From GO Wales placement to Head of Department: My Story

By Marion Hirtzig, Orantec

marion-hirtzigMy name is Marion, I have a degree in Technical and Legal Translation (English and Italian to French), and I left my native country, France, and my job as Manager of a tourist board to come and live in Cardiff at the end of August 2012. I discovered GO Wales by chance shortly after arriving, and on 1st November 2012 I started a placement in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing at Orantec, a web development and digital marketing agency based in Cathays, Cardiff. On 1st November 2013, I became Head of Digital Marketing. Here is my story…

Finding the right position

Although you wouldn’t tell at first sight, I am naturally stressed and lack confidence in myself, so finding a new job in a foreign country was a real challenge, with all the questions that go with it: is my English good enough to understand my colleagues and work full time in a foreign environment? What are the expectations of British employers? Another of my problems was that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I love translation but it is a very competitive world and my first experience hurt me too much when I was too young, so I turned to tourism, which is highly interesting, but I am not exactly a people’s person, so being face to face with customers all day was not what I wanted to do for a living. All I knew was that I wanted to use language in an intellectually stimulating position.

However, no matter how good you are – or how good you think you are – when you’re looking for a job, unfortunately, you need someone to trust you and to have faith in your skills, or in your potential to acquire skills. Before finding the GO Wales placement, I had applied for a job as a Business Travel Executive which I was convinced I would be great at – spend 5 years finding last minute accommodation for tourists and you can plan travel for anyone, believe me! –, but I wasn’t hired. Knowing how qualified I was for this job I didn’t get, I was pretty sure I would never be accepted for a placement in Search Engine Optimisation, for which I had little to no skills. I didn’t know much about HTML, CSS and other IT things, but I could write, my level of English was pretty good and I was – and still am – curious and eager to learn new things. So I applied.

The GO Wales placement

It’s always difficult to sell yourself during a job interview when you’re not sure you fit the profile, but somehow I managed to make a good enough impression to be hired (see, self-confidence!). My GO Wales placement lasted 10 weeks, during which time I learnt to write and edit blogs, update social media, learnt some HTML and familiarised myself with Google Analytics and other software that help monitor and analyse websites. There was only one person working full-time in SEO when I joined, and he taught me the basics.

Since I was on a GO Wales placement, I had to complete reflective logs and set objectives I wished to achieve by the end of the period. My 3 objectives were to become a competent SEO consultant, to use SEO software, and to find out if SEO was my dream job. At the end of the placement, I had completed the first two objectives, and was happy to work more on my last objective.

Although the placement was not supposed to lead to a permanent job – I had been warned upfront – I was offered a permanent position before Christmas, which allowed me to spend the festive period without worrying about finding a new position.


From Consultant to Manager

Six months after I first started my placement, my colleague left, while I was just starting to get comfortable, and more importantly while I was still learning the job. He also left without telling me much about the clients and the things he did that I didn’t. As a consequence, not only was I left alone to do the job, I also had to try to fill the gaps, making sure that our clients – my clients – were not penalised. I knew the websites of the clients, but I had never personally liaised with them before. We hired a new person to take his place, but they had to learn the ropes too, so I ended up 6 months into my arrival in charge of pretty much everything. My boss was there to support me, thankfully, but he still has his own work to do, and couldn’t know in detail what my former colleague did.

Making a difference

When you end up in the situation I was in, you have 2 solutions: you either panic and drop everything, or you do your best and make a difference. The first solution was not even an option for me, so I didn’t have much choice: I had to carry on, learn on my own, teach my new colleague, and liaise with the clients, finding out as I went what my former colleague didn’t pass on.

6 months later… a promotion!

Even if passing the torch didn’t go smoothly for me, it did for our clients and I managed to create better relationships with them than my former colleague had. In October, when we started looking for another new team member for Digital Marketing, my boss decided to create an official Department, with me at its head, officially managing things. This was already what I was doing, and my colleague already reported to me, but before a new member arrived we made things official, and that’s how I became Head of Digital Marketing.

Seizing opportunities

I think my becoming Head of Digital Marketing in just a year is a mixture of pure chance, hard work and dedication. If my colleague hadn’t left, he probably would have become manager since he had seniority, and if he hadn’t left me in a dire position, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show my full potential and succeed despite the difficult position I was in.

Furthermore, if I had just dropped everything or hadn’t given my best when I had the occasion, I wouldn’t have been promoted. Another chance I had was to work for a very small company, with a fair employer. When there are only 2 people who could fit a profile, you are much more likely to be chosen, if your employer is fair and doesn’t decide to hire externally.

Without the GO Wales placement, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today, and I can’t thank them enough for this. Placements with the right people can really become amazing, fulfilling experiences with sometimes unexpected consequences, so if you do a GO Wales placement, I say you should give it your all, because you don’t know what can happen, and even though it’s “just” a placement you should take it as seriously as any position.