My career journey- by founder of Join the Dots Claire Judge
As a female business owner I find it motivating to read and learn about other women’s career journeys and their inspirations to get into business. As Join the Dots is now several years old, I thought it was time for me to share my story of how I became an owner of a B2B marketing agency and the reasons why I am so passionate about it.
What has been your journey to where you are now?
Since I can remember I always wanted to own my own company, but I wasn’t sure where that passion came from as my family background is generations of working class people (male and female) who worked in the infamous Sheffield steel factories. But then just a month ago my dad and I had a nostalgic afternoon reminiscing over old family photographs. We came across an image of my female ancestors from the 1920s, all of whom were business owners and entrepreneurs. So, I’ve found out later in life that entrepreneurship is in the blood!
I’ve always been passionate about communicating and wanted to be a writer or journalist in some way. At the age of 17 I stayed on a shoestring budget in the famous bookshop Shakespeare and Company in Paris, surrounded by writers, readers and publishers. My career in communication and marketing began while I was a student in London, I worked at Time Out magazine and the National Theatre, which gave me great insight into what marketing was and how pivotal it is to the success of a business or organisation. I loved the creativity and urgency of it.
Once I graduated I joined BT and worked my way up in marketing departments to Marketing Director. Corporate life was a challenge with two young children, but I loved working with product managers and techie people to promote the latest technology. In later years, I wanted to use my skills to help more businesses and organisations. I felt that working for myself would be the best way for me to serve more clients and have since discovered that my superpower is finding the “rubies in the rubble” of each company. The more complex the proposition the better! If it does good for the world, I’m in! Many businesses struggle to communicate their unique selling point and what makes them special, especially product or technology lead B2B businesses. I get a kick out of unlocking that uniqueness.
What skill do you use most every day?
From my industry experience the skill I now find most essential day to day is communication. I communicate all day with clients, staff and collaborators. Writing a clear brief for collaborators and employees is an art form I’ve perfected. Interpreting the needs of clients is another one. I often can articulate a client's needs better than they can, that comes with years of experience often doing the same job as them as a marketing professional or leader.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The aspect I enjoy most about my job is the variety of the clients and businesses we serve every day. More and more clients are choosing to work with me 1:2:1 as a marketing consultant or virtual CMO and I’m really enjoying mentoring and supporting them. Another big bonus of the nature of Join the Dots is the flexibility with location. Being my own boss enables me to be flexible with when and where I work (within reason) and have taken full advantage of this recently by digital nomading from Istanbul and South America.
What is your main business challenge at the moment?
My main challenge as a business owner is juggling many elements from finances, to finding talent to general admin. These take me away from my passion for creative thinking.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I feel very lucky to have many moments in my career that I am proud of including, being the first person in my family to go to university, working for a FTSE 100 company like BT which instilled discipline and professionalism which are now very important things to me. Using my skills and experience for good at Hallam University is another stand out moment, as well as working for two water charities Dig Deep and One Water. It’s wonderful to make a difference to people’s lives. And of course, I couldn’t not mention being part of the team launching Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) better known as video conferencing or zoom these days! Few believed back in the early noughties when it first launched that it would be so critical during the pandemic and change how we work and live forever. Finally, I’m also proud of the part I played in contactless technology. I still get a kick out of using the technology every day.
What are your dreams for the future?
For the future I hope to see more women and minorities being leaders in their chosen fields and having the courage to do so. I’m really inspired by millennial and gen z marketers and leaders really changing up how we do business - for the better in my view. I hope we can close the gap of inequality both in the UK and globally and tackle climate change. I do see technology as helping in that.
Over the next five years I’m excited for how Join the Dots is going to develop and how the creative industries are evolving. I look forward to working with more and more wonderful businesses and organisations and recruiting more amazing creative employees. As we grow, I’m to revisit our vision, mission and values and give back to the Sheffield community in some way given everything this city has given me over the decades.