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Digital Mums "I can't believe how far I have come after being 'just a mum' for the last six years"

"I can't believe how far I have come after being 'just a mum' for the last six years"

Meet Kerry Dougal, one of our awesome Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme graduates. We realise we say this a lot about our grads, but she is another mum who is absolutely smashing her #WorkThatWorks Life! Since graduating nearly one year ago she has been working consistently with really varied and interesting clients. So it's over to Kerry, who previously worked in internal communications. to share her Digital Mum story on how she went from a nervous student with just a hint of imposter syndrome to the social media star she is now (and she gets to do the school run every day!)...

"Let me just start by saying that I wasn’t a particularly high-flying career girl back in the day. I had worked at the BBC in Scotland for almost 12 years, I started as a temp on the switchboard (y’know, while I decided what I was going to do for a ‘real’ job!) and ending up as a Facilities Manager, coordinating service lines and internal comms for major events at BBC HQ in Glasgow. I loved my job; it was busy, the hours were anti-social, but every other week I saw live bands and met excited studio audiences. 

Along the way, my partner moved to London for a job, insisting he would return to Glasgow as soon as the job market in Scotland picked up…three years and many Easyjet flights later I realised he wasn’t coming back(!) and made the decision to move down to be with him. I successfully applied for an internal role on a new web project based at White City and two months later I was riding the Tube to work and embracing London life. So far, so good. 

Aaaaand then I fell pregnant. Turns out telling your new boss that you are expecting a baby, only four months into a new job, really IS incredibly uncomfortable, who knew?! But they were fantastically supportive and a few months on, I set my ‘Out of Office’ email message to read “I am now out of the office for 12 months!” It felt wonderful; I shared my glee on Facebook and said cheerio to my colleagues, vowing to bring the baby into the office and keep in touch with everyone during my maternity year.

Nine months later I was made redundant. 

Digital Mums "I can't believe how far I have come after being 'just a mum' for the last six years"

Coping with redundancy 

In actual fact, I was kind of relieved at the time. My son Reuben, now six, was a joy but I’ll admit that I struggled with new motherhood way more than I thought I would. Added to this I had only just moved to London when I fell pregnant so I didn’t know anyone. I had no support network and my family and friends were hundreds of miles away in Scotland, so with no childcare help and a long and costly commute I wouldn’t have broken even on my salary. Only years later, free from new mum anxiety, did I start to wonder if I had said goodbye to my career too easily, but ultimately, back then, I had no choice.

I had my second child, Phoebe, now four, almost two years later and we found ourselves stuck in a situation where we couldn’t afford for me not to work, but with childcare and London commuting costs at my salary level, we also couldn’t afford for me to go back to work. Local part-time jobs were uninspiring, menial and low-paid. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby to take an unfulfilling job for no tangible benefit to our income. It was then that I read about Digital Mums. Like many new mums, far away from family and friends, I relied quite heavily on social media to keep me connected to the real world; to the news; to my favourite authors and brands; to my friends. Social media can humanise brands. As a consumer you can hear real voices; you can connect in real time with myriads of organisations and people to whom you would otherwise have no access. That can be incredibly powerful and, in my low new-mum moments, I found it wonderfully inclusive. I devoured every blog and snippet of information on the Digital Mums course until finally, three years and a move to Yorkshire later, it was the right time for our family and I signed up last year.

Digital Mums "I can't believe how far I have come after being 'just a mum' for the last six years"

Doing the Digital Mums training 

The Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme, is designed for mums with marketing, PR and communications backgrounds and although I had worked in internal comms previously, I had been out of the workplace for six years. I felt terrified that everyone would be SO much better and know SO much more than I did. Confidence in myself and my professional abilities had all but dried up. But Digital Mums, as well as being a kick-ass strategic social media training company, is all about the community and you immediately feel part of a pretty special group of supportive women. The course is structured to take you through every part of designing a real social media campaign, you create, curate, analyse and refine with tutorial videos, written lessons and assignments along the way to keep you on track.

The live learning aspect was the deal clincher for me in applying for this course. From the start you are paired with a real small business or charity and over the six months of the course you take over their channels and learn by doing, which we all know is THE best and easiest way to learn. I ran a brand awareness campaign for my programme partner, a small, niche recruitment agency struggling to attract candidates. Throwing myself into an industry I knew nothing about was a challenge and the workload felt, at times, overwhelming but remember I mentioned that community of supportive women? Another unique aspect of the Digital Mums experience is that you are put into a peer group of four or five amazing superwomen who go on the journey with you; you have weekly hangouts and daily (okay, almost minute-by-minute!) whatsapp chats; these women become your squad and you’ll wonder if you will ever make it through a day of work in the real world without messaging them!

There were definite highs and lows; tears and virtual high-fives from each one of us in my group along the way. At times the coursework: creating and curating content, assignments, client management, influencer engagement, scheduling, was all-consuming and there were moments I felt that I was drifting very far from the work-life balance I had hoped to achieve. But, in learning, as in life, you get out what you put in and I’m proud now that I pushed myself and achieved huge leaps in reach and engagement on my programme partner’s channels.

Digital Mums "I can't believe how far I have come after being 'just a mum' for the last six years"

What my work life looks like now 

I finally graduated in July 2017 - hurrah! I had learned my Hootsuite from my Buffer, my created ads from my boosted posts. I knew what happened IFThisThenThat and how to survive a frenetic Tweetchat Hour. Looking back I can’t believe how far I have come after being ‘just a mum’ for the last six years.

So, with some trepidation, but thankfully with a lot of confidence and excitement, I officially become a Freelance Social Media Manager and entered the #DMCollective, an online forum for all Digital Mums graduates. I love this community so much and it's excellent for any business who takes on a trained Digital Mum as their Social Media Manager. It means they effectively get the support and knowledge of every Digital Mum that passes the course — that’s got to be the ‘bang for your buck’ that most SME’s are looking for, right?

So the flexible #WorkThatWorks dream is now a reality. All the study hours have been worth it. And I have had many different clients. Straight away I took on two clients, The Christmas Decorators 
and Just Good Food. I also now have a social media management contract with Apollo Blinds and I have written a developed social media strategies for a couple of local businesses including a friend of mine who is a family photographer. I am also about to run a short social media brand awareness campaign for a natural, vegan nut-butter business, Nutural World. There is a lot going on! 

I now work my own hours, at home, I can walk my kids to school and nursery every morning and collect them every afternoon. Just recently my son got to look up and see me cheering him on at his very first school sports day and I knew in that moment that choosing to become a Digital Mum had been the absolute right decision."  

We are currently taking applications for the June cohort of our Social Media Management; Associate Programme. Find out more here. Do get in touch if you would like information on any of our latest courses today!  

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