Transitioning from Agency to Client-side.

Sheryn Small

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With such a positive reaction to our blog 'Making the switch from Agency to Client-side', we thought we'd follow it up with an interview with someone who has done just that! After 15 years in agency, Gemma Cadwallader talks to us about how she made the transition and what it's like to work Client-side at Allianz. 


What were some of the motivations behind your switch to Client-side?

I had been told for many years that the work-life balance was healthier Marketing side and it was something that I was increasingly thinking about. I had been very fortunate in my Advertising career to have great Managers that provided the flexibility that enabled me to work in an Agency whilst being a sole parent to a lively 7 year-old.  However, because I was in client service this still meant that when my son went to bed I opened up the laptop and started shift two! 

Between work and parenting, there was little time (usually none) to do for chores, personal admin or have ‘me’ time during the week.  I swam before work to keep me sane rather than to enjoy the activity. After 15 years working at Agencies, I realised that I was ready for a new chapter within my career and a change in my home/life routine. 

I decided to be open to other opportunities and when Sheryn put me forward for a three-month contract role at Allianz I leapt at the chance – albeit with a bit of coaching from Sheryn!  The contract role was to deliver a major integrated campaign, something that I had done many times in the past – I just had to do it from the other side.


How did you find the transition and what were some of the challenges you faced?

I found the transition surprisingly easy.  I felt able to get involved and add value from the very first week, there are a lot of transferrable skills – project management, fiscal management, strategy, people management, industry knowledge. I had always worked at Agencies that pushed the boundaries by doing new and different things so I had a lot of experience of having to find a way to do new things – I think that ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude stood me in great stead.


What would you say are the biggest differences between Agency and Client-side?

The biggest difference is being part of the end to end planning process.  I thoroughly enjoy working with the business to shape the Marketing Plan.  It’s good to be close to the end results – seeing the daily sales figures coming in, making plans to optimise in real-time and having access to a wealth of specialists within the business including research and insights.  It’s also good working with a broad Stakeholder group to design campaigns and propositions to take to market.


Are there things you miss about working in an agency?

The free wine! I’m in a very fortunate position that I work purely on campaigns and so I am immersed in the creative work on a daily basis which I am passionate about.  I thoroughly enjoyed my many years in Advertising, I met the most diverse and interesting group of people, learned so much and made many lifelong friends.  I wouldn’t go back and change a thing but I’m thoroughly enjoying this new chapter.


What advice would you give others who are thinking about making the switch?

If it’s the right time for you and you think you’ve done your time in Ad Land then I thoroughly recommend joining a Marketing Team (even for a short contract) and giving it a go.  I certainly found taking a three-month contract less daunting as I was able to test the waters and determine between my employer and I if I was the right fit for the role. Look at an area where you already have experience so that you can also apply industry experience to your new role.  I had a lot of Financial Services experience from working on financial accounts and that helped when I joined Allianz.

I am now coming up to my one year anniversary at Allianz and I can say in all honesty that I love my job and the team of people and partners that I work with. I genuinely look forward to the week ahead.  I’m challenged every day which makes me happy but most importantly so is my little boy because when I’m with him I totally switch off from work and I’m present in the moment.


If you would like to have a confidential chat, get in touch with us at iknowho, and we will be happy to share our industry knowledge, and answer any further questions you might have.