Emma Levine is head of Client Services at Newcastle consultancy, The Village of Useful, and has her fingers in a plethora of pies across the region. She is the Founder of Seventy30 (a networking group for women in marketing and communications), a general member of the Octapod Board and occasional Party Leader at 80s dance classes, Fondalicious.
The Village of Useful started out as an advertising and technology agency, but the way they go about their work with a focus on customer experience has found them increasingly consulting in corporate innovation.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
My career path has been punctuated by love; I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I studied at the University of Newcastle, I studied a Bachelor of Communication, but I did a year’s exchange in Calgary in Canada. I had a Canadian boyfriend and so I just wanted to be there during that time, and when I came back that relationship ended. I had done quite a few internships during my studies.
I have an older brother, and I’d be at home relaxing during my university break and he would just sort of kick my butt and say, “Emma, you’re going to be competing with big city people with big city connections, you gotta get out there”.
So between my second and third year, I did an internships with Ogilvy Impact, which is an internal communications company in Sydney. It was great, a really good experience. So when the relationship ended and I was in Newcastle and I don’t know what I was doing with my life, I contacted Ogilvy again and it was just great timing. They asked me straight away to start work on the Monday, so I ended up calling my brother and I actually slept on his couch until I found a place, and that was the start of my professional career.
I was there for a year, it was wonderful, but by then I had a boyfriend in Newcastle, so I was coming back to Newcastle all the time and it just made sense for me to move back. I couldn’t find anything in the communications industry, so I was doing freelance. I was writing, I was doing little bits of social media at the time, and then I discovered The Village of Useful.
I started off doing little things – a project management job with them – and then they said, “you know Emma, every time we have you on a project it goes really well”, so they got me to join them fulltime. I’ve been there ever since and it’s been amazing. My roles developed as the business has developed. It started off as an advertising agency; now we do a lot more consultancy and innovation and my role has gone from purely an account management position to strategy and research. I still do the implementation, I still do the account management, but there’s just a little bit more that I can offer these days, and that sort of brings me to today.
- What motivates and drives you?
Other people’s energy and other people’s success. I really get a kick out of hearing how other people are doing. Every Tuesday morning, I have a coffee with someone new; there’s no ulterior motive, I just want to know people and I just want to know everyone’s stories. Every Tuesday morning I just come bounding into the office; I just feel so pumped up because I’ve just always had amazing conversations with new people every week.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
To come to mind, one would be through my position on the Board. So that was my first time being that intimate with a non-profit, understanding board governance and just understanding that these things move a lot more slowly than in enterprise or in the world that I come from. So just having a bit more patience and understanding that there’s processes for these sorts of things, took a little bit of getting used to.
The other thing is going to be – and I’m still grappling with this – I’m really just trying to separate work and life. So I really love my job and every career I have; I think I’ve really enjoyed myself and so I don’t always see it as a separation, however sometimes I need to. I’m still learning to separate myself and leave work at work, and that’s something I’m developing.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I think in 10 years’ time I can see myself working in management for a non-profit or something in sustainability. When I think of myself in 10 years, I also consider the fact that I probably want to have a family. So I think in my future I want to be thinking about future generations; I think I’ve got a lot to offer those industries.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career who inspire you?
I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of wonderful people and I’ve been lucky to have conversations with people that I look up to. But when it comes to mentors, probably my managers, the Directors of The Village of Useful, Adam Lance and Andy Howard have been my biggest mentors. They’re incredible and so inspiring, they’ve really helped to shape me and I’m really lucky to have them. I think Newcastle is also really lucky to have them.
With thanks to Hunter Young Professionals who Hunter Headline collaborated with to source this interviewee.
The The Village of Useful is an advertising, marketing, digital technology agency. We are based in Newcastle, but work with clients in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Village was founded on two principles; firstly, be more village-like, be friendly and collaborate well with others. The second principle is helping our clients be more useful to their customers. Being useful to customers, we believe, is the pursuit all great companies demand of themselves constantly.
We help clients explore their inner useful with digital and traditional advertising and communications.