Microsoft: Tech means marketing is now a career option for more people

Generation Exchange: Microsoft’s Paul Davies and Steven Woodgate believe technology means young people with learning difficulties have more opportunities in marketing.

Marketing has not always been the most inclusive industry or considered a career option for people with conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, says Paul Davies, consumer marketing director at Microsoft. But as technology evolves and support improves, it is opening the door for more young people.

However, more must be done to remove the stigma of such learning difficulties, says Steven Woodgate, Surface and HoloLens UK marketing lead at Microsoft, who has both dyslexia and dyspraxia.

“We did an amazing campaign last year based on an insight that 61% of students in five years’ time will be in jobs that don’t exist today, which gives kids like myself opportunities. Technology isn’t just about cool gadgets, it’s as much about sociology and psychology, how people use it, and creativity.”

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Davies says he didn’t know Woodgate had dyslexia or dyspraxia when he hired him. It was only after working together for a while that Woodgate told him.

“It’s incredible Steven has overcome those difficulties and is working in a communications role at one of the biggest brands on the planet. It’s an amazing case study for other people to show that you can realise your potential and overcome obstacles to pursue the career you want.”

It’s easy to get jaded when you’ve worked on many campaigns, but when you see people tackle challenges for the first time it reminds you why you’re in the profession

Paul Davies, Microsoft

Woodgate was not diagnosed until he was 22 and says he was always penalised at school and told he was stupid. “What I’ve learned is that it takes practice and education. I can read a book in about three hours now because I’ve learned to skim read, so I can take in a lot of information in a short space of time, but I can’t spell to save my life. So technology is amazing for that. It’s about giving people the tools they need to help them,” he says.

With regard to creativity, Davies says Woodgate is “exceptional at creative ideation and having big, bold ambitious plans”, which in turn raises his game. “It’s easy to get jaded when you’ve worked on many campaigns, but when you see people tackle challenges for the first time it reminds you why you’re in the profession and why you love it,” says Davies.

“Steven will tackle it in his own way and I learn from that; I learn from his approach.”

This knowledge exchange and new way of thinking are all the more important today, says Davies, as creativity has become “devalued” in the marketing discipline.

“We’ve obsessed over the data and science side of the profession and I’m starting to see a swing back to recognising creativity as an organisational capability, which is required to digitally re-transform businesses to adapt to consumers’ needs.”

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