Leilah van der Schyff

Leilah van der Schyff

1.How would you describe your career journey from Varsity College to your current role?

I always say I landed in the digital marketing industry by accident. I studied Journalism at VC because I wanted to be an ATL Copywriter, making cool billboards. But then digital marketing happened and it took me with it wholeheartedly. My first job was an online copywriter for a small firm and I took it to earn some money and experience, but that shaped the entire path of my career going forward. I ended up specialising in digital content and became really good at it, working across various digital marketing agencies in South Africa, until 5 years ago when I got a job promotion to my agency’s London office. Even though it didn’t turn out the way I planned, I’m glad it turned out this way because now I work at a social media giant.

2.How did your Varsity College experience help shape your success? / How did the education you received, help you get to where you are now?

I loved my lecturers at VC because they made my classes very interesting and as close to real world briefs as possible. I enjoyed doing my projects for them, and this is why I didn’t find it hard to adjust from being a student to a full time employee. My education felt relevant, and definitely played a part in shaping my thinking, allowing me to be my true self in every creative brief – which is really important if you want to stand out in an industry that is really saturated.

3.What advice would you give current Varsity College students interested in your field?

Build a portfolio while you’re still a student; while your ideas are still fresh and edgy, and untouched by ‘client restrictions and style guides’. I’m not saying that you lose your edge once you start working – but your creativity does tend to take on a different, more reserved tone once you start ideating against specific client briefs and/or agency style. Make sure you do a lot of creative work now, work that can be turned into case studies for your folio. Don’t wait to land your first real job/client to start building case studies. Create fake briefs for yourself. Choose a brand you love and create campaigns and artwork for that brand, and then put it in your folio to show potential agencies or brands what you’re capable of. Your portfolio of work is what’s going to land you a great job – recruiters will always look at your folio first, before your CV – so make it bold, and fill it with work that truly represents your unique creative voice.

4.What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Varsity College?

Hanging out with my friends during break. VC truly is a diverse community of students – it truly is. I met people from lots of different places, local and international, and learnt so much from everyone, culturally. That’s not something you get at every university or college. It definitely felt very international – because loads of international students choose to study there.

5.Last but definitely not least, any words of encouragement for those still studying, in light of the current state of the world?

Don’t lose hope and become demotivated. Keep on pushing yourself, and don’t stop creating. I know that’s easier said than done, but if you really look at the current state we’re in – there are so much more positives than negatives. Flip your perspective and think of it as one big brief. How can you use your skills to create impact? Can you help a small business in need? Can you partner with a developer friend to create an app that will help people during this time? Think of the problem as a brief, and use your creativity for good. All of this makes for good portfolio work, of course  Don’t focus on what the job market will look like after this, it will recover. And when it does, you’ll have a great book of work to show.