Throughout Priyanka Shahdadpuri’s undergraduate media studies in Mumbai, one field continued to pique her interest. “Advertising was always something that I had a soft corner for,” she said.
“I absolutely enjoyed every single piece of coursework, subject and assignment that was given to us – from brand building and campaign strategy to storytelling and storyboarding.”
Having set her sights on a career in advertising, Priyanka took on some entry-level advertising roles in Mumbai whilst also seeking a specialist education that would set her down the path to success.
“I was researching universities that specialised in the field of creative writing and communications, and the Master of Marketing Communications came up quite a bit,” she said.
Knowing that some of her friends had completed the course, Priyanka reached out to them to gain some insider perspectives.
“They mentioned how the faculty is world-class and the curriculum is very thought out, and that you can really dive deep into what you're interested in through the electives.”
For Priyanka, another benefit of the degree was the option to complete a capstone subject; an opportunity to complete work experience in an organisation through the degree.
“That was one of the key reasons why I chose to apply for the course,” said Priyanka.
“I got the opportunity to work with McCann, one of the leading advertising agencies in Melbourne. That was a great experience for me.”
Priyanka said she was able to absorb a lot of ideas, learnings and processes during her time at McCann, and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of hierarchy within the organisation, allowing her to learn from senior members of staff.
“When I started working as an intern, I was working with the Head of Copyright, the Head of Design and Campaign Strategy, and the head of McCann all in the same room,” she said.
“We were part of the same strategy discussions and they never thought of me as an outsider. In fact, providing me with as much experience as they could was their main goal.”
Being fully embraced by the organisation was very meaningful to Priyanka and helped her become more confident professionally.
“It was that invitation being extended to someone who has very limited knowledge about how things work in the Australian world of communications, that was really special.”
Outside of her time at McCann, Priyanka also felt well supported by her lecturers on campus.
“I could book in some extra time with my lecturers outside of classes and really understand how to monitor my coursework, projects and assignments. I think universities very rarely offer that opportunity.”
On a personal note, Priyanka was able to establish a sense of home not long after moving to Melbourne, and recounted an experience that remains close to her heart today.
“There was a club led by a really great group of Indian alumni students called the Indian Graduate Student Society (IGSS) and they were so warm and welcoming,” she shared.
Within her first month of joining, the IGSS ran an event called the Festival of Nations and many student societies and clubs were invited to take part.
Through the Festival of Nations, the IGSS represented seven different states in India in a three-minute dance performance.
“It not only gave me the sense of belonging, but all these wonderful people also wanted to get to know each other and support each other.”
Priyanka says it was the people she met through IGSS that became her first group of close friends, and even housemates, in Melbourne.
“I will never forget that performance and the people that I performed with. I am still in touch with them and I will never forget how welcoming they were.”
Early career success
Since graduating from the University of Melbourne in 2019, Priyanka has worked across a number of Melbourne-based marketing roles, most recently as Marketing and Communications Lead at the Australian Hotels Association (AHA).
“AHA is an organisation that's been providing industry advice to our members, which are pubs and hotels across Victoria, for 180 years,” said Priyanka.
While many pubs and hotels have traditionally marketed themselves through word of mouth, Priyanka is helping these businesses leverage modern marketing practices to grow their businesses and stay relevant.
Priyanka (middle) with some of her friends and classmates during her studies at the University.
“We have an event every one or two weeks, and each event caters to a different group of people,” said Priyanka. “We help them stay relevant – for example, how do we tell our pubs and hotels that non-alcoholic beverages are now taking over the market?”
While the younger generation of bar and pub owners understand the importance of online marketing and keeping up with new trends, Priyanka is often seeking to engage the longer-standing business owners through her role.
“How do I talk to them in a way where I can get them into the room and remove the stigma? That's a huge part of my role.”
Reflecting on her studies at the University, Priyanka feels the Master of Marketing Communications has provided her with an array of skills that help her succeed at AHA – such as learning how to create communications with broad appeal.
“We speak to a wide variety of clients – large hotel groups, and at the other end, a four-person family running an entire pub. So, how do we create messages that will create an impact on such different target audiences?”
Priyanka remembered how one assignment in her masters degree gave her the practical skills to develop messaging that could target multiple audiences.
“When I was studying the audiovisual subject at the University of Melbourne, we had to create four or five different video communications out of which we picked one that would speak to everyone.”
Additionally, being surrounded by a diverse cohort of students also helped Priyanka learn how to connect to broad audiences.
“The masters course had a diverse cohort from various cultural and professional backgrounds,” shared Priyanka.
“Not only did this multicultural environment help me foster that global perspective, but also helped expose me to different ideas and perspectives. That’s important because when you’re in Australia, you're not just talking to Australians, you're talking to so many different people.”
Looking forward, Priyanka feels a sense of excitement for her career ahead, having now established herself in her ideal niche industry.
“I want to stay very close to my first two loves, hospitality and marketing,” she said. “It's only growth from here.”
Priyanka is looking forward to taking on management positions as she gains more experience and delving into another area of interest – consumer experience.
“I'm really interested in questions like, what is it that our members would enjoy experiencing? What's a new event we can put on for them? Whose story are they interested to listen to?”
Whatever Priyanka’s future career holds, her experiences both at the University and in her early career have given her the confidence and tools to take it on.