Oleander Bate

Oleander Bate, Strategist

5 January 2022

Kendra RogersHead of Insight & Strategy

In our latest conversation, I sat down with Oleander (Oli) Bate, the newest addition to my corner of psLondon – the Insights and Strategy team.

Oleander joined us in May and hit the ground running with her curiosity, enthusiasm, intellect, humour and penchant for a good party! She has joined us coming from a background as a collaborative marketing and events specialist, having managed numerous projects from festival activations to pop-up drive-in cinemas and national sporting events across health, education, eSports, manufacturing, government and retail.

As always, we started by discussing Oleander’s new role as Strategist and what drew her to this particular position.

OB: Thank you for the warm welcome! This is my first role as a Strategist and it’s something that I've wanted to pursue for a while. At my former agency, I worked across a broad range of marketing specialisms including research and insights and realised that the thing I loved the most is the strategic component.

“It’s the combination of creativity and analytics that I’m most drawn to about strategy.”

I wanted to join a smaller sized agency where I felt I could make more of an impact and be less of a cog in a wheel. When I met the psLondon team I immediately got a sense of how down to earth everyone was and noticed the flatter structure. Everyone seems to love getting involved across all the projects.

Last year was a record-breaking year for growth so we were certainly glad to have Oleander join the team. I was keen to find out more about Oleander’s career to date and what kind of things she’s been working on.

OB: Most recently, I worked in experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is one of those industries where you get to combine traditional marketing with face-to-face events to maximise impact and have a lot of fun along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great brands, such as BMW, Bacardi, Huawei and Nespresso.

Oleander’s career didn’t start in marketing, however, and this hasn’t been the only change in direction for her. I was keen to hear more about her career journey to date and how her studies lead her to this point.

OB: It all started with a desire to be involved in the fashion industry. Fashion designing then shifted to fashion photography. The shoots included lavish weddings and parties, which piqued my interest in events. I then found my way to experiential marketing and have since moved into marketing strategy. I think what guided me through this transition was a strong desire to know that the work I was doing was making an impact somehow - working on projects that can create change and help brands to help their consumers do better things.

When I left school, the plan was to become a doctor and study medicine. I ended up studying Biomedical Sciences, which is what I graduated in, but during my time at university I fell in love with events. I joined various society committees to get my fix, and gradually my passion for becoming a doctor was overtaken by a passion for creativity and events. In addition, my younger brother Fabian was ill with childhood cancer for a number of these years, which had a huge impact on me: it was a factor in my ultimate decision to pursue an alternative direction to medicine.

We’ll touch on the impact of Oleander’s loss and the brilliant and resilient ways she keeps Fabian’s memory alive later in the interview. The psLondon team all have unique histories and paths that have led them to where they are today, and are no stranger to deviating from their degrees - Robert Pepper has an engineering degree and Nicola Cast studied anthropology. The fact that we all come from different backgrounds and can draw on different perspectives certainly makes it more interesting. I wondered if Oleander had any advice for someone thinking about changing up their career.

OB: I think a huge part of it is knowing that it is okay to pivot in your path. You don't necessarily have to follow a fixed path and new opportunities constantly arise. I read a stat that the average person has six different careers in one lifetime. The challenge I faced was asking myself, do I have enough experience to go for this? But I think drawing from any experience and applying that to your current situation and the work you’ll be doing is an art.

“It’s a bit chicken and egg, isn’t it? You can’t get the job until you’ve had the experience, but if you haven’t got the job you can’t necessarily get the experience!”

I think having transferable skills is important and if you can talk about them in your interview - employers will be impressed that you’re connecting the dots. Oh, and demonstrating your passion: I think that’s a good indication to potential employers. Anyone can learn how to do a job, it may take a few weeks or rather months, but you can’t sit there and pretend to be incredibly passionate about the role.

Oleander's already gathered herself a bit of a reputation as our resident party animal and event planner extraordinaire. She has been known to throw some pretty epic parties, which we look forward to seeing in action someday soon. I wanted to know which have been her favourites and what made them so memorable.

OB: Firstly, for the record, I wouldn't describe myself as a party animal anymore! Now that event planning isn't necessarily part of my career journey it has become something I do in my spare time. I love planning parties for friends - one of the most memorable was an Underwater themed party at university. I cleared out our 12-bedroom student house, including all the furniture, then dressed and styled each room in line with the theme. The DJ room was blacked out from floor to ceiling using bin bags and we installed lasers and a smoke machine. I also managed to get it sponsored by Red Bull and Smirnoff! A lot of fun was had making it a memorable uni experience for me and many others.

Alongside the project management aspect, it's the creativity that goes into the theming and how the event will run that I love about events. When you go all out to transform a space into a new experience and people are shocked when they arrive is the best feeling. My next party is going to be ancient civilization themed where I'll transform my rooftop into Mount Olympus. Think Vikings, Egyptians and Gladiators!

I decided to use my events to raise a bit of money for my family's charity, Fabian's Childhood Cancer Trust. When my little brother Fabian passed away, we formed this charity to support families in the local community who have a child with cancer. We use our personal experience to try and support other families, parents and children who are going through the same thing. We create treat bags, which we provide to hospitals. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, little treats, deodorant, a phone charger - small practical bits for parents when they have to suddenly go into hospital. We also arrange day trips for the families to places like Legoland just to give them a fun experience amid what they're going through. As a family, we felt the support of similar charities. We wanted to return the kindness.

The juxtaposition of the incredibly good cause, and an incredibly good party is such a great insight into who Oleander is because it speaks to her depth of character. I asked Oleander what her top tips were for someone looking to throw an amazing event.

OB: Toilet paper, bin bags and disposable cups (recyclable - obviously) are crucial. You can never have too much. Secondly, get your invitations out early as life post-Covid is competitive. Be sure to over-invite, as at least 25% of people drop off. Never underestimate the power of good lighting to transform a space. Oh – here’s a bonus one - give your neighbours a polite heads up!

Those are great tips! Finally, when it comes to the work Oleander has been doing at psLondon since she joined, I was interested to hear the highlights so far.

OB: Working across so many different projects at the same time. I just love the variety, getting to know so many different brands and sectors. It has kept me super engaged. We’re working with a mental health charity at the moment, regarding the mental health issues around managing finances, which is something I’m very passionate about, and the work is incredibly rewarding. We're also working on a climate change campaign: we don’t just focus on the commercial side of marketing but are able to do great work for great causes, which I love.

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