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What I’ve Learnt: Katie Turnbull, Marketing Manager, Dark Horse

Katie Turnbull, Dark Horse

Katie Turnbull works as Marketing Manager at Manchester-based digital agency Dark Horse.

Dark Horse, which featured as one of the Top 50 Digital Agencies for 2022, works across SEO, PPC and paid social with brands including Jura Watches, Maximuscle, Superbike Factory and Kitchen Knives.

Initially starting out in the industry as a marketing apprentice, Turnbull joined Dark Horse at the very beginning of the agency’s journey.

She shared some of the lessons she has learnt…


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

That first cup of tea when I get into the office. Can’t start the day without it.

What has been your luckiest break?

Being at the very start of Dark Horse’s inception. I started my marketing career as an apprentice and I had only been working for 12-18 months before my first role was made redundant. From there, I joined a business called Databroker under its Managing Director, John Keating. It quickly became clear to me that John had big plans for the digital industry.

Unhappy with the results he was receiving from “award-winning” digital agencies, he created the difference he wanted to see. Enter Dark Horse. Being part of Dark Horse’s growth, from concept to implementation, building a team from nine people to 25 and gaining trust from companies, including known-brands, has been incredibly rewarding and something I may not experience again.

What is your best failure?

Most don’t like to admit that they fail, but we all do and that’s okay. I certainly do. I’m still young and relatively early in my career. I’m going to make mistakes, it’s how you deal with it that is the important thing. Every mistake is a new opportunity to learn and develop and there is nothing wrong with that.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Maybe not your typical “investment” but I’d say going to Japan as part of my 21st birthday. It had been a life-long dream to go for me and my twin sister. It took time and meticulous planning in order to make the dream a reality. Budgeting, timings, deadlines, barriers (in this case of the language kind), these are all aspects which is useful in both my working and personal life.

Japan was an incredible place, it was hard to not get inspired by their culture and was just the break which was needed. Achieving this dream will always be a good investment.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’m not much of a reader (must do better) but I’m currently reading ‘Does my son take sugar? An Irish mother’s memoir’ by Eithne Ring. This is an incredibly personal and powerful book to me, as this is a story written by a family member in Ireland. The book details the awful times when children born out of wedlock or by young mothers were placed into forced adoption. The memoir talks about her experience, what it was like to find her son again after many years searching and how slowly but surely, they became a part of each other’s lives again.

I always believe we shouldn’t forget about the past. History teaches us things, both the good and the bad. This book, in particular, is a piece of history I never really knew about other than the few murmurs here or there but it happened. It’s hard to imagine something like this happening now but this wasn’t that long ago – we’re talking the 80’s – shocking to think about.

Yes, this might be niche but it’s a truly great read about love, scandal, regret, reunion and overcoming times of adversity.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t be so hard on yourself all the time. Mistakes really aren’t the end of the world. You’re doing ok!

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

My colleagues. Now I know that might seem like a cliché but they really do make all the difference. We’re such a tight-knit group. All of us want to see each other do well and ultimately, see Dark Horse become a success. I love coming into the office and seeing everyone – I think that’s rare.

I do have to shout out specifically my MD, John Keating, for giving me this opportunity many, many moons ago. As I said previously, I was an apprentice starting my first official role. He took a chance on me. He continues to challenge me and never settles. He always pushes for the better. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Secondly, my Head of Marketing Jennifer Szczepaniak Sloane. I think she’s incredible! In and out of work she supports, inspires and challenges me to no end (in the best ways). It’s a joy to work with her.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m massively into gaming, have been my whole life really. However, during lockdown I got into Warhammer (a tabletop fantasy game). This was a completely new thing to me, it meant learning the vast rules, building models and learning how to paint the models in their specific styles.

Not an easy task when you have the shakiest hands ever! But I find it very therapeutic to do and great to clear my head. I’m hoping sometime soon I will get to play an actual game with other players now lockdown restrictions have ended.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

I think it’s given more flexibility. People have more options to work where they feel comfortable and the hours that suit them.

What does success look like to you?

I think for me personally, the ultimate success is loving what you do and have fun whilst you’re doing it. Being happy not just in work but in life too. Additionally, success is seeing Dark Horse grow, seeing the team continue to achieve and also developing further in my career.

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