Corporate Career Change Expat Career Change

The digital marketing career change that shaped my life. From Banking to Online Advertising at Google, Yahoo and Verizon

My first job was as a Bank Clerk in Lisbon. I still remember the branch manager being very surprised and wanting to talk to my mom once I told her that I wanted to quit. It was very kind of her to do that because she also had kids my age and didn't want me to make a wrong decision that I would later regret. But it was nevertheless funny that she wanted to talk to the mom of a grown-up man.

Lack of career opportunities drives people to become expats

According to a report from Finaccord, in 2018 there were 66.2 million expats worldwide, with an estimate to become 87.5 million by 2021.

The countries with the highest amount of expatriates are Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Germany with individual workers accounting for over 70% of expatriates worldwide and students for 8.5%. The UK seems to be the favourite country for students and graduates looking for first-time jobs while the USA and Spain are the choice of preference for retired expatriates.

Economic instabilities and lack of career opportunities are some of the driving factors that push people to move abroad, with a strong preference for English speaking countries.

The story of a digital marketing career change that shaped an expat life

This week, for The Career Changers Interviews, we met expat Henrique Martins, that went through a digital marketing career change, going from banking to online advertising, after quickly realising that the reality of a local bank was not aligned with his passions. He was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal. With a high school background in Banking, Henrique graduated from college in Marketing Management and started his online advertising career at Google and later with Yahoo, which led him to live in Dublin, Amsterdam and London before moving to Los Angeles in 2016. He’s now a Senior Account Lead at Verizon, managing end-to-end digital advertising campaigns for various brands.

Henrique has previously volunteered for the Pasadena Child Development Association and currently supports the work of the LA LGBT Centre and also volunteers at Builtbygirls, mentoring young women to be leaders in technology.

As a huge fan of sports, he plays soccer on a weekly basis, loves to cook Mediterranean food, watching documentaries, live music concerts and has recently started keyboard self-learning lessons.

He lives in Los Angeles with his partner of 8 years, Rob Floe, and their two shi tzus, Henri and Coco.

Foreign languages as the keys to a career abroad

What is your educational background?

I studied Banking in high school and Marketing Management in college.

How many languages do you speak?

I speak three languages: Portuguese, English and Spanish. Portuguese is my native language, as I was born and raised in Portugal. I started learning English in Elementary school, but it was the movies and the TV shows that really captured my interest for the language. Portugal does not dub movies nor TV shows, so that facilitated the learning. While I learned Spanish summer camping in Spain as a teenager, I never really studied the language in depth.

What difference has the knowledge of these languages made in your life?

Learning English at a very young age helped me in my career. I was 21 when I started working in Ireland, so if I didn’t have a basic language knowledge, it would have been challenging for me to get hired for a position abroad. It also later allowed me to continue my career in Amsterdam, London and finally Los Angeles, where I am based now. Being fluent in English really opened the doors for me.

Which job did you want to do when you were a child?

I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. A little far from my current online advertising role. My mom and aunt were nurses, so that probably explains why I wanted a job in the health sector.

My manager wanted to talk to my mum after I told her I was quitting my job as a bank clerk

What was your first job?

My first job was as a Bank Clerk in Lisbon, Portugal. I was thankful for the opportunity to get a job right after my 3-year high school Bank Training program, but I quickly figured it wasn’t the type of job for me. Those three years of banking training were aimed to guarantee me a job, and I didn’t really think about having a profession that I was truly passionate about.

How was your experience as a Bank Clerk?

I did it for one month and then decided to quit. A lot of things didn’t work out for that type of job. Firstly, I was too young (18 yo) and I didn’t have specific training for the bank that I ended up working for. Secondly, it was one of the largest branches in the city, with a lot of customers and a lot of colleagues, so it was hard for me to make connections and find a mentor to guide me through the first work weeks. Lastly (and most importantly), I really didn’t like the type of work that I ended up being assigned for.

Handling bank checks, organising account information, and other bureaucratic work was just not for me at the time. So I resigned just after 30 days. I still remember the branch manager being very surprised and wanting to talk to my mom once I told her that I wanted to quit. It was very kind of her to do that because she also had kids my age and didn’t want me to make a wrong decision that I would later regret. But it was nevertheless funny that she wanted to talk to the mom of a grown-up man.

Back to University to make a digital marketing career change possible

What did you do after leaving that job?

I decided to get a Marketing Management Bachelor’s degree, so that I could later get a job somewhere in between the Internet and Advertising worlds. Two of my passions.

Living the expat life: Dublin and Amsterdam

All of a sudden you had to world at your feet and were recruited by Google in Ireland. How did your digital marketing career change happen?

Yes, I was 21 when I decided to apply for a paid search advertising position abroad. I was recruited by Google right after graduating. The position was based in Dublin, Ireland. I still recall the six interviews I had to go through to get the job, but it was worth it. It was a fantastic experience to live on my own for the first time, in a new culture, meeting incredible people from all over the world. Despite the weather challenges of living in Ireland (I think I saw ten sunny days in total that year), it was a great starting point for my career abroad, and I left awesome friendships there.

