What I learned from both sides of Advertising Unlocked

Opening doors and making careers in advertising accessible to more diverse talent

In 2017, Alisya Rozhan attended the first Advertising Unlocked as a graduate, kick-starting her interest in advertising. Last year she welcomed students for their first taste of adland at Anomaly's open day. Here are the five things she's learned having experienced from both sides of Advertising Unlocked.

Last November, Anomaly hosted the IPA Advertising Unlocked initiative, an open day that I once attended back in 2017 as a graduate. That was my first introduction to the industry. Now a Strategist at Anomaly, I found myself on the other side of the event - setting briefs, presenting and supporting Sixth Formers that took part. Not only was the experience lots of fun, but an insightful way to look back on my own career journey as well. Below are five learnings from having experienced both sides of Advertising Unlocked:

You don’t have to know what you want to do

Before Advertising Unlocked, I remember feeling my career path had to be directly related to what I had studied. The truth is, figuring out what you want to do entails constant trial and error. This is why events like these are pivotal, as they give young people a peek into different roles within an agency, and jobs they probably didn’t know existed. Hearing my colleagues talk about their different degrees and career shifts reminded me that there is no one ideal path into the industry. Here at Anomaly, we’re encouraged to think laterally and every one of us is allowed to be strategic or creative in our own right, regardless of which department we’re in.

Soft skills matter just as much as hard skills

Coming out of academia, I thought hard skills took priority. Hard skills are usually obtained through education or learning on the job, whereas soft skills revolve around how you relate and interact with others, which can sometimes be an undervalued skillset. During the event, what stuck out to me was how naturally the students exhibited collaboration and empathy. As advertisers, we need to see the world through our audiences’ eyes, understand what their day could look like, and empathise with their problems. With our jobs, a massive part of the fun is also getting to tap into the psyches of people who are completely different to who we are. Empathy is pivotal in coming up with better ideas as our work should talk to real people and not ‘target personas’.

It’s okay not to know the answer

Many of us in the early years of our careers are plagued with impostor syndrome, I certainly am no stranger to it. When I first started out, I was told that there were no silly questions and that still rings true today. Even now, every day is a learning process, and sometimes we need to return to point zero and accept the mindset of knowing nothing. It gives us freedom to be curious. It also makes a significant impact on the work when we can listen to each other’s views and ask questions without judgement. Only when people feel truly safe to be open will we be able to collaborate to imagine new possibilities for our clients.

Knowledge can come from anywhere

There are times when you can be confident in what you do know, we all have different backgrounds and interests. This, coupled with the fact that we work with a broad mix of brands across a range of categories means you never know when your cultural nuances or weirdly specific knowledge may come in handy. That day I learnt so much from the students, including the influencers they follow, down to the latest ways to use a platform. This is what makes events like Advertising Unlocked so inspiring as it becomes a space for mutual learning between both the organisers and participants.

Diverse talent creates more impactful work

During my first job hunt after University, I was initially nervous about a job in advertising. Having grown up in Malaysia, I was worried I wouldn’t truly be able to gauge the cultural landscape of a place that I wasn’t from. Having been through it, I can safely say that my cross-cultural experiences have been my greatest strength. At times, the world of advertising can be quite homogeneous, but progressive change does take time. As an industry, it is our collective responsibility to keep pushing for more talent with different worldviews and backgrounds. Not only will this be invaluable for creating impactful ideas, but work that resonates with a broad range of cultures and communities.

The IPA’s Advertising Unlocked was the event that kick-started my interest in advertising. Today, I feel lucky to have been able to share my experiences with the next generation. As an initiative, it is a prime example of what the industry needs to do more of, opening doors and making careers in advertising accessible to more diverse talent. It’s a brilliant opportunity for young people to see what the industry can offer them but also a chance for them to see what their unique perspectives can bring to the future of advertising.

Advertising Unlocked 2023 will take place on Wednesday 15 November. Register your agency and be part of the industry's biggest open day.


Alisya Rozhan is a Strategist at Anomaly. 

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024