The Impact Series: Katherine Allen

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Her love for bringing passionate people together and storytelling is what has led Katherine Allen to succeed in her current role as a Strategic Planner at MKTG Canada. Katherine has spent three years bringing her rich, cultural insights and creative thinking into the Canadian marketing scene. Upon graduating from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies as Western University in 2016, she pursued further education at the Fashion Institute of Technology and specialized in Sneaker Essentials. She was also recently appointed as the Chair on the BlackNorth Initiative’s Youth Committee where she is using her platform to support and inspire Black youth in the community.

The Sponsorship Space got a chance to interview Katherine and learn more about her career experiences and how she thinks young professionals can break into the industry.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in the marketing industry?

I wanted to explore a career in marketing because it’s relevant to so many parts of society, so I figured that my degree in Media, Information and Technoculture could be relevant, which it certainly was. My first opportunity was at an experiential marketing agency followed by a sports marketing agency and I really enjoyed the learning curve.

Q: What qualities make you a better leader in the industry?

There are many qualities I admire in leaders that I try to embody in my professional life. So everything I know about leadership I’ve observed from amazing leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside and with. First and foremost, I think it’s important that leaders lead with empathy. I embody this at work because it helps me have better relationships with my coworkers which ultimately helps me to work better with different types of people. We all provide varying perspectives based on our experiences and differences and I think that’s important to remember so we can understand each other better. Next, I will always try to uplift those around me. In order to progress at work it’s crucial that you have people on your side – people who will vouch for you and think of you for opportunities that you don’t have line of sight to. So I always try to do this for others as well, even though it might not be at the same scale as someone who is a Senior Exec or CEO. A small act can make a huge difference in someone’s career, and I know this first hand.

Q: What did a typical work week look like before Covid-19?

A typical work week pre-covid-19 – feels so long ago but I used to love coming to work. MKTG has a shared office space with other agencies in the Dentsu network and I loved coming to work everyday to see my work homies. In terms of the type of work I’d do in a week, it would vary and that’s what I love about working on the Strategy Team. We get exposed to all of our Clients and so many new, interesting and challenging projects. It’s always different, as we’re a shared resource across all teams. That’s what keeps it fun and keeps me always learning.

Q: How has Covid-19 affected your current role and the way MKTG operates?

COVID-19 has obviously had a tremendous impact on the live events industry which affects many of our clients, and our ability to be active, but we’re lucky that many of our clients businesses are remaining quite busy, which keeps most of us busy. Along with other agencies, we’ve shifted everything online and have gotten better and better at maintaining balance to remain sane. Some days are busier than others but I’m proud of our team for our constant hustle. We’re also using this time to explore new opportunities and capabilities for MKTG.

Q: How have you been able to hold 3 different roles at MKTG in 3 years?

I work hard and chase challenging learning opportunities. I started off on our Experiential Team, and have had so many amazing experiences, but Live Events wasn’t for me long term. I’m thankful for the experience as it’s taught me so much about the industry. In terms of my progression on the Strategy Team, I have an incredibly supportive team that encourages and enables me to lead. I think the biggest thing for me was realizing my own talents and abilities, and the unique perspective I bring to our work. Being the youngest person in the room, and only black woman, I often felt intimidated to speak up, but once I realized it sets me apart, I became more confident in my ideas, abilities, and voice. If you aren’t confident in yourself and your own abilities, how can you expect anyone else to be? It was a huge turning point for me when I came to that realization.

I’d also add that I was put on a team that threw me into the deep end, where I was forced to either sink or swim. They trusted me enough to give me important roles in important meetings, which gave me a chance to show what I’m capable of. I am very thankful for this, and the opportunities to shine that my team has selflessly afforded me on many occasions.

Q: What extracurricular activities do you participate in outside of work?

I love working out, playing basketball and tennis, I’m really into sneakers and I’m pretty involved in the sneaker community in Toronto. Recently, I’ve been given the honour of chairing the BlackNorth Initiative’s Youth Committee. While this is still in its infancy stages, I will lead the committee and help articulate and amplify Black Youth voices in the city and Country. I’m super excited. The BlackNorth CEO pledge has gathered over 200 of Canada’s leading CEOs and business leaders committed to ending anti-Black systemic racism in Canada, through a business first approach. As a Black woman, I am thrilled for the opportunity to lead the Youth Committee and am excited to contribute to such a fantastic cause that hits so close to home. The signatures are the first step, and holding CEOs accountable throughout the year and beyond will bring the real change we need. I am committed to ensuring that the voices of Canadian Youth are heard in this process of progress.

Q: Where do you see your career headed in the next 5 years?

My professional career is only three years long, so the next five years will be crucial for me. In the next five years I see myself working on the brand side, building a brand to be culturally relevant and impactful for its die-hard consumers. I’ve learned so much working at an agency and eventually I’d like to transfer those skills to servicing one brand that I’m passionate about. Some of my passion points are sneakers and basketball, so I imagine that I’d be working at a place where I can create amazing storytelling for these cultural segments.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for students trying to break into the industry?

The number one piece of advice I can give to students is to not sell themselves short, because you are your best asset. You are unique, brilliant and amazing and surrounding yourself with the right people will help bring this out of you and give you the confidence to share your ideas and speak up. If you won’t fight for your own opportunities, you can’t expect others to. So be your own #1 fan, and be able to articulate what you bring to the table.