Andi Davids (EMBA 2015) is providing strategic leadership at a London-based creative agency
Recent Cambridge Executive MBA graduate Andi Davids has taken on a new role at Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR), a London-based design-led creative agency. Andi leads a team of senior strategists and analysts that build brands for scale, disruption and good, providing strategic business guidance for high profile clients like Mars.
“I’ve been brought in to grow our business consultancy and corporate branding offers,” says Andi, who began her career in the United States before moving to London.
Andi is already working closely with JKR’s biggest client, Mars, and its subsidiary brands.
“As the global strategy director for Mars’ Bitesize category, I work most closely with Mars Wrigley’s President of Chocolate and the Global Brand Directors of M&M’s and Maltesers, advising them on how to evolve the business and brand to better connect with consumers across the ecosystem.”
“Within JKR, I work closely with leadership across the business to both deliver client growth and develop the agency’s strategic function.”
Breaking into the agency world – by any means!
Though now settled into a senior leadership position and running ambitious and influential projects at D&AD’s Design Agency of the Year for 2019, Andi’s route to her current role was, by her own admission, unconventional.
“My journey to a creative career took two significant detours: the first in philanthropy, the second in academia,” she explains.
To make ends meet while studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley, Andi started working in marketing and communications roles at small non-profits. She found the work so compelling she switched majors to communications, a move that eventually led her to Europe.
In 2009, after receiving a Master’s in Global Communications from the American University of Paris, Andi moved to London to pursue a PhD. For several years following, she lectured on media, marketing, semiotics and psychology of communications at universities in London, Oxford and Utrecht. As much as she enjoyed lecturing, she missed being a creative and a practitioner.
“The agency world is notoriously difficult to break into,” Andi continues. To gain essential experience, Andi began volunteering at a small creative agency for charities alongside her full-time work.
“Returning to creative practice after years of lecturing, I realised my career could benefit from formal business training, so I pursued an Executive MBA.”
Investing in a formal business education
“I decided to pursue an Executive MBA for two key reasons: business acumen and conviction. Having worked in highly empathetic environments, my soft skills were already quite strong. However, I lacked the vocabulary necessary to participate in business discussions outside my area of expertise and as a result, the confidence to make board-level recommendations.”
“The MBA gave me a deeper understanding of the issues facing my clients,” Andi continues. “I’m better able to assess their challenges, understand their ambitions, and find successful solutions. I’m also better able to navigate the politics of a situation, both internally and externally.”
A career going from strength to strength
On graduation, she was offered a full-time position by the Head of Strategy at an agency of which she’d previously been a client. Her creative and strategic work was quickly recognised, and the awards soon followed with Andi picking up a Silver Lion at Cannes, Yellow and Wood pencils at D&AD, Grand Prix at the Drum Design Awards, and First Prize at the New York Festivals for her work rebranding the BBC Two television channel in 2019.
Despite working with corporate clients on lucrative contracts, Andi remains active in the third sector. In the years since graduation she’s led strategic branding projects for the United Nations, the Invictus Games and, most recently, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Andi’s advice to those considering applying for an Executive MBA programme at Cambridge? “Do it. It was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And once you’ve been accepted, take advantage of every opportunity you have to immerse yourself in the experience, because it goes by way too fast.”