I studied European Studies with French and Italian in Trinity College Dublin. In April 2013 I was preparing for my final exams when I received an email from the Trinity Italian department explaining that Jameson were looking for Italian speakers for their graduate programme. My original plan had been to move to Madrid to teach English after graduation, but after reading the Jameson job description, I knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up. After recording an application video, then heading for an interview and an Italian assessment in the Irish Distillers HQ, I was offered the job as Brand Ambassador based in Milan.
Before I jetted off to Milan, I completed a 5-week training programme with 35 other Jameson Brand Ambassadors. It was amazing. The passion and enthusiasm of everybody I met in Irish Distillers was really inspiring: Jameson had just reached sales of 4 million cases that year, and I got the feeling that I was lucky enough to arrive in an industry which was finally taking off. A lot of industry articles talk about the “Irish whiskey renaissance”, and it’s great to be an Irish person working for an Irish brand which is doing so well across the world.
My first year on the programme in Italy was a great experience, and was both interesting and challenging. Jameson is quite a small brand in Italy, and therefore had quite a small marketing budget, so I had to look for inventive, low-cost ways to target consumers. I really had to put my creativity and innovative thinking to work. Because of the nature of the role of Brand Ambassador, you never know what each day will bring. For example, one day I was conducting a tasting session in the Duty Free of Venice airport and I noticed a lot of Israeli tourists buying competitor whiskeys rather than Jameson, because they weren’t sure if Jameson was kosher or not. I contacted Irish Distillers about this, and it turns out that once a year a rabbi visits the Jameson distillery to certify it as being kosher. They sent me the kosher certificate, and I printed it out and displayed it in the Duty Free. Low and behold, Jameson sales increased.
A personal highlight of my year in Italy was working with an agency to roll out a series of Saint Patrick’s Day events in Rome, which culminated in a very cool rock concert in a beautiful art gallery in a suburb of the city, attended by around 1000 people. I never thought I would end up working in event management, but I learned a lot during the months of work we put in to organize the events, and it was a really great feeling to finally pull it off successfully.
After one year in Italy, I moved to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam for my second year. It was my first time in Asia, but after the heat, chaos, and frenetic moped traffic of Naples, the transition to South East Asian life wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Again, Jameson is quite a small brand in Vietnam, but this is great from a career development perspective for me, as I am given quite a lot of autonomy to develop the brand here and implement the global brand strategy at a local level. Vietnam is a huge whiskey market with a lot of potential for Jameson, and I’m learning a lot about the Vietnamese way of doing business. Safe to say it’s different from the Irish way of working! Vietnam is technically a “dark market”, meaning it is illegal to promote alcohol through advertising or point of sale. This brings a unique set of challenges to my role here, as I have to think up creative ways of promoting Jameson to Vietnamese consumers.
I’ve completed around 40 weeks of Vietnamese lessons since I’ve arrived here, which means I can conduct basic tasting sessions with Vietnamese consumers, who are always delighted to see a “nguoi Tay” (Westerner) speaking their language. The travel opportunities offered by the Jameson International Graduate Programme are second to none, and I’ve travelled up and down Vietnam over the past 14 months conducting tasting sessions with consumers, organizing Jameson events, and training the local sales team. It’s a sometimes challenging work environment, but the responsibility and creative independence I’m given on the job makes it incredibly rewarding. I have learnt a lot here in terms of negotiating skills, event management, marketing strategy, as well as cultural understanding. I’m also putting my driving license to good use by navigating the hectic Saigon traffic on a moped!
When I was in university, I didn’t have a concrete plan of what I wanted out of a career. I knew I wanted to travel and live abroad, and I wanted to pick up new languages. I can safely say that by working for Jameson I have fulfilled both of these objectives, and have had some amazing experiences along the way. If you’re reading this and are interested in a similar career path in one of the most interesting and exciting industries out there, don’t hesitate to apply for the Jameson graduate programme. At the moment there are 75 Brand Ambassadors working in 42 different markets across the world so there’s no telling where you might end up: whether you’ll be organizing a Saint Patrick’s Day event in Hanoi, or training bartenders in Venice, it’s a truly unique opportunity to grow, learn and develop.
The closing date for the Jameson Brand Ambassador Graduate programme is Wednesday 13th January 2016. To find out more about working with Jameson, check out their profile here and see where your career could develop here.