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Work Hard With Unwavering Commitment

Kirsty Carlson

General Manager – Africa

OMG (Omnicom Media Group)

Kirsty Carlson

Kirsty Carlson

27 November . 4 min read . Opinion

(Credit: Kena Outdoor)

For individuals who are aiming for a career in the media and advertising industry, Kirsty Carlson shares her thoughts and recommendations based on her own career journey:

To begin, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Kirsty Carlson, and I am the General Manager for OMG Africa. I lead a dedicated team that manages & executes key clients above-the-line media across the African Continent. If you perhaps don’t know me or my career path and have come across this article, I thought I would set the scene briefly of my journey before diving into a few areas that I believe are valuable when pursuing a career in Media.

I worked a few jobs in my youth, including a hair washer and reception at a hair salon, warehouse stock-taking, and temping in admin and switchboard (reception). I studied hard and matriculated with good grades and academic colours but unfortunately, my family did not have the funds for me to study further, so that was not an option. From early on, I understood that in order to achieve the life and career I envisioned, I would have to work hard with unwavering commitment. This realization shaped my work ethic, and I firmly believe it has been the backbone of my success. I remain focused, determined, and driven, which has served as the foundation for my career so far.

I began my media career in the finance department as a temp and was soon offered a permanent position. Thereafter I transitioned to the Africa Department and under great leadership I gained insights and knowledge about the varying media landscapes across the continent. After some time, I decided to specialise in Out-of-Home advertising (OOH) for several years. During that time, I was instrumental in the creation and centralization of the Out-of-Home (OOH) department in two large agency groups, This experience helped me develop essential operational skills and a passion for building effective processes, refining ways of working, and acquiring leadership skills. To achieve this, I attended leadership courses, had excellent mentors, and led a dedicated, high-performing team. I have since found my way back to my roots in the rest of Africa Media, the challenging but rewarding environment that it is. Leading an amazing team of talented individuals who all share the same passion for the rest of Africa. 

Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working on exciting accounts with incredible clients, such as Samsung, Asics, NBC Universal, Coca-Cola, and Mondelez. Together, co-creating award-winning worthy work!

That short summary spans over a decade, but I have achieved great accomplishments through dedication and hard work. Naturally there was various challenges and obstacles along the way, however through them I have gained valuable knowledge and experience that I have learned from and utilized to move forward.

Choosing a career in media was not my initial plan. Like many others, I “fell into it” and have been in this field ever since. My career path has not been a straight line. I discovered areas within the industry that I was passionate about and interested in and then delved into them more deeply.

I have many recommendations for those interested in pursuing a successful career in media and advertising. However, to avoid overwhelming you with a long list, I will focus on specific areas that I believe are most important based on my personal experience in the field.

Mentorship

The growth I have experienced through mentorship has been exceptionally valuable. Aligning myself with mentors where I could develop the specific organisational knowledge I required at each phase of my career helped me grow my knowledge base, build relationships & network, and equipped me with a more informed understanding of what I required to further my career. Mentors have helped me navigate many challenges and obstacles through my career as well as help guide my career choices and decisions. Often when faced with a difficult situation; a sounding board helps guide your processing, and I am privileged enough to still have these relationships over the years which were developed through mentorship that I can still reach out to today.

I believe Mentorship is critical when pursuing a career in any industry, particularly in the media & advertising industry. The industry is complex and learning how to navigate its complexity would be easier when you are guided by an experienced professional with a wealth of knowledge to depart. As an industry, we are privileged to have many professionals, of varying experience levels who are open to mentorship. Seek out a mentor who aligns with your goals and values, and who inspires you. Also, ensure the mentor you look for is within the area of expertise that you are looking to grow or excel in.

The benefits of mentorship are:

  • Knowledge and skills development.
  • Problem-solving
  • Career Guidance and navigating career paths.
  • Networking opportunities.
  • Goal setting and achievement of goals.
  • Exposure to new & diverse perspectives.
  • Motivation & accountability.
  • Long-term relationships
  • Confidence Building.
  • Improved communication skills.
  • Increased capacity to self-reflect.

 

 Flexibility

It is important to understand that career paths in the media industry are rarely linear, and with the industry’s growth and advancement in technology, new opportunities and roles continue to emerge and diversify. For instance, as indicated in PWC Media Outlook 2023-27: The Rise of Artificial Intelligence, as well as e-commerce and data continue to be areas of focus. Roles related to these are developing and transforming across the industry. Additionally, Programmatic DOOH is growing not just in SA but across the continent, with more and more inventory being able to be purchased programmatically. The introduction of PDOOH in South Africa has also opened new opportunities for individuals in the industry.

The industry is constantly evolving and staying flexible to evolve with it is important.

As I shared at the start of this article, I had specialised in OOH for several years. My decision to specialise was based on my spark of interest and curiosity to grow my knowledge in this area. I soon realized I had a strong passion for OOH. I am proud of the work I have done in this arena in the industry over the years. Being flexible in my career change allowed me to achieve success in this field. It is important to follow your interests, proactively upskill yourself, explore new areas, and be flexible in your career journey.  

Values

Respect those you work with. Everyone has a part to play in this industry, from the media suppliers, creative teams, clients, and media agency teams. When respect and integrity are the values in engagement with each other, it multiplies the same, and it inevitably makes working together easier, better, and more enjoyable and the by-product is amazing work.

In conclusion, I believe that I am only one-third of the way through my career journey and will continue to learn and grow. However, I will consistently and continually maintain the recommendations mentioned above.

The industry is both exciting and challenging, but remaining committed, dedicated, flexible, integral, and respectful will bring great rewards.

I look forward to welcoming newcomers to this industry.

Senior experienced Director with a demonstrated history of working in the South Africa and Rest of Africa media and advertising industry.

In her career, Kirsty has also developed and led successful OOH centralised shared service departments for 2 large media groups in South Africa.

Over and above Kirsty’s media experience, she is experienced and passionate about operations, empowerment, and people development.