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How I Became: Gemma Rourke, Account Director, SUPERSONIC

Gemma Rourke, Account Director, SUPERSONIC

Gemma Rourke is account director at SUPERSONIC, a creative agency based in Leeds.

Over the past 10 years, she has worked both agency and client side across China, Germany, Leeds and London.

Now at new agency SUPERSONIC, first launched in 2023, she oversees budgets, client relationships and makes sure everything runs smoothly. From the biggest job challenges to inspirational people, Gemma Rourke shares her career journey and words of advice for those wanting a career in agency land…

How did you first get into your industry?

A uni work placement turned part time job over the summer of 2013 threw me into the world of work at HOME agency. I joined a world where work really didn’t feel like work.

What do you love about your job?

I get to work across a bit of everything – different industries, clients and projects and being someone who likes to try new things and ask lots of questions, it’s never been boring. My job has given me the freedom to work all over the world in companies big and small with budgets big and small, each with their own perks and pits and it’s given me a really big outlook on how different work looks and goes… and life too!

Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?

Dud, IYKYK, once offered me a new perspective when I told him in the middle of one of my account manager meltdown moments that I felt “like a Jack of all trades but master of none.” He finished off the saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than a master of one.”

Theresa Lindsay, marketing director at Novuna, has been a bit of an unofficial mentor to me too and if she reads this will see for the first time. She encouraged me to never stop asking questions, to stand up for what I believe, and taught me a thing or two about being resilient and keeping my emotions in tact.

What are the biggest challenges about your job?

Things don’t often go to plan and change around a lot, and being someone who deep down feels most comfortable when in control, with a good plan and having organised everything – that’s a challenge most days. But, thankfully being the typical, first daughter that I am and naturally seeing the positive side of things, I also like finding different ways at something and finding a solution. So,whilst it’s challenging there’s usually a happy ending.

What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?

Asking questions and trying to be unafraid to stand up for what I think or know in a room of much more experienced (or seemingly so) people. I’ve also quite naturally got a ‘why not’ glass half full attitude which I think has led me to take opportunities and chances and see what happens with the ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ mentality (so long as I’ve got a little plan together in my head). I’ve always adopted a very honest and open approach to relationships which has helped me to meet people and keep good relationships over a long period of time and in this industry, relationships are everything.

What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?

£18,000 in 2014 which I thought was LOADS of money, and was pretty good for starting out in the North at the time. I’d expect someone starting out as an account executive in a creative agency to be somewhere in the region of £25,000 today.

What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?

If I did things again, I would go straight into work and skip uni – if you’re thinking about solely the industry experience side of things. I’ve learnt what I should do and shouldn’t do from good (and bad) people around me who I looked up to, or didn’t want to become like. You don’t learn that from books so whilst uni brought me independence, money management and the best of friends, it didn’t have too much of an affect on my career, I’d say, other than ticking the higher education box.

What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?

Don’t look to follow someone else’s path, in my experience and hearing from those closest to me, it’s a chain of events and circumstances and hard to replicate for that reason. So long as you’re staying curious and open to opportunities and different ways into things, you’ll be fine. Staying curious, asking questions and being open minded (with a plan B in mind!) has always landed me in good places, so that would be my word of advice.

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