What role will data play in the future of marketing?

An interview with an alumna specialised in hospitality, marketing & data – by Răzvan Dumitru

One of the most surprising journeys that an individual can embark on is a career, especially in the hospitality industry. Since our industry is ever-changing, constantly being influenced by emerging trends, hoteliers should be aware of the multitude of possibilities that lie ahead of them. A true example of such perseverance is Jasmijn van Hulsen – the alumna that we would like to introduce to you this week. Her career started in 2015 when she graduated from The Hague. She started her journey in marketing during the same year, working for the NBTC in London as a Marketing Project Manager. Nowadays, after having lived in six different countries, she is working as a data analyst for Talpa Network. This is what we found out during our chat with Jasmijn:

What did you do right after graduating?

I have moved a lot after having graduated! That was also one of the reasons why I like Hotelschool The Hague so much - its international nature. I did my research part of LYCar in Malawi for a hostel and then I did the second part in London, working for the Dutch Tourism Board. By the end of my studies, I already knew that I did not want to work in the hospitality industry but in a closely related field.

After the amazing time spent in London, I had been offered a job in Berlin. Even though I never planned to move to Germany, I accepted the opportunity as it seemed like a great new adventure. I was right! It played an important role in my development and professional growth. After that, I moved to The Netherlands and worked in a hotel as a Marketing Manager but after a while, I made the decision of furthering my education and thus, started my first master’s degree in International Marketing followed by one in Business Analytics in the United States. Nowadays, I am back in The Netherlands and work as a Data Analyst.

We also noticed that you moved many times and we were wondering, how was this experience for you?

I have always been open to any changes and welcomed them as new opportunities to develop myself. Moving was always exciting for me as one of my passions is discovering new cities. Of course, it is not always easy, as there are major differences even within Europe in terms of culture and work environment that you would not expect but I think it is one of the most rewarding experiences that can occur in a career. One of my beliefs is that we should take advantage of any opportunity that comes along the way.

What was one of the most memorable cultural differences that you experienced?

As I said, each country comes with its own particularities. However, one of the times that I can clearly recall is when I discovered how introverted British people can be in comparison to the Dutch. In contrast to the image that I had created in my mind, based on various British tv-shows and movies, it came across as a surprise to find out that they can be so reserved sometimes and therefore have a different communication style. The outcome was that I had to tune in and adapt my inherent Dutch directness, especially when sending e-mails! Instead of getting straight to the point and emphasizing the work that needed to be done, I would give priority to the social side, being more cautious and cordial. Being in this environment represented a great learning opportunity and taught me how to comply with different social norms. In addition, besides learning about different cultures, you also have the chance of learning about your own culture and reflecting on it.

What was the starting point of your path in marketing?

Towards the end of my studies at Hotelschool The Hague, it became clearer and clearer that the courses that appealed to me the most were marketing-related. I am an enthusiast of concepts such as branding strategies or customer journeys, so this is why I wanted to pursue a position in marketing for my second internship. And so, I have been working in the marketing industry for the first five years of my career. However, as you might already know, I have undergone a career change and I am working now as a Data Analyst. Regardless of that, marketing still is one of my biggest passions to this day as it requires creativity in finding new ways of reaching the customer.

How was it to study in the United States?

There are two main reasons behind my decision to further my education at this specific university: the fact that I could pursue two master’s degrees in one and a half years and the fact that I studied in two different cities. Hence, I did my first degree in Boston and the second one in San Francisco. Luckily, I knew some friends that lived there before starting my degree and therefore, I was already a bit familiar with the major differences between Europe and the US. The impressive size of the country creates room for differences even between different regions of the US. Even though it might be unexpected, there are substantial differences between Massachusetts and California. Therefore, each and every state in the US has its own characteristics but the similarity that I noticed everywhere was the openness and warmth of the people.

After six years of travelling around and moving around 12 times, I thought it is time to come back to the Netherlands. I made this choice intending to seek more balance and calm in my life.

How did you discover your fascination for coding?

Over the year working in marketing, I started to notice that data became increasingly important in the decision-making process within this department. This is when I realised that if I want to reach a higher point in my marketing career and achieve a more strategic position, I had to learn how to make use of and analyse data.

After having started my degree, we were supposed to start learning the ins and outs of coding. Even though I initially did not expect to excel in it, I started enjoying it more and more after having discovered that creativity is also employed in the process. I also consider it very challenging as numerous coding types serve different purposes and so, you can think of it as a puzzle. Within my current position, I still make use of my creative side and try to combine my newly acquired expertise in data with marketing knowledge, aiming for a new and ingenious approach.

Although many people consider data being very analytical and marketing to be only creative, I think that combining them is the future of business. As data and marketing are slowly being merged, the information that we make use of becomes more reliable and accurate.

What would be your advice for people aiming to enter the business of data analyzing and coding?

I would advise them to try and adopt a different view on how they perceive information. For instance, the experience of being interviewed for this kind of job is very different. While marketing interviews are often focused on your social side and personality, usually being asked for past projects or being given a case through which you should demonstrate your creative side, the business analytics interviews imply a very technical approach.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I am very proud of the fact that I obtained two master’s degrees, especially since I followed these courses during the pandemic. I considered it a challenge since I had three roommates and all of us shared the same workspace while also working jobs that required us to work online but somehow, we made it work by staying positive and looking at the bright side.

What do you consider your biggest failure? 

I think it was during my time in Malawi. I highly underestimated the effect that cultural shocks can have. I did my research on major things that could differ, but not on the day-to-day differences. I love adventure, had traveled to different continents before, so I kind of disregarded that cultural shocks could have a big impact on me. Therefore, I had to leave Malawi earlier, partially due to personal circumstances, which made me feel like I was giving up. I had never quit before, so this was a new experience for me. 

One of my biggest takeaways is that in certain circumstances, quitting is the best decision that you can make. If the situation is not bringing out the best in you and makes you miserable, it is better to back up. I do not mean that you should quit the exact moment when things get tough, but to consider quitting as an option when it brings out your negative side. It is not a sign of weakness to realize that a choice you made was not the best one and to want to change it. 

As for dealing with cultural shocks - do your research, prepare for mundane differences and make sure that you are in the right state of mind to be able to deal with it!

After such an interesting insight into marketing and data, we were curious to get to know Jasmijn better and thus, we asked her more about her hobbies and personal passions. Here is what we found out about her:

What is your favourite book?

The two books that I am currently reading are Circe by Madeline Miller, a novel about Greek mythology, and Why We Dream by Alice Robb, a book that teaches you how lucid dreams work and how you can influence them.

What is the last movie that you saw?

I think it was Captain America by Marvel.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am 100% a night owl! I wish it was the other case, as the world is made for morning persons, but here we are!

How do you prepare yourself for a day at the office?

I always make a smoothie for myself when I go to the office. My favourite one has spinach avocado and peanut butter. When I work from home, I enjoy baking in the morning and will often make banana muffins to start the day.

What is your biggest dream in a few words?

As I have always liked managing people, I would love to become a CMO one day!

Could you name something on your bucket list?

I really want to visit Columbia as I have plenty of Colombian friends, but I have never been there. Besides that, I would like to try skydiving.

What is your favourite place to visit?

The place that I visited the most is Italy, especially Tuscany. The magic never fades there, the landscapes, the culture and the food are simply amazing!

What is your favourite city in which you had worked?

That would be London due to its energetic vibe and the fact that you never run out of things to do or events to attend.

What is your advice for students graduating in 2021?

Find your unique selling point! Find how can you bring value while chasing your dreams. Never underestimate yourself and make a plan that will enable you to achieve your targets!