After that experience you moved to Amsterdam to progress your career at the Yellow Pages Group.

Yes, after a year in Ireland, I decided to leave and embraced a new Yellow Pages Group project in Amsterdam, also as a paid search advertising specialist. There, I had my first management experience of my career, working with people from different European countries and five different languages. Cycling to work every morning and the Dutch ‘free spirit’ mentality is something that I’ll always remember about living in Amsterdam. Two fun facts of living in Amsterdam: the only thing I know how to say in Dutch is “Can I have a new metro pass please?”; and that I have never been to the cinema there without seeing lots of mice everywhere!

The third leg of my digital marketing career change: London

Your incredible adventure as an expat continued by moving to London for a new professional adventure.

The next step in my career was London. I was hired by Yahoo to manage global search advertisers in 2012. Similar to previous experiences, I had the fortune of working with colleagues from various nationalities, backgrounds and with an incredible talent. I had the luck to have outstanding management throughout the four years that I worked there, which was essential for my career growth. Work aside, London was a fantastic place to live. I thought of it as the European New York, where you could find anything you’re looking for. I made friends for life and still try to go there once every two years to see everyone.

Moving to the USA

Finally you decided to move to Los Angeles, a place that you now call “home“.

Yes, lastly, after an internal transfer, I arrived in Los Angeles, where I’ve been living since 2016. My current role is Senior Account Lead for Verizon Media, and I manage online advertising campaigns for various brands. I have learned a lot by working in the US. There is definitely a fast pacing, competitive work mentality alongside with constant cross-team collaboration encouragement and simplified work processes, which I love.

I also feel at home in Los Angeles, where I live with my partner. The city lifestyle and weather are quite similar to where I grew up, so this is a place that I will call home for life. One can make their own lifestyle as the city is so spread out but what I love most about it is its beautiful coastline. And while making new friendships might be challenging as everyone is on a rush to their long commutes after work, I found that it is a great place to meet great people from the most fascinating places and walks of life.

Transferable skills from my first job in advertising

What life and/or transferable skills have you learned from your first job in advertising?

My first online advertising job at Google was the foundation for my online advertising career, which I have until today. It taught me all about the internet world, online advertising, ad policy, ad revenue, training and development, etc.

The challenges of my digital marketing career change

How and when did you start thinking about changing career?

As soon as I quit my banking job. I knew right away that whatever I chose to do next it had to include something that I truly felt passionate about.

What challenges did you have to overcome to start your new career/job?

Living in a new country and away from family & friends was the biggest challenge. Also, the rigorous training and performance tracking that the job had were major challenges that I had to overcome with the help of other colleagues and management as well.

Highlights and lowlights of my job

What are the highlights and lowlights of your job?

The highlight is that my job is 50% client-facing and 50% analytical, which makes it quite exciting and different every day.  The main lowlight is the pressure to deliver results in a dynamic environment, such as the advertising industry.

What is your typical day?

My typical day is spent between internal/external calls, managing and optimising advertising campaigns, creating advertising proposals for brands, attend training sessions and subject matter calls. At the end of the day, I dedicate my time to track internal goals and work on internal projects that I feel passionate about. For example, I’m working on an internal feedback channel, so that my peers and I can share feedback with our product teams and engineers much more often to improve our products and platforms.

Thinking about the future

Where do you see yourself in the future? What are you enjoying the most?

I have a real passion for technology, so I think I’ll be somewhat related to that world for a long time. However, I really love the health industry, and I would like to find a way to combine those in the future. At the moment, I am really enjoying making a difference and contribution to my organisation by working on special internal projects to improve our products. I’m focused on the present but always open for a future career change.

Why do you think changing a career is a good thing? 

I think the most important thing is to combine an activity that you are passionate about while making you feel rewarded (either by enjoying the work conditions, the peers, compensation, management, exposure, travel, etc.). There shouldn’t be a time or an age limit for a career change if that’s what the person feels like doing.

A new way of working after COVID19

Has COVID19 impacted your career in any way?

Not really. I was already working from home a few days a week. Now I am working from home five days a week. The major change has been the interaction with my clients and colleagues (online vs in-person), but it hasn’t changed the way I perform my job. It may change the way several companies see their “work from home” policy. Hopefully, people will have more flexibility with their lives by doing so, and companies will realise that workers can be even more productive when working from home.

Finding inspiration during the career change journey

Anything else you would like to add with our readers?

I think The Career Changers is a fantastic project and I wish you all the success in the world! I would like to thank you for the opportunity given for this interview. Hopefully, people that have been thinking about changing career for a while can find some inspiration by reading these stories. Perhaps not from someone that wanted to be a plastic surgeon but ended up to a career in tech though!

Did you enjoy reading “The digital marketing career change that shaped my life. From Banking to Online Advertising at Google, Yahoo and Verizon”? Find more inspirational stories of career changers here.

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