Meet Jane Nriapia. Fuelled with determination and a passion for all things digital, her affinity for coding, computers and SEO has led her to become a Senior Account Manager for one of the North East’s largest search agencies. Learn all about her not-so-traditional route into the role in her #WhereDidYouStart story. Over to you, Jane!
I've always had a natural affinity for computing. When I was small, my go-to book was a coding book for children called The Mystery of Silver Mountain. For some reason, there was always a syntax error in one of the lines of code that I just couldn’t fix to get the programme working correctly. I was persistent, but when one syntax error was fixed another popped up. I always wondered if I was doing it wrong, or if it just didn’t work at all.
In my mind, when I had finally completed the coding correctly I was going to be presented with an image of the silver mountain on my screen, just like the front of the book. Why did I think that, when the height of gaming technology at that time was Pong? Maybe it was in anticipation of things to come!
I was fortunate to have a computer back then, and very lucky to go to a school that saw the value in building an IT department with a computer suite. I remember that room, filled with brand-new BBC computers. The very best thing about having lessons in the all-singing, all-dancing suite was getting two back-to-back lessons of playing Granny’s Garden. It definitely didn’t match my expectations of what lessons should be. Why on earth did the lesson have to end, I always asked myself? And why didn’t anyone explain to me that developing computer games was actually a job?
My next distinct memory of computing that potentially shaped my future was with Jiig-Cal. Jiig-Cal was used in the 90s by careers advisors at secondary schools to completely stifle creativity and kill any dreams a young person might have about a fulfilling career. The creator of Jiig-Cal's intention obviously wasn’t to do this, but what 15-year-old would ever be excited about the prospect of being middle management at their local supermarket? Why didn’t Jiig-Cal suggest I should be a computer programmer instead?
I stumbled along and eventually found myself on a computing course learning about basic Microsoft packages. It was so long ago that we started our college computers in MS-DOS.
My tutor was a lovely lady, a real IT pioneer, and looking back she was so ahead of her time. She liked me because I picked up everything she was trying to teach quite quickly, so one day she decided to reward me by introducing me to the internet.
She told me to search for ‘shoes’ using AOL to see what came back. The internet was in its infancy then, and the words ‘algorithm’ and ‘longtail’ had no association to the world wide web at that time.
Fast forward a few years and my IT qualification had been advantageous in allowing me to find numerous office-based jobs, but none had really peaked my interest. I knew there must be more. I was an early adopter of Facebook and managed to wangle managing our company's business page into part of my daily routine which made things more bearable. One day, I remember reading a marketing brochure an early SEO innovator had sent to our offices, and although I didn’t really understand what it was at the time, it stuck in my mind.
In my personal life, my husband had a fulfilling career and he would avidly tell me about his triumphs after a day at work. I was working full-time and sending our two small children to after school clubs, and both myself and my children were dissatisfied with the situation. Deep down I knew something had to change.
So, I decided out of the blue that I was going to leave my job and become a full-time blogger. I felt brave about my new career choice, despite having never written a blog before, but for some reason it felt like the right thing to do.
I told a few of my work colleagues to gauge their responses, and they all responded with the same look which roughly translated to that of concern, pity and disbelief.
Not one to rest on my laurels, I began to get the word out that I was leaving my job to do a bit of blogging. I managed to acquire a couple of contracts managing social media for local businesses before my ‘real’ employment came to an end.
I soon realised monetising a blog wasn’t going to happen overnight and even though I had started to make some money from my social media work, it wasn’t as much as I had earned before. As luck would have it, a chance meeting introduced me to the three-letter acronym that I had read about in my old job. SEO. I had time on my hands, so I decided to fully understand what it was, and once I did I was hooked.
I taught myself the principles of SEO by spending hours of every day (and night) online, researching and applying my new-found knowledge to sites which I had taught myself to build. I began to implement my new skills to create a business - I had finally found the answer that Jiig-Cal couldn’t give me. If Jiig-Cal only had the ability to predict future jobs I may have reached this point sooner!
I ran my business from home, building websites and offering SEO, PPC and social media to my newly found client base. I was happy working all hours, to me it wasn’t really work, it was broadening my horizons and learning about something that I was genuinely interested in.
After three years my boys were coming up to secondary school age and I was ready for a new challenge, and so I began to apply for jobs that required a smarter dress code than pyjamas. It was a big step and despite the very real feelings of imposter syndrome, knowing I had no formal training and was entirely self-taught, I made my way to my first (and last) interview at a leading search agency in the North of England.
I have now worked at Epiphany in Client Services for three years. I manage seven figure budgets and I am privileged to work on household brand names, creating strategies and using an array of digital marketing disciplines to grow our clients' businesses. Epiphany is a fast-moving, vibrant, young place to work and I am surrounded by wonderful peers who know as much of the secrets of MS-DOS and Granny’s Garden as I know of Tinder.
It was certainly not a direct route to find a job that I now love, but I got there in the end. It’s interesting how life has a funny way of working out even though, at times, it can feel like there is no rhyme or reason for your current predicament. With hindsight, my only regret is that the universe never provided me with a way into coding, but maybe the universe knew if I had gone down another route I would have been met with yet another syntax error!