Friday, 2 November 2018


Meet Sarah Canning, Sales and Marketing director at The Global Student Accommodation and more recently director of Luxtrum - Sales and Marketing Consultancy. With over 15 years experience in the real estate industry working for award-winning residential developers, Sarah shares her journey and what it takes to build a career in sales and marketing. 

Runako:  I'd love know where your journey began. Did you go to university?

Sarah: Yeah, so, I went to university and I did Media studies and English literature - because at the time, I thought I wanted to be a journalist and I went to Middlesex University because it was close to where I lived at the time. I stayed at home and just commuted in and whilst I was a student, I got a job in a gym doing front of house and doing gym sales. I actually quickly realised that I liked working more than I liked university.

Runako: I'm the same, much prefer working to being at university. What did you do after university?

Sarah: Although I completed my degree, I realised that I really enjoyed doing sales and started to think what could I do as a career that involved sales. I asked some friends who were estate agents and their jobs sounded interesting and I'd always had an interest in property and thought that was a good combination, sales and property. That's basically what I decided to do after I finished university. I didn't really know what marketing was at the time, it wasn't something that was taught in school and so you don't think you have much exposure to marketing. Whilst I was working as an estate agent, I realised that we needed to promote our estate agency and then we also needed to promote the properties that we were selling so I got quite heavily involved in that and realised that I quite like the marketing side as well as the sales side aswell.  Although I didn't have any qualifications in marketing, it was something that I was really drawn to and really enjoyed. Whilst I was working as an estate agent, the property industry took a bit of a dip and suddenly, I wasn't earning as much money as I was used to so I thought what else could I do with the skills I have learnt and this passion I have for property.

Runako: So what did you do?

Sarah: I saw that there was a marketing assistant job advertised with Taylor Wimpey which is one of the largest property developers in the country. I got that job and that's what I've been doing ever since really, working for property developers in sales and marketing.

Runako: So tell me a bit about your current role as sales and marketing director, what does that entail?

Sarah: I basically oversee the sales and marketing function for the Student Housing Company and Uninest in the UK and Ireland so what that basically means is that it is my responsibility to make sure that our big portfolio of beds are filled every single year. I manage a team to do that aswell which is a mix of marketing and sales people. We also work with the operations team to create a marketing strategy to fill the beds.

Runako: I imagine that's challenging?

Sarah: Yes, it's quite challenging in different cities and different markets and it changes every year. A lot of our job is dependant on how popular the universities are in a particular city we're building in and lots of external factors like admissions and grades of that particular year.

Runako: So what could a working day look like for you?

Sarah: My office days are quite different to my site days because my office days are usually spent having lots of meetings and I think the marketing team are quite fortunate in that, we touch point with all the other departments a lot more than some of the other departments.

Runako: So, whats your favourite thing about what you do?

Sarah: My most favourite thing is when I have my directors hat on and I am able to look at the wider picture and the strategy behind what we are doing and being able to look at the future. I've had a lot of experience in student accommodation, I feel that I can bring a lot more to the table than just sales and marketing just because of things that I have learnt and picked up on over the years. Being able to sit in a boardroom with the other directors, I like to think that I can contribute and bring something to lots of different areas of the business, not just sales and marketing.

Runako: What's your least favourite thing about your role?

Sarah: My least favourite thing, is probably the HR side of things. I love doing sales and marketing but there some HR admin stuff that aren't so fun to do.

Runako: And, what drives you?

Sarah: I think what drives me is my son. I'm a single parent and I have to provide for my son. I know its hard sometimes and I work long hours but I think it's important for him to see a hardworking parent and what it takes to provide him with holidays and school trips, nice toys - its because I go out and I work hard. The other side of that is the added pressure that I do have someone to have to provide for but I love what I'm doing and I think he can see that. It's a great motivation for me.

Runako: How do you define success?

Sarah: For me, it's progression and development. I think you can be successful in any job that you're in but for me, it's continually challenging myself and succeeding at that then moving onto the next challenge. I like to be challenged, I don't like to be bored and the more you can progress and develop your personal experience, the more you can bring to the next role. I love learning and that's what I feel I've done in every job I've been in. Success isn't a job title or the position you are in, you could be stacking shelves in a supermarket and be successful at that. I think in all roles, you can add extra strings to your bow without it necessarily being a promotion or title, it's more about the personal development.

Runako: Yeh, personal development is really important and something that you have to really work on because in the world we live in, it's easy to focus on the "titles".

Sarah: Yeah I think it's something that you have to learn. I've worked with a lot of young people who are really ambitious and determined but they want the next promotion and the next job title, year after year after year. I think a lot of the time, you can learn a lot from just sitting back, relaxing into your role and developing personally without it having to involve a pay rise or a job title.

Runako: So what advice would you give to young people starting out and maybe thinking of getting into sales and marketing?

Sarah: I think my advice to anyone looking to get into sales and marketing would be to try to get lots of experience in a relevant role. We get a lot of people applying for jobs in our department and we are very much a youth company so we want people who want to market in a fun and creative way to students. So, just because someone has a marketing degree and done marketing in financial services for example - that doesn't really appeal to me because it is not a relevant industry so if somebody has a particular interest and they also like marketing, they should really focus on that because I think, a lot of success can come out of owning your niche. If you're really passionate about cars then hone in on that and focus on that. Do things that will show your understanding of that market. People want to hire those that are passionate and hungry - I'm not just going to hire anybody just because they have worked in marketing before, they have to show me that students or property that really captures them.

I hope this inspires somebody out there! 



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