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How I Became: Sarah Williams, Associate Director, Ortus

Sarah - Ortus

Sarah Williams is associate director at Ortus, a paid marketing agency specialising in performance growth through paid search, social and display.

As part of performance marketing group N21 Group, Ortus is one of the group’s three specialist agencies – including NORTH and Silverbean – headquartered in Newcastle.

Initially joining as a senior paid marketing manager in 2018, Williams was promoted to associate director in 2020. 

With over a decade of paid marketing experience under her belt, she has led on countless successful campaigns including PPC management for Clarks across all major European markets, where she delivered the brand’s biggest Back to School period for two consecutive years.

She shares her career journey, tips and advice…


How did you first get into your industry?

Fresh out of my marketing degree from university, I joined a local ecommerce and marketing company as a PPC executive.

What do you love about your job?

The industry itself firstly… since I began in paid marketing (many many years ago!), I’ve loved how fast paced the industry is and forever evolving, new platforms and features being released left, right and centre, new ideas and concepts on strategy frequently as the platforms do evolve, as well as understanding how that all comes together with the bigger picture across all other marketing channels for success.

The industry definitely keeps you on your toes but I wouldn’t have it any other way as someone who loves constantly being challenged and wanting to develop! Secondly, the people I’ve met and have the pleasure of being around daily in my role! I work with some seriously talented people who all support each other and push each other on. You spend so much time of your life working in your job, so to be surrounded by great people who are just lovely to work with make my job a lot easier (and fun!).

What are the biggest challenges about your job?

Challenges are forever coming my way in terms of how platforms in paid marketing channels develop – there’s certainly never a dull day in this job! As new platform updates are released, whether it be the sunsetting of Universal Analytics in favour of GA4, new campaign or ad types being released etc, or privacy updates, there is always challenges coming my way (and my teams!) on understanding these, getting plans in place for these, which often involves changes to initial strategies and rolling these out.

Another big challenge is the change in landscape via external factors outside of our control, things like a global pandemic, a recession, brands seeing huge increases in costings for things like materials or delivery options. All of which impact what we do from a paid marketing perspective, so its crucial myself and the team are proactive with all of these and adapt quickly with our amazing bunch of clients to give them the best chance of success.

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

Communication has always been a crucial skill for me, and with that ensuring I’m clear and transparent with my message to whoever I’m speaking with. This has really helped me so far in my career in building great relationships and trust amongst peers, those I manage and our clients. Another crucial skill is having awareness.

I feel this has got me where I am today by really listening clients on their needs and seeing things from their business perspective. This has allowed me to adapt our service delivery and tailor our deliverables where needed to integrate seamlessly within their business to deliver great results.

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

Wow that is going back some years now! From memory, I believe I started out on £16,000. Nowadays for that same starting role I was in, someone would be on roughly £20,000.

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

There’s a few different routes I’d suggest for this sort of career path.

University (in a business/marketing degree) is a great option which gives you not only some theory behind marketing as a discipline, but skills you don’t even realise you’re gaining whilst you’re on the course like communicating, presenting, writing – which all come in so handy in the career path I am in!

University isn’t for everyone, and there’s definitely other routes for this career path. Getting experience in paid marketing is a great way of stepping in to this industry – whether that is through apprenticeships, shadowing someone in the industry or even gaining experience in a broader type of digital marketing first, to get an understanding of the industry.

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

For anyone wanting to follow my career path, my biggest bit of advice is finding the type of marketing you love to work on – it 100% shows through in your work and communication and having that passion really drives you forward throughout your career path.

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