Much like Beatrix Kiddo I was reaching the end of my list. Almost all of my questions had been answered but I was by no means finished.
The advice I received from this person who I will call Kate, was so candid and honest that we’ve had to mask their identity. Kate is a PPC guru and a fountain of information from which I aimed to find out what the best way is to secure a move in-house, which skills are valued more highly and why you would move back to an agency.
Kate found herself working agency side after a stint at Google and was rising through the PPC ranks. Having moved up the ladder so far, she found her path of progression blocked. “Agency side there is a lack of senior roles and the people who were in them when I left are still there.” With this in mind she wanted to move in-house, climb the ranks and broaden out.
This is easier said than done so Kate set about acquiring new skills. “Anyone looking to move in-house from an agency should aim to have an additional niche.” She had become a PPC specialist but in-house teams are often looking for a broader set of skills. Kate was able to move into Conversion Analytics “which was easier then because they were creating a new department” but her advice was to do everything you can to expand your skillset “even if it takes up extra time”.
Now in her new company she is at the other end of the equation. Kate has overseen the process of hiring a full service in-house digital team giving rise to one of my favourite questions: when hiring, does she value agency candidates higher than those from in-house? The answer was an emphatic yes:
“Candidates from agencies work harder, are more dedicated and have stronger skills. If you are used to managing seven different clients you can easily handle one.” Whilst this is a fairly uncompromising answer it is not the be all and end all as “if you are from a strong in-house team in a relevant sector” then you are just as desirable.
In Kate, I had on my hands what I like to call a straight-talker so I tried another one of my favourites. Was the work/life balance more manageable now she had moved in-house? Absolutely, her hours are 9-5 and she normally sticks to them unless she has an international call to make. She also feels more valued. Agency-side, when she proved she could cope with the work, she was given more – in-house, her competence is rewarded with responsibility.
Despite this Kate is an advocate of digital agencies. She values the skills, the work ethic and the social culture. Would she ever move back? “Hypothetically I would move back to an agency but only in a senior role where I could keep the autonomy I have here.”
And with that the interview was over. Kate had sung the praises of agency and in-house life and with her new team was aiming to “strike a balance” between the two. I had reached the end of my list of people to meet and it was time to return to the office.
The fireworks show was over. Kate, a catherine wheel of enthusiasm had shot a few truth rockets at me (I will not apologise for this metaphor) and lit a roman candle of advice. Ok, sorry about that. Sorry. I’m just trying to go out with a bang. Sorry. Sorry, again.