Ingrid Williamson is the Marketing Manager for Wagamama. After studying a Sales and Marketing degree in Australia, she headed for the bright lights of London and soon found herself working for one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the UK.
What did you study at university?
When I finished school I went travelling around North and South America, I took three years off to work and travel. I then went home to study a degree in Sales and Marketing at Victoria University in Melbourne and graduated in 2001.
Despite not liking all the subjects, I found they benefited me enormously. An example being my dislike for statistics, but having stuck it out and passing I’ve found it’s extremely beneficial and vital to aspects of my job today.
I also learnt about digital and online marketing, which is something we use at Wagamama. You can do some really clever things. I am constantly excited by technology and what we can do with it as it is evolving daily and I am regularly surprised and always learning.
Do you think taking time out benefited you?
At school I would talk to guidance counsellors and even though I knew what subjects I liked and didn’t like, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I think it’s great if you know what you want to do and are ready to get straight into it – if not then I would strongly suggest some time to experience life – travelling changed my life, it gave me an enormous amount of confidence and insight into the world around me.
When I went back to university I enjoyed it more, which resulted in a better outcome, all because I knew this was what I really wanted to do and was excited about it.
Did you get any work experience?
I had three jobs, which was tough. I worked in a Japanese department store, which I loved and made some great friends whom I still see today. I was also fortunate enough to help out with some of their campaign work, quite minor marketing stuff but it gave me a great insight at that age. I also had the joy of the graveyard shift at a service station, not great but I was able to earn some great money, which all helped out towards travelling.
Finally I worked for my dad for a while. He’s an architect and I would help him with things in the office. It seemed a bit boring at the time, but I picked up some useful skills. For example, I worked on a design programme CAD, which we now use at Wagamama.
Why did you choose marketing?
I like to think I am quite a creative person who also loves taking something that’s not working and making it work. I love the success of marketing products/services and what you can do with it. I think I might struggle to work for a huge corporation, because one of the best things about working for this company is that you can walk in on Monday morning with ideas and, as long as you can back them up, they’re taken seriously.
It’s also far-reaching and I think having the power to inform and influence people is very cool.
How did you end up at Wagamama?
I saw the job advertised and knew it was the perfect role for me and when I found out it was for Wagamama I was over the moon, as I have always loved the brand and been a huge fan of the delicious noodles. I’ve been here about three and a half years now and still love it everyday.
Why is it a good place to work?
A combination of things, we are encouraged to be yourself at work, our chairman always tells us “you shouldn’t have to come to work and have to put your Wagamama face on, just come and be yourself”.
We have the freedom to express ourselves and are encouraged to be experimental and to not be afraid of making mistakes. Some other benefits include free Wagamama; I tend to see my friends a lot more after starting to work here as they benefit from it from time to time as well!
What is a typical day like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day. It can range from more strategic marketing, to helping a particular site or working with all the restaurants on how they can market their restaurant. I am often involved in new product development, national marketing/advertising campaigns, budgets, website development, helping out our marketing team over in the States, or simply having some fun with the team, throwing around ideas and talking about what is going on in the marketing world!
How many people are on your team and what do they do?
We have four people in our team. We’re opening restaurants all over the world and we have to make sure that the brand is recognisable everywhere and that our standards are the same. We have a Marketing Coordinator, who deals mostly with PR and product placement, and a Customer Service Manager, who deals with feedback from diners and also organises the launches of new restaurants.
We also have a Marketing Assistant, who is responsible for looking after our local campaigns, member offers and corporate partnerships. We’re a small team, but very busy.
How difficult is it to recruit into your industry?
To recruit specifically in marketing is not difficult, just time consuming, as it can take time to get the right person, to fit in with the team and company, sometimes it can take hours and other times weeks.
When recruiting in the restaurants it can be a challenge from time to time, again getting the right people and getting people to see hospitality as a long-term career. We are very lucky though, as we have an enormous amount of people in the Wagamama team who have been here for a long time and some since it all started 17 years ago, so we must be doing something right!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I don’t think there is anything specifically I love, but there are some things I love more than others. I guess I enjoy the autonomy and the freedom we have to come up with ideas. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes not, but being able to formulate and execute ideas with the team is a great experience and environment to be in. I also love the people I work with – we have lots of fun – and although the company expects a lot from you, they give it back tenfold.
We’ve just had a huge party for all the staff at Ministry of Sound in London which was great fun – Wagamama believes in investing in people as without us there would be no us.
What’s the most challenging part?
The biggest challenge with a growing business is, maintaining our values and quality. We want our staff and customers to feel as if they are a part of something great and no matter how big or small we become.
We want customers to walk in years after they first tried Wagamama and still find the things they like. We also want to continue to evolve and challenge our customers. We have new customers everyday and old customers coming back and whilst we still want to give them what they want, we also want to change with them and ensure the way we do things is still relevant and exciting.
Can you recall the most satisfying moment in your career so far?
I joined Wagamama as a Marketing Coordinator and was really proud to be promoted to Marketing Manager. There’s been another moment recently that I would love to tell you but its top secret, so watch this space for some great stuff coming out next year!
Have you taken any professional qualifications?
Aside from my Sales & Marketing degree I haven’t gone back to do any professional qualifications. I would definitely consider it if I felt strongly about the subject at hand and felt it would add value to me and what I wanted to do. I do continue to learn and educate myself on a daily basis, it’s important to stay up to date with the industry and the ever evolving world.
How do you keep updated on what’s happening in the industry?
I read a lot, magazines, different mailing lists, but aside from all that I spend a lot of time looking at what’s around. I look at what our competitors are doing; I look at what other sectors are doing and make sure I learn from it all.
We also encourage our general managers to get out and about to see what’s happening in the local area. It’s important to keep up with trends – and not just in marketing. For example, I look out for any technology that may make our restaurants more efficient or environmentally friendly.
What sorts of tasks can a new graduate expect to do in an entry-level marketing role?
To be honest, most first jobs are going to include some of the more mundane stuff like admin and making coffee, setting up meeting etc but don’t dismiss that, you can learn so much – remember “knowledge is power”! so take it all in and don’t be afraid to speak your mind, take risks and work hard.
Any advice for people wanting to get into marketing?
Don’t be afraid of working your way up, trust your instincts and do everything with passion. Don’t be restricted by rules and give everything a go.
What are the top three qualities you need to succeed?
Passion, honesty and communication. Marketing can be tough – but if you believe in yourself and abilities and ready to stick it out, then the world is your oyster!
Someone once said to me that everyone else does the hard work and marketing ‘just makes it look pretty’. We do so much more than that!
We are involved in the strategy and planning of the whole business. We talk to customers just as much as our restaurant staff or salespeople; we just talk to them in a different way. Marketing can be very powerful if done well!
How has the industry changed since you started your career?
There are so many more platforms of communication; it’s sometimes hard to keep up! Technology and innovation has changed the way us marketers can talk to our customers, we can be so creative – I love it! I think the key is to keep things simple, make them relevant and make sure you are using strong messaging. Markets are filled with so much clutter, and people are a lot savvier to the message, so it’s our job to ensure what we are doing is clear and relevant.
The world is a different place and it’s tough, but as long as we continue to take risks and have fun then it will only get better.
What does the future hold?
I have no idea, if only we all knew! I would like to think my career will still be in marketing as I love it – my job is great as is Wagamama so I will stay here until I can’t see how I can add any more value to the business. Then who knows…