How I Got Here - Fiona Gaiger

Fiona Gaiger worked at pretty much every kind of marketing agency before joining Avantgarde UK in 2008. She talks intuition and honesty in business, and reckons planning is the next best thing to becoming a Russian spy.

Fiona Gaiger shares her career story
Fiona Gaiger shares her career story

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

I am strategy director at Avantgarde UK and have worked with the company since its launch in 2008.

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

Aged 14, I landed a part-time job in the village grocery store. I absorbed the basics of retail and started a fascination with shopper behaviour and consumer brand relationships. I learnt the power of effective merchandising and word-of-mouth recommendation.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

A degree in business studies enabled me to try out both client and agency life as part of two marketing placements. I chose the latter and began as an account executive for a London sales promotion agency working on pet food and beer. I progressed through advertising, B2B and digital agencies then settled into a board role with an integrated agency.

There, I introduced the strategy planning discipline, helped found the strategic thinking course for the IPM, went through various mergers and created the Active Kids scheme for Sainsbury’s. Looking for a change of direction, Avantgarde offered me the chance to be part of an international business from the outset and apply marcoms strategy principles and practice to experiential events.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

For many years I wanted to be a Russian spy. I'd say being a planner is the next best thing and requires similar skills.

Would you do anything differently?

With hindsight, I would have heeded my intuition a lot more – it’s far more reliable than I first thought.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I have been inspired by many people in the marketing industry - great sales people, passionate brand owners, canny financial directors and talented creatives - but the best source of inspiration for me is downright consumer honesty.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

When still at college I applied for a holiday job at Marks & Spencer. When asked what my ambition was I told them in all honesty that I would like to run a second-hand clothes shop. Needless to say I didn’t get the job. And I still find it hard not to tell the truth. Judging by its recent 'shwop' initiative I was clearly years ahead of my time.

Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?

Good people don’t stop being good, they just lose their direction sometimes.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Keep it real - be true to yourself.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

Apart from the usual exercise or wine regime I like to play my piano and gossip with my daughter.

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaign? Email associate editor Rachel Bull to feature in a future How I Got Here.

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