• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Robin Bodicoat

Here at Spotlight, we had the opportunity to chat with Robin Bodicoat, Marketing Director at Quotient Sciences. He took us through his career journey and gave tips to those starting out in their career.

I’m currently the Marketing Director at Quotient Sciences, a global drug development services business. I’ve worked in marketing for nearly 20 years, so that’s most of my career. My role these days predominantly consists of developing marketing strategy, plans and campaigns to drive lead generation and business growth. I also spend some of my time mentoring up-and-coming marketers, advising them on their career paths, how to achieve personal goals, and how to overcome any obstacles or challenges they may be facing.

Becoming a specialist in Pharma and Life Science marketing wasn’t in my early career plans, but occurred more by accident, based on the companies I’ve worked for. But I’ve used this experience to extend myself beyond my current role and I now deliver regular best practice webinars and training sessions for other life science marketers.

Whilst I am more than happy with my career journey to date, it is definitely not an overnight success story. The following is designed to explain my career path, and importantly some of the trials and tribulations that occurred along the way. Some of my former employees I have named, others I haven’t, and hopefully, the reasoning is obvious!

So, what made you want to get into marketing, I hear you ask? Well, since my University days, I have always wanted to become a marketer. Growing up, I was a little obsessed with TV adverts and sometimes found them more exciting than TV programmes. Back in the 80s and 90s adverts used to tell stories, contain a lot of humour, and could even inspire the resurgence of classic songs back to the top of the pop charts. Great examples of famous adverts include Levi’s Jeans, Carling Black Label and Guinness. So, this obsession made advertising and subsequently marketing an appealing career path.

However, getting my first marketing role was not easy. After completing my BA (hons) Business Studies degree at Sheffield Hallam University, I applied for numerous marketing roles without success. The usual request of 2 years minimum experience was always a factor in rejections. But how could I get this experience if no one would employ me? Finally, just to get some office experience I accepted a role in the Customer Services department at a well-known global company that sold scientific supplies. Although the objective of acquiring experience was achieved, if I described the environment as being like a school playground, that would be a disservice to all the well-behaved school children out there. It was a nightmare and office politics were rife! I’m sure it has improved now, but unfortunately, when you are in such an environment you can just find yourself getting caught up in it all and display the same exact negative behavioural traits as your colleagues.

Before I’d even gotten into marketing, lesson number one was learnt; rise above office politics and ignore gossip. This is an important career lesson if you want to be considered trustworthy and respected among your peers and colleagues.

While working in this role, an internal position came up for a website administrator. Not quite marketing, but close enough! I applied and really impressed the senior managers in the interview with my presentation and knowledge. Surely, I was going to get this role? No!! It seems the role was already set aside for someone else internally – hmmm don’t you just love it when this happens. So, I was unsuccessful and rather cheesed off!! Was I ever going to get out of the toxic Customer Services department and kickstart my career? The answer was yes. Apparently, I’d impressed one of the senior managers so much that he asked me to go and see him. During our meeting he asked me about my career aspirations so I explained my passion for marketing and determination and desire to progress into this area. My words must have had an impact. He immediately informed other senior managers that I had to be seriously considered for the next marketing vacancy. A Marketing Assistant role soon materialized and in no time, I was offered the role and I was now at the start of my marketing career, which was going to lead me on a very exciting career path.

So, lesson number two – success can even come from (what feels like) failure at the time, so stay positive and never give up!

Now that I was in a marketing role, I decided to ‘top up’ my University education with a CIM Diploma in Marketing. This really plugged a lot of the gaps I had in my knowledge and I was able to apply many of my learnings in my work role. For the most part, this was a good marketing position, but I was lacking any form of mentor to learn from. My Manager was always absent or distracted and there didn’t seem to be any clear marketing goals, objectives, or annual plans. I know that sounds quite odd for a global company, but this was the reality. When you are a young impressionable marketer you need someone to learn from to help you grow and develop.

