How Helen Wylde got ahead

My worst job was while I was at university where I managed to talk myself into a part-time job as a gardener for a very well-off family in Cheshire; the garden was wonderful but at that stage I couldn’t tell the difference between a weed and flower without a manual! I spent most of my time trying not to crash the ride on lawn mower into the garden pond complex.

Name: Helen Wylde
Company: ADT Fire and Security
Job title: Marketing and consumer sales director, UK?

What made you want to get into marketing?
I wanted to apply the sales experience I had gained from being on the frontline in my first role as a commercial manager to make perfect customer experiences. Ones that are real and saleable, based on customer insights.

How did you get into the industry (including relevant qualifications and professional training)?
I have a BA in History & Classics. Plus I am currently studying for my MBA, which thankfully, seems to confirm everything I’ve learned on the hoof so far!

Initially I was in commercial and account management and customer care management, but my first job in the industry was as marketing manager for Vodafone. This was during the early and very exciting days. I worked on every aspect of the marketing mix from creating commercial sales tool kit and bids, to launching the then relatively unknown mobile date capability GPRS. There were no rules, it was a department full of intelligent and entrepreneurial personalities, and I loved it! I’ve never looked back.

What was good and bad about your first job?
Good: I suppose I consider Vodafone my first true marketing role and when I joined, the mobile telecoms industry was in a truly innovative phase. We were given the freedom to do anything to make the business work, to engage with the customers about mobile data products that they didn’t even realise they needed yet. To be at the cutting edge like that was thrilling.

Bad: To work in that type of environment you need to put in the hours and that was probably the only down side. But, I’m sure everyone experiences that at one time or other in their career. Things could have been a lot worse so I wouldn/t have missed the experience for anything!

List your jobs to date:
Commercial manager, McCormick EMEA
Marketing manager, Vodafone
Head of business data propositions, Vodafone
Head of corporate marketing, O2
Marketing and consumer sales director, ADT

What were the best and worst, and why?
Best: I would have to say what I’m doing now – don?t we all! But, to be honest ADT is at a really exciting stage. It hasn’t happened yet, but I truly believe we are changing the way people think about home security and protection, and that’s something I genuinely feel passionate about. When you boil it down I know that we protect and save lives because as a company we care – that’s worthwhile!

Worst: My worst job was while I was at university where I managed to talk myself into a part-time job as a gardener for a very well-off family in Cheshire; the garden was wonderful but at that stage I couldn’t tell the difference between a weed and flower without a manual! I spent most of my time trying not to crash the ride on lawn mower into the garden pond complex.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Apart from a few ‘secret inspirations’ that are best kept that way, Richard Branson is someone whose approach I find truly inspiring. He has always had the guts to do what other people wouldn’t dare to and he’s always made it fun. His brand has never become dull, he’s kept things fresh and that’s a terrific lesson learned for the industry. Virgin is a great example of how a business can be led by marketing rather than finance.

Who in the industry do you most admire?
Colin McDougall – director of marketing at Vodafone who gave me my first job. From the day I joined the company he allowed me to do as much as I wanted to without reigning me in. There was so much trust, it was an inspirational environment to work in.

What is your biggest achievement to date?
The launch of mobile data cards at Vodafone. When I joined there was technology available to us that hadn?t even been used yet. We could see what it gave the customer but the customer wasn?t aware what it would do for them. Watching people?s eyes open to the possibilities was a wonderful experience.?

On what do you base your success so far?
I believe you need to get stuck in – you can[t wait for the good stuff to start happening. I never allow myself, or my team, to say ‘I can’t do that.

I have also had a few lucky breaks. Sometimes we are not very good at admitting that, but it’s true for most of us.

Coming from an account management background has also given me a very clear focus on what the customer actually wants.

What are your ambitions?
At ADT my aim is to use my experience and knowledge of what customers want to create a brand that makes people feel secure, protected and that they are getting great value. I want to ADT to offer the best customer experience so that they can relax and know we will always be there for them.

Personally, to be the best that I can be without dancing on anyone else?s toes and in my own right – you don’t get any second chances in this life.

Change one thing about your job:
A 28-hour day would be nice

Change one thing about your industry:
Put the customer at the heart of everything we do, because at the moment that doesn’t happen enough.

Change one thing about the world:
We need to get people to slow down, think more about what they are doing and saying to breed better understanding. To have a wonderfully multi-cultural society is a real gem but we don’t slow down enough to appreciate it. 

What is your favourite brand?
I think Mercedes is a favourite – everything they do from the way they design their cars to the way they treat you as a customer is consistent with their brand. Whenever you get into one of their models you really feel as if you are getting an experience not just a car. I also think Innocent, a brand backed by really creative people who took the ‘never say never’ approach, is a fantastic inspiration.

What is the next big brand in your view?
It’s got to come from the internet – it probably doesn’t even exist yet but something that offers a completely new and different experience.

List your ‘media diet’:
Lots of Radio 4, and The Economist. That makes me sound very worthy but I love the quirky little stories that you get in the midst of all the sound business insights!

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