English graduate, Kerry Radden, on how she became Head of Marketing for the RSC
Name: Kerry Radden
Degree course: English
College: Trinity Hall
Did you have an idea about the career you wanted while you were at university?
Not really! I did a lot of theatre, mainly ADC stuff, stage managing, producing, publicity, ADC Committee and so on, and I really loved it.
But at the time I thought that there weren’t real jobs in the real world of theatre that I’d ever be able to get. The world was a rather less connected place back then so I wasn’t really aware of the broader national theatre landscape. So I had a ponder and felt that I really enjoyed working with people, understanding how people thought and promoting shows, so marketing might be the right career. I started off by going through the milk round for Mars, Procter and Gamble and some others, and started my professional career in Brand Management at P&G.
It was absolutely brilliant in so many ways and formed a real foundation for my future career. But after a year or so, when I was working on a big awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall and in my element, my astute boss suggested that if I wanted to work in theatre I should get on with it before the pay cut was too hard to bear!
How difficult did you find getting into the arts world?
I did a few internships and voluntary roles in my holidays and this really helped me to prepare for the “real world”. Once I had decided to try and pursue it professionally, I was very lucky in that a role came up as a Trainee Producer at Battersea Arts Centre just when someone who had been a couple of years above me at Cambridge and with whom I’d done shows while there was the Executive Director. It enabled me to have a really good chat to her, get some advice on applying and I was fortunate enough to be one of three people employed into that role. So in some ways, easier than it could have been as I was quite naive about opportunities, but I exploited my contacts for advice and signposting and the Cambridge networks are very useful – make the most of them!
I notice you have quite a bit of ‘corporate’ experience – what skills did you develop in these roles that help you in your current job?
My corporate experience at P&G initially gave me a great set of frameworks and skills like management, analysis and reporting, and negotiation skills through great training and a fantastic manager. It isn’t critical and often isn’t appreciated in the arts that you have corporate experience, but it really helped me. My time as a strategy consultant again gave me models and frameworks of thinking that I’ve been able to apply in my arts roles. I hope that my arts experience and skills gave something back the other way, too – empathy, strong teamwork and listening skills, creativity and an appreciation of creativity.
What three tips would you give students interested in a career like yours?
- Keep your eyes open. Look out for jobs constantly and take advantage of internships if you possibly can – look out for paid ones as voluntary ones are sometimes not well respected and may not value what you can add. You shouldn’t have to work for free, although the odd week here or there volunteering or shadowing is obviously great.
- Be genuine and engage. Passion for the art form is really valued in a marketing role so think about what you are really interested in and engage with it: go to exhibitions, watch a lot of theatre, attend concerts – whatever you are keen on. If you want to perform on stage, don’t try and pretend you are interested in arts marketing as a way in – be honest!
- Talk to people. Exploit your networks for information and advice – so many Cambridge people are now in the arts professionally and are usually happy to chat. Go to networking events. Keep applying for jobs. Consider working in casual roles if you can afford to such as box office or front of house – not only are they a great way of learning about the industry and getting on the inside, but if you want to work with audiences, they are the best front line way of learning your trade.
Name one negative and one positive about your work…
Negative – as with most publicly funded jobs, you can work long hours and you’re unlikely to earn a fortune!
Positive – hard to choose one! Variety. (But also the fast pace and the real and genuine collaboration and wanting to do good)