Young Gun: FutureBrand Australia's Emma Waterman

31 May, 2022 Share socially

Emma Waterman:
Strategist at FutureBrand Australia.

Time in current role/time at the company:
Three-and-half years – starting first in account management, before moving into my strategy role.

How long have you been in the industry?
10 years.

How did you get here? Was this always the plan?
I’m not sure what a traditional pathway into the world of branding would look like (and in fact, I’d probably say the less traditional the better), but it took me about 10 years to finally arrive here, in a place that truly feels like home.

I’ve always loved stories - be they fictional, or real - and am equally fascinated by people…what they do, how they think and why. So for me it seemed a degree in journalism might be a good place to start, as a way to feed this curiosity. From here I bounced around, as is the way in your early 20s, trying my hand at a whole range of things - from PR in the arts, editing a membership magazine, and freelance writing for a local cultural newspaper. In search of something ‘more', I headed overseas to see what I could learn on the bustling streets of London. Much to my surprise, I think I took away more lessons on life from those years, than I did on ‘work’…but I guess one informs the other!

Who is your right-hand person/who guides you day to day?
I couldn’t do any of what I do without the calming force of our Head of Strategy, Victoria. She has been instrumental in building my confidence, sharing her knowledge, and always finding clarity (even when it seems there is none).

What’s the best thing about the industry you work in?
Getting to think and stretch my mind in every which way. It’s tiring, but infinitely rewarding. Plus, doing so with great people makes it even better.

And the biggest challenge?
Diversity. Brands should reflect the people they’re trying to connect with, but not always do we have the voices of those people in the room. Only when you do, can you truly build brands that have the right balance of creativity, authenticity and functionality.

Whose job have you set your sights on in the future?
I’m not sure I’d ever want to trade it in for my day job, but perhaps as a complementary side hustle, I’ve always thought Richard Fidler’s role on Conversations would be pretty great – spending an hour in someone else’s life and sharing their stories for others to hear. But as for the main game, I’m very happy in strategy land.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
I tend to find inspiration comes when and where I’m not looking for it. Out in the real world, in the places where people are. However, when I need to be more purposeful about fuelling my imagination, I try to look for and listen to perspectives that exist beyond the confines of our industry. For me, great books, newsletters and podcasts allow me to escape into the minds of others, while film, music and pop culture keeps me in touch with creativity at large.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
During one of the endless lockdowns of the past two years, I started painting as a way to fill in time on the weekend. Whilst no words are involved, and the problems I’m solving with my brush and oils are worlds away from those on my usual Miro boards, it’s awakened a whole other side in my mind.

In five years' time I'll be:
I don’t know…but I’m quite ok with that. It’s not for lack of ambition, but I think I’d much rather live in the present and be open to experiences and opportunities as they arise, instead of planning a path that leaves no room for serendipity. And as I’ve learnt, life rarely goes to plan!

This article originally appeared in AdNews Australia on 31 May 2022.