Lesson number three – find yourself a mentor. It may be your manager or someone else in the department but learning and growth can only be achieved if you have an aspirational person to support you, listen to you and encourage your growth.

This lack of support eventually forced me to look elsewhere for a marketing role. I don’t mind admitting I spent around a year looking for my next marketing role. I often seemed to get close to getting the role, but I always came up short in the final round. You can imagine how frustrating this was. Sometimes it was my fault, I underperformed in the interview. On other occasions, perhaps the other candidate was just better than me. Hearing over the phone that I’d been unsuccessful (again) really impacted my confidence and motivation. But I did not give up. Every time I went for an interview, I would debrief myself afterwards and write down all the questions I was asked. Especially the ones I struggled to answer. Then I would write up the perfect answer to each question. Over time I was able to perfect my interview technique and performance, and suddenly I was going into interviews with a lot more confidence knowing there were no questions that could catch me out. I felt prepared for everything!!

Lesson number four – spend considerable time preparing your interview approach. Write out all the challenging questions and draft your model answers. It will make you so much more confident in an interview.

Eventually, I found myself in a new role. This was as a Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mettler Toledo, a laboratory and industrial equipment manufacturer. I am naming this company because this was one of my best career moves. Why? Because Mettler had such an effective and highly productive marketing approach. Everything was planned, communications were highly targeted, lists segmented and incoming leads effectively tracked and nurtured. I generally feel I learnt more in my two and half years at Mettler than I have done in any other part of my career. I quickly became an all-around strong marketer and remained in this role for over two years.

So why would I leave a company that had really helped develop my skills and knowledge? Call it ambition or greed and hunger for more responsibility, but I was determined to get myself into a junior management position as quickly as possible and options were limited. So, I started looking around. My knowledge and skill set were now strong, and I felt I had highly experienced interview techniques. Maybe I was too confident!! I actually managed to lose a job offer when I was the number one candidate. How? By arguing about marketing best practice with the recruiting manager during the interview. Never do this, folks! I can look back and laugh at this now, but it was a stupid thing to do at the time. Anyway, not long after this drama, I secured my first Marketing Manager role at a long-established engineering company.

This brings me to the question, what has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career? It was 2008 and I’d finally landed my first marketing managerial role. This was everything I’d been working towards, so I was naturally excited! My positivity did not last long! Unfortunately, within 3 months the global recession hit the industry really hard and around 50% of the company’s workforce was wiped out overnight. My marketing budget disappeared in a puff of smoke! In fact, it got so bad that they let the cleaners go, so we had to take it in turns to vacuum and dust the large open-plan office. Not quite what I’d imagined at the start. I was also forced to repeatedly give excuses to our suppliers about why they hadn’t been paid. Honesty and integrity are very important to me so this didn’t give me a great feeling, and anyway, there’s only so much you can do without a budget or wider support. It was quite depressing at times, but I suppose the main positive was that I was keeping my job! Eventually, I realised things weren’t going to improve; actually, they were getting worse and I was on a sinking ship, so I moved on. You may be surprised to hear that I hold on to this memory fondly as it is a defining and character-building role along my career path, even if it didn’t turn out the way I expected.

Lesson number five – all experiences will shape your development, even the toughest ones.

If you were to ask me what is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way? I think my answer would be that career paths are not always straightforward and vertical; they can be squiggly! You could consider your career path to be like a game of Snakes & Ladders. Most of the time you’ll be moving forwards and upwards towards your dream job or career, but every now and again you may experience a setback, which slides you back a few squares. Don’t let this hold you back. Ultimately, with perseverance, you will reach your career goal.

So, from this experience, I moved across to a small IT company, into a Marketing Executive role. Now I was quite confident that this role would give me a different type experience. If a small business grows, then you will grow with it and success will follow. I did acquire a lot of new skills and experience in the two years I spent working here, and I have to say, the people I worked with were some of the funniest and friendliest characters I’ve ever worked with, and for the most part, I enjoyed the role and the environment. On reflection I think I delivered to a very high standard in this role, constantly bringing in high-quality leads and ensuring the business competed with rivals who had much bigger budgets and marketing teams. Sadly, no matter what I delivered, the Sales Director (my Manager) always wanted more, to the extent that he would undertake bullying tactics in order to get it. Nevertheless, I stuck with the role for two years.

