just wanted to get stuck in and do something more practical. I think getting in an agency environment from early on really jump-started my career.
LBB> Did you have any standout experiences early on in your career that you’ll never forget?
Kally> I just remember being pretty dazzled by the pace and buzz of the agency. I have been really fortunate with Wavemaker. The culture here is so supportive and I think that’s something I noticed from day one. Obviously your core value exchange at any business is to grow the business, grow your career and get out of it what you put in, which is great, but sometimes it’s not as simple as that. What I noticed is there’s an entrepreneurial spirit here. And a real hunger and motivation to do amazing work and to get those media firsts.
LBB> How do you think working in a smaller Wavemaker office - in Manchester rather than London - affected your experience?
Kally> When I started, I ended up getting involved in loads of things like ideas sessions, supporting pitches quite early on. Your voice is heard from and that’s really rewarding. I think if you spot an opportunity for client and you want to do something, you have that freedom and support to develop it and if you like to pitch it. That’s not what I expected coming in as junior as I did. I’ve loved it here in Manchester in that it is a bit smaller and I feel that I’ve had more responsibility earlier on than if I’d joined the bigger team down in London, potentially.
LBB> You’ve progressed quickly since you began in social media in 2016. Has that got anything to do with coming in under an apprenticeship rather than bringing book learning to the job?
Kally> I think that’s got everything to do with it. The apprenticeship model is a great way to learn and get stuck in at the same time. Media is such a fast-paced industry. Look at Cannes and all of the other awarding bodies - they celebrate innovation and creativity is the key to success, so the theory is really important and it should be respected because it lays your foundations, but then the big shiny new ideas and trends in technologies, the industry firsts, are how you compete. So I think doing and being part of the process, seeing how people bounce ideas off each other and being able to soak that up from an early age was invaluable for me.
I still got the best of both worlds because I did have a couple of days at college every month doing the syllabus there. That included one or two things that might not pop up in my day-to-day job.
Looking back, a lot of the job is projects and account management, working with people, time management, being able to pitch ideas. I think they are all very much skills that you would learn from having to do them regularly and well because there is that trust and consequences.