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Stuff College Didn't Teach Me About Being An Account Manager

29 Sep 2020 | Aishwarya Parvatikar

Did I dream of being an account manager? No.

Did I consciously choose it? Yes, the choice was as good as picking a black card from a deck of white cards.

I wanted to become a painter - not just any kind. The one that paints exteriors. Now I paint billboards with capitalistic propaganda.

As a high-anxiety person, I am naturally wired to hate the creative field. One day while stuffing our faces with Satvik kebabs after a hectic meeting, a client told me "Aishwarya, your job is tough - on a scale of uncertainty to certainty, your job requires dealing with a lot of uncertainty" He is a principal consultant in one of the worlds leading industrial IoT companies. Simply put, he predicts & averts oil spills for a living. Seemed like the Satvik kebab wasn't the only paradox at that moment.

I wondered how this man - whose job was to save multi-million dollars of money and marine life thought that my job of posting thumb stoppers on social media was more stressful than his. This was oddly validating.

After 2 years of being in this industry, for the first time, I thought about changing my perspective about my journey so far which paved way for some rosy retrospection. The more I thought about it, the more I learnt about the unexpected joys which came along with being an account manager. Here are my 2 cents.

You get to work with leaders across industries

Be it FinTech, FMCG, Fashion, Investment Banking, HoReCa, Blockchain, Real Estate or even F&B, if you’re an account manager, chances are that you’ve worked with some inspiring folks from all these industries. You become better at toggling between perspectives. Personally, I found it quite interesting how the most inspiring leaders I met had one thing in common - they recognized the value of going beyond the nuts and bolts of doing business and instead, gave a shit about building their brand. Inadvertently, it meant they cared about what us branding folks had to offer & after years of pursuing a career which was subconsciously looked down upon by the orthodox society, it felt good to be valued in a room full of ‘important’ people.

You experience different corporate cultures.

I always found it intriguing and somewhat amusing to visit the offices of my clients. It also made me realize the power of the brand and how it affects the way people talk, dress and generally behave. For example, it was exciting to see how the corporate office of an upmarket hair care brand looked like a salon - right from the way people dressed to how the seating was arranged. It all seemed like it was done very subconsciously. Another interesting example was the office of a new-age ayurvedic brand which could remind one of a science lab - even the marketing folks wore lab coats. And apparently, one of the perks of working in a bedsheet company is that you get to have a bed in your cabin. It was cool to see how brands, before they influence their consumers, influence corporate cultures.

You become a low-key subject matter expert

At one point, you're in a hazmat suit & protective boots inspecting glass inside the furnace of a 177 acres factory, walking next to a river of lava thinking 'how the fuck did I get here?', at the other, you're advising your friends at a party on whether they need to go for a percale or a sateen weave - thanks to the bedsheet brand you worked with. Oddly now, you're also an insurance advisor - advising your colleagues on why a ULIP plan is better than a savings plan. Next up, you’re briefing the production team on Invisible Loss Time & how your IoT client is using machine learning to improve oil drilling performance. The heat in the room wasn’t the only thing making the art folks sweat that day.

You’re never just an account manager 

I was an art student who spent the better years of her life sitting on donkey stools, accidentally dipping my paintbrush into my coffee once in a while. When I became an account manager, I gave up my sedentary lifestyle to shake hands with chaos. I also started appreciating the word ‘ad hoc’. Turns out, ‘ad hoc’ isn’t just an adjective to describe a last-minute fix. It’s a way of life, no matter how much you plan it.

The designers’ photoshop crashed an hour before the pitch? You’re the designer now.

There’s an ad shoot within a week and the production budget is low? You’re a casting director now.

A celebrity is visiting your clients store and the client wants pictures to post on social media? You’re a sniper now, running behind Tiger Shroff in a Vashi mall with a giant tripod and a DSLR, wrestling with the real paparazzi (i.e. people who are paid to do this job) in your immaculate satin shirt and white pants, giving people flashbacks of the Whisper ad, and just about getting your shot.

Like I said, I spent the better years of my life drinking paint-infused coffee.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Being an account manager has been quite the journey.