‘At SCA there are no excuses. The pressure is on. It’s tough but it’s definitely worth it’
Sarah & Agatha graduated from SCA in July 2022 and just three months later, they landed their first full-time job at SCA partner agency VCCP. We quizzed the lovely duo on their creative journey to find out what brought them to SCA and what life is like now as fully fledged creatives.
Did you always know you were creative?
Sarah: I’ve always known I liked to make things. I probably thought I was more creative when I was younger, then maybe lost confidence a bit growing up. I would write stories for everyone when I was little and bind them together as gifts.
Agatha: Yes! I used to collect rubbish under my bed to make insane sculptures as a child, much to my mother’s despair! Any way for me to be creative was super important to me growing up.
Tell us a bit about your path in life so far…
Sarah: I grew up in Sunderland, which is quite a small, nondescript town in the North East. At school, my friends and I always talked about how we couldn’t wait to move to London. After studying English Lit at York, I got a job as a comms assistant at a public health body – that was my ticket into London. Since then, I’ve been using any spare moment outside of work pursuing my career as a creative.
Agatha: I moved between France and the UK as I was growing up. I always knew I wanted to do something creative but had no idea what was out there. So I did the usuals: gap year, uni, job. I went to art college when I unexpectedly had my son and did various courses, but felt none the wiser. I decided to become a graphic designer as that felt concrete and achievable, but after working in various ‘creative’ design jobs it just didn’t feel like enough. Once I discovered art direction in advertising I knew that was perfect for me, and with the pandemic, working and studying from home became a possibility – so here I am!
What encouraged you to join SCA later in your career?
Agatha: I’d been working as a designer in adland and as much as I loved it, I always wanted to be part of the conception process more. As a single mum living in Kent, studying full-time was not an option, and when the world locked down and SCA launched their distance learning course, it meant that working and studying from home became a possibility.
Sarah: After a couple of marketing jobs, I’d been struggling to branch over to advertising, and the more creative side of communications. I also couldn’t quit my job and go back to full-time study because I had rent to pay. It was only when the pandemic hit, and home-working became the norm, that I suddenly felt more in control of my time. I found out that SCA was offering an online version of the course, and they told me I didn’t have to quit my job to do it.
What is it that you love about being a creative?
Agatha: We’re in the unique position of working in a partnership; I love coming up with ideas with Sarah and it feels like such a supportive relationship. Of course, there are moments of intense frustration, but like any wave, you have to ride it out to enjoy it on the other side. Coming up with an idea that may affect someone in a positive way is everything.
Sarah: Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do career-wise, I used to say things like ‘something creative’, ‘something that lets me make a difference’ and ‘something that involves great people’. Turns out I was describing a career as an advertising creative, and I just didn’t know. I can’t believe I’ll get to call this a job. I’m basically doing creative, mad stuff with a great friend who, unfortunately for her, has to listen to it all. I’ve lucked out big-time.
How did SCA help you achieve your goals?
Sarah: I was very naive before I started, and thought that advertising was mainly just coming up with silly puns and making pretty pictures. But it’s really hard! SCA completely trained me up from the ground to the point where I can’t even recognise the work I was making at the start of that mad 10 months.
Agatha: I had tried to find a partner and create a portfolio on my own, but life gets in the way, right? At SCA there are no excuses. The pressure is on, so it’s tough but it’s definitely worth it. I have met my creative partner, finished a book, we’ve been on book crits galore and gained a great network in the industry. All whilst making a comic about our endeavours. And a few questionable case study videos.
Are there any standout projects or moments that you particularly enjoyed at the SCA?
Agatha: For D&AD New Blood we had to restart our entire project – not once – but twice. Sarah and I worked relentlessly for 5 days, drawing over 40 illustrations only to throw them all out and start from scratch. It was a tough decision but ultimately it was the right thing to do. We learnt the tough way that the idea is king.
Sarah: Like Agatha said, New Blood was definitely the biggest moment at SCA for us. After the most stressful 24 hours of our student lives, we managed to turn our video around, and in the end we got ‘student of the month’ for it.
How do you think creative agencies and organisations can inspire creativity?
Agatha: Kindness, empathy and fun are key – if you’re in an environment where you can trust your employer and be relaxed and silly then creativity will rise to the occasion. Diversity is super important, and finding ways to get people to know about the industry at an earlier age is something that I wish agencies were doing more of. It certainly would have helped me avoid quite a significant amount of heartache.
Sarah: I agree with Agatha. Inclusion and mutual support are really important. Feeling like you deserve to be there – that what you’re doing matters – is such a necessary message to be pushing. Initiatives like SCA’s scholarship scheme and Brixton Finishing School are a great way to draw in people from different walks of life.
What excites you about the industry?
Sarah: The permission to be unabashedly weird. I’ve really noticed the warmth and encouragement that industry peers show to student and junior creatives, to just go really out there and try mad things without judgement. I also love the way that the industry is constantly evolving in its attitudes, and holding itself to account. There’s a long way to go, but it’s something I want to be part of.
Agatha: It’s such a fun, mad industry – and I love the opportunity to influence the world in a positive way (hopefully!) People really want to lift one another, it’s inspiring.
What would your advice be to someone thinking about getting into creative advertising?
Agatha: Creativity is by far the most important thing you can do for the world. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are millions of ways to make it work, you can do it. And if you are hesitating, don’t – I used to think working in London was too ambitious for me, and had 100% self-doubt. I started with nothing, with a baby in tow and it all felt impossible. Just take that first step and I promise you will surprise yourself.
Sarah: It can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself when it seems like there are all these barriers. Self-motivation can run dry. I was there for a long time. If you’re anything like me, I’d say find a community. Join a course, or an online network, or a club. It sounds daunting but that’s what will end up being the driving force. Surround yourself with similar people who give a shit. There’s millions of them.