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Alumna of the month

Jennie Holmes graduated in 2008 from WBS (International Business with French) and has just started her own company in France. She had an amazing time at Warwick and came back in 2013 to hire placement students as part of a scheme that she rolled out at Cyance. She was also fortunate enough in 2007 to benefit from the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund which remains one of her best life experiences. She went to Uganda to study palliative care for children which was the first scheme of its kind in sub-saharan Africa and also led to getting the research published. She joined the Aldi Graduate scheme upon graduation and retrained in digital marketing in 2013. You can see her LinkedIn profile here.

How did you get to where you are now?
JennieAfter graduating I joined the Aldi Graduate Scheme. This was a fantastic experience and gave me the opportunity to have real responsibility and manage a team straight after graduation. From Aldi I moved into luxury fashion and managed a flagship department on Oxford Street. I loved the pace and challenge of retail, but not the weekends so took a role in a digital marketing agency where I managed B2B technology campaigns. This was an incredible role that allowed me to work on some big brand campaigns such as Microsoft, Motorola, The Institute of Directors and Cegid. It wasn’t a traditional path into digital marketing but working in operations has really helped me to understand how marketing supports the wider business infrastructure.

You studied International Business with French at Warwick, how does this help you in your career?
When was working in a UK agency I was running a number of EMEA campaigns and my degree has definitely served me well in terms of understanding international operations and working across Europe.

I now run a digital marketing agency in France and have clients across Europe. Over half of my businesses is conducted in French and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my degree. Spending a year in a French Business School has also given me both the vocabulary and the confidence to work in France.

My degree gave me more than just academic opportunity. I was very fortunate to benefit from the Lord Rootes fund whilst in my 3rd year at Warwick. I went to Uganda and conducted research into palliative care for children. Whilst it isn’t directly related to my role this opportunity was one of the reasons that I got my graduate job.

What are the most challenging parts of your work?
Working across Europe and in different languages. Whilst this one of the things I love the most it doesn’t make it easy operationally as I need to have two versions of everything. It also means that I am travelling quite a lot. I am off to Luxembourg this week and Monaco at the end of the month.
Digital marketing is constantly evolving. I need to make sure that I have time each week to stay on top of changes and trends. I work a lot with social media and there seems to be a new update every week at the minute.

You’ve taken an unusual career path, what inspired you? What lessons have you learned?
That we are not destined to do one thing and that humans are pretty good at adapting to new circumstances. I hadn’t envisaged that I would start my own company but my husband’s job brought us to rural France. This meant that I needed to adapt to continue working in digital marketing. I’ve also learnt that it is worth taking a risk if you love what you do.

You also have to totally let go of the fear of failure. That is the hardest lesson. When you are working for yourself there is nowhere to hide and no one to blame when things don’t work out! You have to brush yourself off, think about what you’ve learnt and be better prepared for next time.

What have you done that you are most proud of?
Starting to build networks and your reputation in a new country is tough but watching the business grow has been very rewarding. I am only a few months in but there are lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon. In March was accepted into a start-up incubator project that is run by Iconosquare. This was a proud moment for me and lets me work with some pretty amazing people.

What drives you?
Seeing results. I love working with my clients and helping them find solutions to their problems. This can be something really simple as introducing them to a plug-in or software that makes their life easier to implementing an integrated marketing automation solution.

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
More sleep. Having a toddler and starting a businesses is proving particularly demanding. I wouldn’t change anything about either but I wouldn’t say no to a few extra hours kip! I am starting to build a great partner network both in the UK and France. This is helping the business take on larger projects. As we are growing we are improving how we deliver projects for clients, making us much more efficient, which should help claw back some of those hours!

What was your favourite aspect of the International Business course?
It is a tough call between organisational behaviour and service operations. The lecturers were amazing for both subjects and I looked forward to the next session. I still use some of the examples today in both my blog writing and when speaking to customers about how they can breakdown their processes. Whilst I work within digital it helps to be able to put things into a context that everyone can relate to like Yo-Sushi or Nationwide Bank.

What would you tell someone thinking of studying at Warwick?
That you will not regret it! I was too slow to realise some of the amazing opportunities that were on offer. Warwick gives you a great sense of community and the facilities are excellent. Going to a French business school made me realise just how much there is at Warwick and how good the standard is of the other students. I learnt a lot from other people.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?
I wish that I got involved with more. Having the Arts Centre on site is incredible. I only really took advantage of the range of performances in my 4th year. I perhaps should have spent more time at the Arts Centre and less time watching Desperate Housewives.

How do you balance work and life?
By planning ahead and putting everything in the diary. I have always been heavily mocked over my excessive calendar use but I know it won’t happen if it doesn’t go in there. This way I always make time for exercise and that obligatory hour-long French lunch break.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
Definitely teaching. Working with a team and seeing them grow is so rewarding, as is working with small businesses and helping them understand digital marketing. Education plays a big part in marketing now which is why I think I would enjoy it so much. As I graduate I took Aldi over Teach First and I’ve always wondered about the alternative!

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
I hope that good people surround me both personally and professionally. Relationships are the most important thing. Moving away from friends and family has made me realise just how important they are. I hope that Generate Solutions has grown and that I’ve been able to take a lot of people with me.

What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
I’d take a massive notebook, pencil and sharpener. I’ve just finished reading ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ and writing down your thoughts is a key part of innovation. If I were solo on an island I’d definitely want to use the time to reflect and get some ideas down.

What are your favourite memories of your years at Warwick?
Having a corridor sleepover in Rootes in first year. The parties after exams were always great, that feeling when you sit your last exam is like nothing else. Oh and DC++ but I don’t know if we can mention that?!

Do you have any advice for new graduates?
Take all the opportunities that are on offer. You never know where your career is going to take you so use the time to discover your passions. This might be an additional project or the opportunity to travel. The most important piece of advice is to treat others as you would like to be treated. If you apply this in everything you do you will be both happy as successful.


Age: 31

Lives: Aubusson, France

Education: International Business with French, IDM Postgraduate Diploma

Career: Aldi, House of Fraser, Cyance and Generate Solutions

Interests: Triathlons, Pilates and reading a book a week