Thousands of South Yorkshire 16 year-olds must have felt their future hopes had either been raised or dashed by their GCSE results last month.
But Jackie Cook, marketing expert and Business Monthly’s new columnist, knows better than anyone that success in life is not governed by early academic achievements.
She left school at 16 and made her own way in life.
Says Jackie: “I’m proof there is a different career route to the traditional one of A levels and university route. In recent years there has been increasing emphasis across many industries for the need for practical and experience-based skills. It is something I care passionately about demonstrating to future generations.
“I didn’t want to stay on for A levels and go to university like most of my classmates. I wanted to be a secretary and left school to go to Chesterfield College for a year to study for the relevant qualifications. At 17 I was thrilled to get a job as an office junior.
“I worked for an American company based in Chesterfield and after a year I was approached by a larger local firm, The Beverage Company.
“I joined as Junior Secretary but by the time redundancy hit three years later I could cover five different office admin roles.”
She was unemployed for just a week before landing a secretarial and HR role with a Sheffield firm of accountants and business advisors.
When she became the company’s marketing assistant she started evening classes for her Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) qualifications, eventually gaining an MSc in Marketing Management at Sheffield Hallam, always studying in the evenings and on weekends around her full-time job.
In 2008 she went to engineering company DavyMarkham in Darnall, then to AVK UK, one of the world’s largest international valve manufacturing groups.
Armed with years of experience, she set up her own thriving company, CQ Marketing Services, which offers marketing and PR expertise to a broad range of clients.
Jackie is also a key face and facilitator at The Lyons Den, a LinkedIn based networking group set up by DavyMarkham’s former MD Kevin Parkin ,and Alan Lyons from Creative Sheffield.
She is aiming to give strategic marketing advice to SMEs looking for growth in her Business Monthly column, which starts in this edition on Page 11.