Cancer and Canonicals: My 2 Years in Digital

Cancer and Canonicals: My 2 Years in Digital

21st July 2015

This is the third post in our 2015 Summer Series, where we give young talent in digital marketing a chance to shine in front of State of Digital’s audience. Here is Paul Hunter who writes about the thing he’s learned in his first two years in the industry.

It’s unfortunately a story all too common with ‘twenty somethings’, but I had completed a zero prospects degree in 2010 and was thrown into the big bad world, desperately needing a job. I was lucky and managed to secure full time employment in a private school in an administration role. I worked my way into different positions over the next couple of years, all in admin/support roles but none of them ever sparked any fires within me. When an event photographer cancelled last minute, I volunteered to help out as photography and videography was a hobby of mine. The materials I produced ended up on the headline article of a national newspaper website. I was amazed that through speaking to the right people and with the right outreach, the marketing manager had managed to get us such incredible exposure. Over the next year I worked exclusively for the marketing department making and designing materials for the website and social channels. I learned how to use Google Analytics and started writing reports and making recommendations. I wanted to make sure the materials I was producing were reaching the right audiences and that they were engaging. I had stumbled into digital marketing, and I loved it.


I knew that digital marketing was what I wanted to start a career in, and after completing the Squared Online digital marketing course, I applied for a job at a digital marketing agency. The second I walked through the door, I knew that this was where I had to work. I enquired as to the shouting, singing and swearing and was simply told “that’s our agency”. After my first day, I knew I had made the right choice. The agency was filled with so many like-minded people and the work was incredible. We were working with some incredible brands and the freedom to explore ideas and make mistakes was both liberating and extremely rewarding.

But after just 5 months in the job I was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer. After feeling settled and starting work for a dream client, I simply had the rug pulled from under my feet and my world was turned upside down. I was desperate to keep working, but this just wasn’t possible due to the side effects of the treatment. There’s a lot of very difficult things to overcome when undergoing cancer treatment. I found that not being at work was one of those things.

But for me, this is where I saw the true nature of the agency environment. It’s light hearted and fun, and there are always jokes flying around. A lot of the work we do requires deep concentration and I believe that the fun atmosphere helps us get through some tough days. When it came to my tough days, I was simply overwhelmed with the support I received. Not just the ‘I can’t believe it, you’ll get through this’ type texts that flood in after the first few days after being diagnosed. My friends from work supported me through every step of my 7 month journey to remission. I had gift packages sent home, videos and pictures from the office constantly sent to me, people come around just to sit and play playstation with me, and they took me out for food as soon as I was well enough to eat. I quickly learned that I don’t have colleagues, but friends that I’m lucky enough to work with.

When something as serious as my situation arises, it highlights the bonds between people that I truly believe can only be made in this type of environment. Agency work is demanding, but it requires us to constantly think quickly and often outside of the box. It requires us to understand difficult situations and to learn and adapt quickly to overcome them. But perhaps most importantly the culture absolutely encourages us to support each other and help in any way that we possibly can. I found out that this didn’t just mean inside of work hours and inside of the agency walls. I’m truly grateful for the culture that has been instilled where I work, and I’m looking forward to many, many more years of it.


About The Author

PaulPaul Hunter is a Digital Account Coordinator at Liberty Marketing in Cardiff. He is a data geek and can often be found surrounded by spreadsheets and graphs trying to make sense of them. Other less geeky hobbies include playing guitar, rugby and photography.


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This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.
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