Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

No such thing as one direction: going backwards can sometimes mean a leap forward

Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

When I left First Internet, it genuinely felt like leaving home for the first time. I was 25 years old and had joined the agency five years earlier to head up the SEO department – and loved it.

The company had a wonderful atmosphere, but I’d reached the stage in my career when I felt that it might be time to spread my wings, learn different skills and expose myself to a wider variety of clients. And so I did, for a few years: I left to try things on my own. I enjoyed it, but after another five years, I was lured back to First Internet by my fellow directors, Scott Baxter and Kat Rodway.

Was it the right thing to do, to go backwards? Working with old colleagues and clients, but in a different role? There were questions, I can’t lie. I worried how much the company would have changed, whether my return would be welcomed and whether what I’d learnt in the interim years would be transferable.

It turns out, it was the best thing I ever did. I’d learned a lot running my own business for the first time, and thanks to great work mentors and welcoming colleagues, Kat, Scott and I quickly settled into our new dynamic and successfully completed an MBO in 2019. We have have since grown the agency to almost 20 staff, winning nine awards and gaining a raft of new clients. I can say, without hesitation, that without the experience learnt from those interim years, I would have found my return, helping to run the agency, much more of a challenge.  Those years were essential to my success, and the success of the agency.

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Careers can be fluid

As an older millennial, I grew up thinking a career path was more linear. Boomers and Gen Xers had traditionally stayed in careers that took a more traditional trajectory and moved with less risk, with a different focus and priority. Things are different now. The average person will work for over 50 years, so there’s no need to stick to a pre-planned path if it isn’t working. Younger generations come into the workplace looking for new and varied experiences. We retain our team because of our great training, credentials and community, but recognise that people move on. Things change. I didn’t originally plan to work in tech at all – my career began in more traditional PR and copywriting, but as the world of media changed around me, I realised my passions lay in content that could be shared online and used to build brands, drive traffic and enable businesses to grow.

In the time I’ve working in digital marketing, I’ve seen it grow exponentially and it’s fantastic to see the quality of content that is delivered by brands as well as the wealth of talent that is constantly coming into the profession. As the metaverse drives this progress and we see the continuing diversification of social media, boom of e-commerce and everyday impact of AI,  there will be even more opportunities for us to build effective, creative and strategic online campaigns for our clients – and I can’t wait.

Going backwards can sometimes be the best thing. Anyone can switch path, move professions or change direction, at any time: the tech industry is constantly changing. As long as you have the right colleagues and mentors, a change really can be as good as a rest: bringing fresh insights, invigorated attitudes and new ambitions to your career path.

Julaine SpeightAbout the author

Julaine Speight is a director at First Internet, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Manchester. First Internet’s services include website design and development, UX design, SEO, social media management and content marketing, and its global client portfolio includes PZ Cussons, Peak AI, Sew Direct and Citation.