For our Associate Programme, you run a live social media campaign with one of our amazing programme partners. Starting a new journey to find #WorkthatWorks can often be challenging but our incredible graduates learn to #DotheHustle, overcome any hurdles and become successful Social Media Managers. This couldn’t be more true for Aline, one of our awesome Digital Mums. You can read her emotional guest blog below.
Little did I know when I signed up for the Social Media Marketing Associate Programme with Digital Mums that, six months down the line, I’d be swapping boxing tips with First Dates’ Fred Siriex and eagerly looking forward to the next Anthony Joshua fight. How did I — a marketing manager with zero prior knowledge of boxing — get here?
I became a mum to a gorgeous girl in 2010, and I loved being a mum. It wasn’t quite as blissful as I had envisaged in my head though. I was told I was lucky to be alive on the day my daughter was born. I suffered from severe haemorrhage due to a retained placenta, losing 3/4 of my entire blood. My daughter was diagnosed with DDH (Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip) when she was five months old and was in a ‘hip spica cast’ for three months. My husband lost his dad around that time to pancreatic cancer. We were going through a difficult time.
I returned from maternity leave, back to work at a large stock image library in their London office, where I had worked for the previous 5 years. I wanted to work four days a week, but was told my role could not be squeezed into a shorter time period. So my maternity replacement carried on replacing me, and I started doing what felt like gap-filler roles that I knew didn’t really fulfil my potential. I was furious but kept my head down — this was the sacrifice I had to make if I wanted to spend more time with my daughter.
Around this time, I went to the doctor with a chest infection and was sent straight to hospital to have an X-ray. They found a cyst on my lung. I ended up having a major operation to have 1/3 of my right lung removed. I was on the ropes.
When I thought our bout of bad luck was finally over, I was made redundant. I wasn’t surprised. But still, it was a blow to my confidence. I knew then that I’d have to make changes to my career: I had recovered from my surgery, but couldn’t cope physically and mentally with the demands of the corporate world, commuting, organising life around childcare, and not being there for my family. I started doing freelance work for smaller businesses, with some social media thrown in. Soon I realised I knew little about it, but also that no one really knew much — not even some of the so-called experts. I heard about Digital Mums through one of the mums from my daughter’s school and thought, this is it, I’m in.
September 2016 came and soon into the course I was introduced to my client. It’s a great proposal: to work with a real life small business whilst learning really appealed to me. I was very excited to find out who my client would be. And there it was — a boxing fitness gym. My first reaction was… really?! Boxing?! My knowledge of boxing went as far as Rocky running up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps (I do love the Rocky films though). I even questioned Digital Mums on how students were matched up — and felt a bit jealous of some of the designer clients my other cohorts had. After speaking to my client, who was lovely, and doing a bit of research about him, I thought — let’s give it a go. Clients in the future will run many different types of businesses, not only businesses about things I love or am interested in. This was my chance to get out of my comfort zone.
I dived deep into researching and learning everything I could about boxing and my client’s past, whilst also learning how to manage two social media channels. My client was Clinton McKenzie, a former British and European Boxing Champion, who is now in his 60s and runs a boxing fitness gym in East Dulwich. He had the coolest archive of images and videos from his heyday; he also had a smattering of celebrity clients, and he gave me the freedom to let me get on with stuff.
My campaign hashtag was #GetUpAndBox, and my goal was to let people know they had access to train with a bonafide champion boxer. We ran a competition — #BoxWithTheChamp — which attracted a healthy number of entries. I found my client’s history incredibly compelling, and once my research started I realised that his fans were amazing. Over and over the feedback was that here was a legend who had previously competed at the Montreal Olympics in ’76, and who professionally boxed at the Royal Albert Hall. When in his pomp in the 1980s, he had even been on the cover of The Face magazine! He gained a new fan.
Two months into the course and I had the worst news I could have ever have. My mum had passed away. Total knock-out. It took me some time to get back on my feet, and the DM team was really supportive. I soon realised that it was better to keep my mind occupied, although at times it was really, really hard.
After the Christmas break, things accelerated to a crazy pace, and I got to the point where I almost threw in my towel. I thought I’d never get to grips with all the tools, the new apps that get thrown at us every lesson, plus content creation and research, scheduling… It was full on. And I was still in mourning. Having my cohort — the group of mums who you work with during the length of the course — there for me at this stage was crucial. We were all feeling the pressure. We supported each other and exchanged learnings and ideas. We became good friends, and I am so grateful for them.
Things really turned for me when I could see with my own eyes how social media can help businesses grow. My client was also excited: he was telling me dozens of new clients were coming through the door. It was a great feeling, knowing I could make social media work for others, and by then I knew I was on the right track.
It turns out life can be a lot like boxing. You get punched, you get dealt some heavy blows, you’re often on the ropes, you get knocked down. But you bounce back, you get back on your feet, you get a second wind and in the ring you find your inner strength so you don’t let yourself down.
Luckily I am still working with Clinton McKenzie and we recently did a photoshoot with him which was really good fun. I have a new client, a diamond jeweller in Hatton Garden. I have also been contacted on LinkedIn for a potential partnership with a digital agency for freelance work and have 2 more clients lined up. I'm over the moon!
If you dread the commute, if you want to spend more time with your family, if you don’t want to be boxed into working hours that don’t make sense, take the leap. Digital Mums are in our corner fighting for those who can’t find flexible, part-time work, and opening the door to #WorkthatWorks.