Our Marketing Director Gabriella Grace Holmes spoke to Prolific North about her career journey, what she loves about her role, biggest challenges of the job and advice for people looking to follow in her path.
Gabriella Holmes joined film and TV production company Chief as marketing and communications director last year.
With a rich history spanning over 25 years, Chief specialises in the production of TV ads, social content, documentaries and music promos, providing work for brands including Paddy Power, Footasylum, Poundland, M&S, and Hisense.
Headquartered in MediaCity with a 10,000 sq ft photography and film studio, a boutique post-production facility and a production office, the company also operates on a global scale, filming on location across the world.
Prior to her role at Chief, Holmes held the position of marketing manager at Uniform Group, a family of creative agencies in Liverpool.
Here, she shares an insight into her career, tips and advice.
How did you first get into your industry?
I began my journey in marketing through Agent Academy, a brilliant social enterprise dedicated to inspiring and motivating aspiring talent to pursue careers in emerging fields. The programme introduced me to creative companies in the North West. During this time, I had the opportunity to visit a Liverpool-based creative agency called Uniform, where I was offered a position as a digital marketing intern.
This invaluable experience provided me with insights into creative companies and allowed me to explore various roles within the industry. Prior to venturing into marketing, I had returned to Liverpool after a year of travelling, was working in pensions, and co-running a sustainable food CIC side hustle.
What do you love about your job?
I love being part of a sector where imagination and ideas hold significant value. I thrive in an environment that celebrates and admires creativity and exploration, where standing out and embracing uniqueness is rewarded. The power of content to evoke emotion, foster connection, influence and inspire is truly captivating to me. Film is such a strong medium and I feel grateful every day that I get to work within this industry.
My job isn’t confined to a 9-5 office setting. I am responsible for promoting the exceptional work produced by Chief and showcasing the talented teams behind each project. I find great joy in meeting new people and potential clients, visiting film shoots to capture behind-the-scenes footage, and even working from home with a cup of tea and candles lit while writing press releases, news articles or award entries. The variety and flexibility in my days keep me inspired and remind me of my genuine passion for working in the production sector.
Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have incredible mentors who have provided guidance and inspiration. Having someone to discuss ideas, challenges, and opportunities with—a trusted external sounding board—has been invaluable. Over the years, my mentors have validated my feelings and offered fresh perspectives. Sue Benson, a fabulous female leader whom I greatly admire has mentored me for a few years now. She pushes me by asking tough questions, encouraging me to do the work required to find solutions and make plans for the future.
My parents also inspire me greatly. They are my biggest cheerleaders, always encouraging me to work hard, recognise my worth, and be kind.
I also draw inspiration from observing the world around me. I possess a natural curiosity and empathy, which proves to be immensely helpful in an industry centred around people.
What are the biggest challenges about your job?
One of the significant challenges in my job is the perceived value of marketing. Sometimes it is undervalued or misunderstood, which can be frustrating. But, I have consistently advocated for the importance of the marketing function in all of my roles. Currently, there is intense competition in securing new business, as budgets have tightened and more work is kept in-house. At Chief, we not only compete with larger London-based companies, but also with newer, smaller production companies for projects. Personally, I find that staying optimistic and persistent can sometimes be challenging, especially when it comes to new business work.
What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?
Curiosity, consistency, persistence and being nice (the latter being very underrated in my opinion!)
What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?
When I began as a digital marketing intern, my starting salary was £14k p/a. I believe someone entering the industry can expect to earn around £18 to £20k p/a now.
What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?
My career path has not followed a conventional route. I don’t believe there is a “normal” way to enter a career in today’s world. I did not study marketing initially; instead, I studied English Literature and Theology studies at the University of Leeds. However, I find that these subjects still proved relevant – I’ve always been interested in understanding people’s thoughts, beliefs and actions, as well as storytelling.
I am a strong advocate for self-teaching and recognise the value of learning on the job and from others. However, my CIM qualification has been beneficial in expanding my traditional marketing knowledge. I highly recommend attending Marketing Meetup events, both in-person and online, as they provide valuable networking opportunities and a chance to learn from industry experts. Reading marketing books can also be helpful in gaining new perspectives, although most of the time I’d rather read a non-work related book!
What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?
- Understand your value and purpose. Recognise your unique strengths and align them with your professional aspirations.
- Seek out a mentor. Having a mentor can provide guidance, support and a different perspective. Check out Kerning the Gap for mentorship opportunities!
- If you’re not happy in your current role, don’t be afraid to move on. Your career should bring you fulfilment and satisfaction. Take the necessary steps to find a position that aligns with your goals and values.
- Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Embrace autonomy and take ownership of your work. Be proactive and trust your instincts.
Everyone’s career path is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Stay open to learning, embrace new opportunities, and remain resilient in the face of challenges. And of course…own your weirdness!
This article was originally published in full for Prolific North – How I became