The Marketing Institute: What does a Board Director at Javelin do?
Kyla O’Kelly: My role is a very varied one. Javelin is a wholly Irish-owned, full service, Creative and Media Agency delivering strategy and planning, advertising, digital and data-led marketing creative and media solutions for some of Ireland’s busiest brands. I directly lead some key accounts and work closely with our strategic planners and client teams to ensure we are delivering the best solutions to the business challenges our clients face. I love innovation and learning and try as much as possible to get involved with our client’s NPD and really relish trying to find new ways of meeting tough commercial and brand goals. I manage the direct and data led marketing side of our business here also. Finally as a Board member I’m part of the team defining the direction we want the agency to take and ensuring we have the best talent possible to get us there.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Kyla: I did a 12 week internship in Javelin as part of a Marketing Diploma straight after a degree in Trinity. I then moved to Brussels and started my professional career with a traineeship programme in the Communications area of the European Commission, followed by working in a public affairs lobbying event organisation. It was a junior Communications officer role, and the company I was with grew rapidly in the time I was there - it was a brilliant few years of learning in a fast moving environment and I was lucky to be allowed lots of freedom and responsibility. At the same time in Dublin, Javelin was also growing, and they offered me an interesting role to move back, working with a really inspirational boss..she however decided to go and travel after a short time and I gradually moved into her role and then onto the Javelin board a couple of years later.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Kyla: It changes regularly. Today, ensuring we place an adequate value on the work we do for our clients and as a result get remunerated for the collective thinking that goes into defining and then delivering the right strategy and work. The second is around finding and keeping the right people - the smart, passionate & interesting ones are in finite supply.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Kyla: Experience is really important at this point in this role understanding what’s possible in any major project or campaign challenge and how to aim to avoid any pitfalls from the outset. An open mind. Diplomacy and negotiating when required and always having a clear point of view on any issue at hand. Personally being able to admit I’m wrong and correct the course to someone else’s more informed better view is an important attribute. People management and (receiving and giving) mentoring are also really important.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
Kyla: A typical working day is a combination of Javelin and home life intersecting (with 2 kids it’s inevitable that it does). There’s the usual tap dancing in the mornings to get them out to school and then on to meetings or my desk – I like the mornings and now there’s a hint of sunshine creeping in that helps too. In Javelin we have work in progress meetings twice a week typically that traffic our work and creative time – we are structured but not so rigid that plans don’t change through the week so those meeting are important. We have clients here in Ireland and globally – so client meetings are done in lots of different ways - face to face of course but increasingly also video calls help shortcut constant email ping pong as campaigns progress. I love writing as part of my role, whether initial approaches to campaign thoughts, or campaign overviews or submissions so will often disappear into a room at the agency, as we work open plan in an old stone warehouse in Smithfield and the debating can get heated. Listening to new ideas, and seeing great work makes me smile and there’s nothing better than presenting something you both like creatively and believe strategically will have a great impact and thankfully that’s regularly part of my day at the office. I have gone back to school recently and am doing the Marketing Institute's Exec Diploma in Digital Strategy at night so that takes up part of my week now. I’m also on the Board of a Charity, “Dress for Success Dublin”, we work to help women that need our support most to get in to the workforce with Career guidance and mentoring/HR help, CV development and interview prep and techniques and we also then suit them for their interview and beyond, so in a given week I could have a board meeting there too.
MII: What do you love most about your role?
Kyla: I like the fact that this world is a mix of commerce, art and science. Our ambition is to deliver ideas, work, that can change our clients’ business so there is a major commercial side of the role and I love seeing the impact our work can have. The art is of course the incredible creative craft. And then science - I have always been a huge user of data – pre and post campaign and can spend hours digging through reports and research for usable bits in our thinking or to set off a new direction.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Kyla: To continue and grow in senior management at Board level. This year Javelin is 30 and I’ll be working on a project where we will mentor and give our talented output to 3 Irish start-ups to give something back of our collective experience in here through the year - so that’s all kicking off now and is exciting and new. I will keep working in the NFP sector giving as much time as I can there too.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
Kyla: There are many specific names of people that have helped me grow in my role, but more usefully; anyone that has an ability to look laterally at a problem and have an open and generous mind to solve it creatively. The clients and colleagues who get and respect the work we do and guide, praise or critique fairly and where possible politely. Anyone who has an ability to pick themselves up following a fall, whether professional or personal and start again. Any full time working mum holding all the bits together.