Lesson number six – sometimes you need to tread a careful path, it’s about knowing when to speak out and when to keep your head down, but bullying should not be accepted.

In 2012, I was lucky enough to be approached by an agency about a Marketing Manager role with a growing Life Sciences company in Nottingham. This was a great opportunity to manage a larger marketing team, driving lead generation and sales revenue. I’m extremely proud of my contribution to the growth of this business as I built marketing processes, generated double-digit growth for their products and services and ultimately developed a brand identity that really helped them stand out in the marketplace. I was also given the opportunity to sit on the senior management team, which helped raise my profile and developed my broader commercial business knowledge. I could leave it at that and all would sound perfect, but I feel like I have to say, for an SME, the conduct and behaviour of many senior managers were quite appalling and if anything, it opened my eyes once again and taught me how not to conduct myself as a manager. In fact, this was even a lesson in how not to run a business!! But experience is critical if you want to progress so I remained there for 3 years. As we know, in the world of business things can rapidly change, and restructuring eventually led to redundancy for myself and many other managers. At the time, I don’t think I realized how unhappy I was working there, so losing my job actually became a blessing in disguise. Sadly, this business has never hit the same heights again as it did during these 3 successful years, so I definitely left at the right time.

Lesson number seven – Observe the conduct and management style of those around you and even the culture of the broader business. What are they doing right and what are they doing wrong? If you choose to learn from it, these observations can help shape and improve your own approach to management in the future and the professional relationships that you form.

So, moving on, remember lesson two? Success can even come from (what feels like) failure at the time. Stay positive! As mentioned, with hindsight, redundancy was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I hadn’t been made redundant, I wouldn’t have applied for the Quotient Sciences role and found myself in the position of Marketing Director working for such a great company, with a strong emphasis around culture. It’s now 6 years since I joined Quotient and I have enjoyed every minute. Yes, there have been challenges, but I’ve built the marketing department up from its foundations and even led a complex global rebrand, involving the integration of 6 different companies under one new identity. A lot of change has taken place during my time at Quotient, but change brings excitement, so I’ve always tried to embrace new challenges and move forwards positively. Now I work with a great marketing and inside sales team, consisting of 14 team members. Business growth has been significant, and I look forward to what the future holds.

Lesson number eight – always embrace change. You can’t stop organizations evolving around you, so stay positive and you will come out of the other end stronger and better for it.

Over the last few years, I’ve started giving something back to my profession by dedicating time to mentoring young marketing professionals and undergraduates, helping them with their career paths and overcoming any challenges. I think I’m happier with my career right now than at any point along my journey, and for that, I must thank the company I work for, my colleagues and my continued positive attitude. The lessons I’ve learnt and the challenges I’ve faced have been critical in shaping my outlook and my own professional style.

Advice for those starting their careers.

Firstly, I would say that almost certainly you will make mistakes and, on occasions, the wrong choices during your career journey. Everyone is human so you must forgive yourself. Much of it will not be your fault but caused by the reality of the world around you and the professional environment in which you find yourself. The less-than-positive situations that arise won’t define you, and in some ways, they can build you into a wiser and more experienced professional, as long as you choose to learn from them.

Secondly, when building your network of connections and professional relationships, don’t only look up, look all around you. Even those individuals in different roles and departments, and perhaps lower down the hierarchy can have a positive impact on your life, your goals and your career. So be nice and respectful to everyone.

And finally, never give up! Your career dreams can come true if you persevere and never stop trying to reach your goals. An unsuccessful job interview or even redundancy can unlock new doors and lead to new unexpected opportunities, so always look for positives and keep believing in yourself.

Thank you Robin for telling us your story, if you’ve found Robin’s career journey insightful be sure to connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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