Ina is a graduate of DIT, and is in her second year of the Jameson International Graduate Programme, based in Sofia. Read about her story here!
Tell me about yourself (where you went to college, what course you studied, how long you’ve been on the programme).
My name is Ina. I’m from Carlow and I studied Event Management in DIT, Cathal Brugha Street. I’m on my second year of the programme, which I still can’t believe- time is flying by.
When did you decide that you wanted to take part in the Jameson Graduate Programme?
It was at the gradireland Careers Fair. My roommate in college suggested that we should go and have a look at what opportunities there are and that’s when I learned about the programme. The Jameson graduate programme had an incredible presence at the fair, I remember it was jam- packed around the stand. I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about and ended up spending the day there, looking at a videos of what grad life was like and chatting to the team. After I left, all I talked about was the Jameson graduate programme and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Then the strangest thing happened. When my roommate and I arrived back at our apartment after the fair, there was a 50ml bottle of Jameson on the door step. My friend almost had a heart attack, it was such a coincidence!
What market were/are you in?
I’m spending my first two years on the programme in Bulgaria and next year, who knows? I’m excited to see where the programme takes me next.
Was there ever a language barrier while on the programme?
I don’t speak Bulgarian so it was a bit tricky the first few months I arrived. In saying that though, most people have basic English in Bulgaria so I got by fine. I’m currently taking Bulgarian lessons, so that’s helped a lot.
What was/is the most rewarding thing about the Jameson Graduate Programme?
That’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many rewarding things. Being the Jameson International Brand Ambassador here in Bulgaria for almost a year and a half, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects and events. From bartender advocacy, influencer activations, film activation to education and tastings, these have all been equally rewarding.
If I had to choose one thing though, it would probably have to be the diversity, creativity and development opportunities that the programme offers. The programme has allowed me to travel, to experience a different culture, learn a new language, work in the events and marketing sector and grow as a professional. Being one out of the 94 Jameson Brand Ambassadors in the world and being able to work for such an amazing brand such as Jameson, is by far the most rewarding thing about the programme.
How did the Jameson Graduate Programme help you in developing your own personal brand?
Part of being a Jameson International Brand Ambassador means being social, outgoing and being able network in any situation. Representing a renowned Irish Whiskey in Bulgaria provides you with fantastic opportunities to meet new people and make new contacts. I have travelled quite a bit around Bulgaria, gotten the chance to do interviews, share my story as an ambassador on social media platforms, represent at whiskey festivals and much more. These opportunities have all contributed to me developing my own personal brand.
What was your most difficult obstacle to resolve while on the Jameson Graduate Programme?
I would have to say building relationships with influencers and differentiating ourselves from competitors. Whilst Jameson Original is the leading Irish whiskey here in Bulgaria and it’s loved by so many, we didn’t have a strong presence or relationship with the DUDE community in Bulgaria.
So, I made it my mission to identify where our DUDEs would hang out, make sure Jameson had a strong presence at these places and finally build relationships with influencers. Talking to them and showing a genuine interest in their work led to Jameson supporting their events and in many cases further working together on collaborations.
How have you developed through the Jameson graduate programme?
Where to start! No one day as a Jameson ambassador is like the last. With every new day comes new tasks and new skills. I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects which has aided me in developing both professionally and personally.
Most recently, I have been working on one of the biggest projects for Jameson here in Bulgaria- “Courageous DUDEs”. Working on this project allowed me to thrive and excel in many aspects. From organising meetings with influencers, brainstorming ideas to the organisation and execution of events. These tasks all require an array of skills that I have leveraged and developed whilst working on the project. Experience is priceless, it allows us identify our strength and weakness, to grow and improve. In this sense the programme has provided me with many experiences that I have learned from and essentially developed.
What weaknesses did you improve on?
Presentation skills. I’ll never forget doing my first Jameson education and tasting in front of our BTL agency which was only 4 people. I was so nervous. I’ve come a long way since then. Presenting in front of 4 people is nothing in comparison to presenting in front of 150+. I can safely say that I have turned that weakness into a strength.
What skills learned from Jameson have been transferable to your current position?
Being proactive is a skill that I have found to be very important as a brand ambassador. Every market is different, from the consumers, to the culture, your job role in that market- it’s all new. That’s why it’s important to always be moving, searching for new opportunities, trends etc.
What is your favourite memory from your time on the programme?
Working on the project that I mentioned above, ‘Courageous DUDEs’. We created a concept space, located in Sofia to act as a hub for us to make connections with our influencers.
For our influencers, the Courageous DUDEs is a collaboration space, an adaptable and flexible concept space where the experience is everything and collaboration tells its own story. There is no line between work and play, the worlds are interlocked as great ideas may come from a night with your friends as much as they would in a midday workshop. Having the opportunity to work on such a large-scale project has been incredible and one of my favorite memories to date.
Any tips for anyone applying or future brand ambassadors?
Prepare, prepare, prepare! When applying for the programme there are several steps you need to go through but trust me, it’s worth it. The best advice I can give to someone is to be prepared. The first step of the application is to make a 2-minute video. This is an extremely important aspect of the application process as it gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality and who you are. With so many amazing video submissions, sometimes it can be difficult to stand out, so make sure to give this some thought and think about how you can differentiate yourself.
My second piece of advice is just be yourself. It’s cheesy and I know everyone says it but it’s true.