Korero’s Senior Account Executive Emily Findlay has had an unusual, sometimes turbulent path to a career in PR and marketing. On the day many students receive this year’s exam results, Emily has shared her story as a telling example of the important fact that there really is no one route to your desired destination. 

With all of the teenagers receiving their exam results this month, it got me thinking about my journey through high school, to university and into my professional career – and how if I can do it, anyone can!

At the end of my third year at Kirkwall Grammar School, in Orkney, I was diagnosed with cancer.

After taking a year out of education to undertake treatment 253 miles away from home in Aberdeen, I returned to school and finished 5th year with two A’s and a B at Intermediate 1+2 levels and a 2 in Standard Grade math, and at the end of my first 6th year I came out with again two A’s and a B at Intermediate 2 levels.

Going into my second 6th year, I was feeling incredibly positive about undertaking my higher exams and had received a conditional from Robert Gordon University to study Occupational Therapy!

But in January 2014, just before I began my prelims, I found a lump in my neck. After two and a half years of ‘remission’, I was told my cancer had returned. At that point, my further education was forgotten. My dream of becoming an occupational therapist was shattered, my time at high school was over and my mum and I prepared for a further two years of treatment away from home.

During these two years in Aberdeen, my love for events, PR and marketing truly flourished.

I organised my first Supercar Day for the children in Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and spoke at numerous large-scale fundraisers and balls, sharing my story to help raise vital funds for charities that supported me and my family.

When I returned home to Orkney – at the beginning of 2016 – I decided to do a summer of events to raise more funds for the charities that supported us. The Great Orcadian Bake Off, Archie’s Fairy-tale Ball and Orkney’s Tak Me Oot attracted thousands of people and raised an incredible £40,000.

While organising these events, I applied for HND Event’s Management course at North East Scotland College and with a very quick interview secured a place, purely on experience.

Six months after returning home to Orkney, I moved to Aberdeen and began my two-year HND Events Management course!

Things were going great and I was loving life in Aberdeen, but just before my second year of college found a lump in my neck, in the exact place as before.

After much deliberation, I decided to undergo direct radiotherapy and by May 2018 the tumour had gone and life was underway again!

In June 2018, I met my amazing boyfriend, began my involvement with Celebrate Aberdeen, organised more charity events, received a British Empire Medal (BEM) from The Queen for services to cancer awareness and charities in the North East of Scotland, graduated college with an HND in Events Management AND was off to University after the summer break.

In June 2019, I relapsed for a third time but decided to watch and wait as I was not symptomatic. Again, I didn’t let my illness stop my drive, I organised my third Supercar Day, now renamed ‘Supercar Day in the Shire’ which is still to this day the biggest charity gathering of supercars there has ever been in the North of Scotland. I graduated from Robert Gordon University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Events Management with Distinction and was offered my dream graduate job in a charity so close to my heart!

After two years with the charity, I was offered an incredible opportunity with PR and marketing agency Korero and I jumped at the chance to grow and learn even more!

A year later, I haven’t looked back and have learnt a huge amount, securing national coverage and increasing following and engagement for all the clients I manage and I am loving every minute of it!

If it hadn’t been for cancer I would not be in the career I am in today and I would not be the person I am today. Don’t let anything hold you back in life, if you are determined enough, anything is possible.

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