The AdSchool Graduate Program is one of the best ways to get equipped with the right skills for a solid foundation to a career in advertising, and this year for the first time, course participants will benefit from the mentoring, guidance and support of a Program Chair. Kate Silver, Group Account Director at Leo Burnett, takes on the Melbourne Program Chair role for 2020 – we caught up with her to pick her brains about the position, the program, and our industry. 

TCC: What are some qualities that you look for in graduates?

Kate: Arrrggghhh, so many things I look for, but I’ve tried to narrow it to a pretty chunky top five:

  1. Do they have a perspective on ads they love, or hate?  Creative is subjective, and I think we should all be able to have an opinion on what we like, why it’s good or vice versa.  To me, this instantly signals intelligence and passion for the creative product.
  2. Are they problem solvers with a healthy dose of resilience and positivity and ambition?  Especially in account service, I look for people who can adapt to lots of different situations and people, collaborate and connect with others.  It’s a people business, so you need some pretty excellent ‘people skills’.   
  3. Do they have a sense of integrity and care?  Without trust, no partnership can survive.  Account managers who are open, who say what they mean, and always treat everyone with respect and empathy, will be trusted and valued both by agency and client alike.
  4. Will they consistently and innately go the extra mile?  Brimming with enthusiasm, capacity and commitment to deliver – willing to do that little bit more because it makes all the difference. 
  5. Do they seem like they’ll be a good cultural and personality fit for the team and agency?  You’ve gotta be able to have a laugh and get on with others!

TCC: What can graduates expect from the program this year? What will be your role as Chair?
Kate: An excellent ‘cast’ of talent to hear and learn from – people with real experience and insight into the industry.  There are some exceptional people with amazing experience, which, for me, I wish I had access to when I first thought about advertising.  A great cross section of topics to get perspective of how an agency functions, and the role we play for our clients.
Beyond the support and guidance I will bring, I hope I can offer a real perspective about the other side of advertising, and that is how we interact, work with and create impact for our clients.  I think it’s helpful for all grads to understand not only the ins and outs of agency life, but also how all of us have a role to play in creating amazing partnerships, because that’s when the best work is made.

TCC: What were some of your career highlights in 2019?
Kate: I was fortunate enough to go on the Comms Council Industry Leadership 3-day course.  The pace and volume of work means that we VERY rarely get time to hang out and think about the impact we are having, our personal leadership styles and how we can shape the industry.  Three days listening to the very best practitioners in our industry was exceptionally inspiring – I’d recommend this to anyone lucky enough to get the backing to go.

TCC: You studied arts/PR at university. What prompted you to shift into the world of advertising?
Kate: When I finished Year 12, I missed out on getting into the PR degree at RMIT. Determined it was my calling, I persisted and persisted.  After getting everybody from my School Principal to work experience referees to endorse me, they finally relinquished and let me in. What my PR degree instilled in me was a high degree of rigour and craft in writing and effective communication. But while it gave me an excellent appreciation for marketing and comms, I never liked the idea of pitching for meaningless and irrelevant stories, which seemed to be all that PR consultants did. After finishing at RMIT, I left knowing a career in PR wasn’t for me.

I’d always loved comedy and film, and like anyone with an interest in marketing, I really, really loved great, funny, insightful ads. Mark Green [TCC Chair and The Monkeys founder] was a close friend with my now husband, and Mark was the first to float a career in advertising. When we spoke about the work he was doing with his then client Toyota and RTA at Saatchi & Saatchi, I thought this was more my speed.  No pitching for meaningless stories, rather, brands engaging clever people to make them famous and buy their products. With Mark’s help, I was fortunate enough to land a gig at Saatchi & Saatchi in Sydney.

TCC: How did you break into the competitive world of advertising?
Kate: I worked hard to make an impression. I missed my flight home just so I could hang around and meet the person who’d have the final say in hiring me.

The 2020 Graduate Program kicks off on 24 March. We’ll train your junior talent so they can hit the ground running in 2020! Update: Due to COVID-19 we have postponed our Grad Program. Please check back in 2021.