Gemma Dishman shares her Marketing career journey

My route to my current role as Marketing and Special Projects Manager for Danieli Holdings Group

My journey has been a diverse, non-traditional one but I believe the experiences I’ve had along the way have definitely given me great insight into my job.

At the same time, it’s made me realise the importance of continuing to learn and why I first got involved with the CIM as a way to enhance my knowledge and bring added value to my employers.

At 18 I had very firm ideas of what I wanted to do – plans that had to be shelved temporarily when I ended up being a single mum. Needing to earn a living, a Christmas job with high street retailer Next lasted nine years, but once my daughter was old enough to go to school, I went to Northumbria University to study Communications and PR.

It was tough, juggling parenting, studying and then taking a second job with Newcastle Falcons with a view to learning about sales, marketing and event management.

After graduating and a short stint with a company which organised weddings, I landed a job with Marriott, as an events coordinator. During my four years with the global company, I worked my way up to sales director. The leadership training with Marriott has inspired me throughout my career and made me recognise the importance of continued learning and self-development.

I had been recognised by Marriott as a star of the future but with that came the problem of having to be flexible to move around – something I just couldn’t do with a young child.

In 2013 I was invited to a presentation at Sunderland Minster about a new organisation being formed in the city to help drive it forward – Sunderland Business Improvement District. I loved the vision that was being presented and was thrilled to land the role as the BID’s communications and marketing manager – which turned out to be the biggest learning curve of my career so far.

This job was challenging in every sense. We ran at a hundred miles an hour to deliver events and schemes to try and make a difference in Sunderland city centre while also trying to keep a large number of stakeholders happy, who each had different agendas.

This is where I discovered that everyone thinks they know – and few understand – about marketing and what marketeers do.

There’s such a misconception that it’s about making posters, flyers and booking advertising – our department is often viewed as a cost rather than an investment. When in actual fact we are influential drivers of business growth with responsibility for strengthening the links between a business’s operations and its customers.

I have witnessed a huge lack of understanding about the marketing function within some companies. I believe whole heartedly that marketing should be part of the strategic foundations, and if you look at businesses that do this well it is fundamental to the success, growth and sustainability of their organisation.

I started the CIM Level 7 Marketing Leadership Programme in 2016 to help me progress my career to the next level. I was becoming more involved in business strategy and this course aligned perfectly with my goals and aspirations, along with benefiting the organisation in overcoming some of the challenges we faced to become re-elected (BIDS are voted in by traders for a five-year term).

The BID was successfully re-elected in 2019 and shortly afterwards I was made redundant. It wasn’t necessarily all bad, I was ready for a change. As a marketer, change is part of our culture, we interrupt people every day to try and inspire a change in behaviour, therefore, as marketers we must embrace change and not be afraid of it.

My CIM qualification gave me the confidence to offer myself for consultancy roles and I almost immediately got a job for six months with Tyne Tunnels, working on their communications and marketing strategies as they introduced new initiatives.

I had watched with some interest the development of STACK in Newcastle – a new concept in leisure and hospitality which seemed to me the perfect outlet for bringing together all of my skills.

It was also an exciting proposition which could make some really meaningful difference to the decline of the high street and so I was thrilled to be offered the special projects role.

My main focus is on the leisure sector, where we own and operate a number of high-profile bars and restaurants in the North East. These include STACK venues, The Muddler, YOLO venues and Destination 1850.

Which brings us right back to where I started. I have a unique role and have the pleasure of working closely with the CEO to ensure we make strategic choices to grow the business.

I have helped to raise the professional profile of the organisation and educated them on the importance of branding. My experience in crisis communication has also been of great value during the pandemic as I have guided the organisation through internal and external communications with regards to closures and following Government guidelines when we were able to open.

Lockdown 3.0 is taking a huge toll on the leisure industry which means I am currently furloughed. To keep me busy I am hoping to complete my third and final CIM Level 7 module – ‘Managing Business Growth’ which feels even more pertinent now as we face new challenges and opportunities following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Being a member of CIM has definitely had an immensely positive impact on my career. I have not only gained more skills and confidence, but I have gained a support network that I can lean on when I need advice or a place to air some frustrations or bounce ideas.

As I work towards becoming chartered, I have taken great pleasure in the doors and opportunities this has opened up for me and I am sure it will continue to do so.