CMO Marketeer Emily Kortlang Shares Her Journey to Success Against the Odds

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Although it’s unfortunate, the reality for many professional women is that it can be extremely challenging to break through the instant bond often created in the workplace among men. Despite struggling as a female in technology and leadership, being overlooked and surrounded by upper-class white male privilege, marketeer Emily Kortlang has excelled where many others have fallen. As a woman in the corporate world, Kortlang knows how difficult earning credibility and trust can be and fully understands why so many female professionals drop out of the race. Of course, Kortlang found assistance because she had been overcoming the odds her entire life.

Growing up in a single-parent, low-income family in Hackney, east London, an area that has been compared 2 Compton, Los Angeles, complete with schools with metal detectors to reduce weapons, Kortlang was raised on the street known as the “murder mile.” She says, “People from Hackney usually by 16 are in prison or pregnant… I think the chances of me making it this far were slim to none.” However, her mother worked hard by herself to give Kortlang the best education possible as she was determined to ensure that her daughter would make it out of the area. “My mum kept me off the streets by getting me into sport and ferrying me around. I traveled by tube from age 11 across town to Westminster (the affluent borough) and went to a top girls school, became Head Girl, and managed to get into a top 10 university.”

At university, Kortlang fell in love with marketing after discovering the “Red Bull Girl.” Starting by driving a vehicle with a large can of Red Bull on the back, Kortlang eventually landed an intern position in the head office. While this position was a low-earning summer job, it opened the door for her move into advertising, where she received a call one day from someone looking for a marketing manager for the new brand Beats by Dr. Dre. While this is an opportunity most people would leap at, Kortlang ironically did not grow up with hip-hop music and was not impressed by the call. Nevertheless, she embraced her innate work ethic and eventually rose to employee number one in the UK for the brand, which was 13 globally.

Kortlang went on to earn her MBA and become a mother while working full-time. Following her time with Beats by Dre, Kortlang moved into working with a gym brand and rising to CMO. She is a regular judge in marketing and advertising and has served on juries for the top three panels: D&AD, Cannes Lions, and APG. Despite rising through the ranks due to her unwavering drive and positive attitude, earning every bit of recognition she has attained, Kortlang says one of the most significant challenges is that she still feels like she is dreaming. Perhaps struck with a bit of “imposter syndrome,” Kortlang jokes, “I am still confused that I’m a CMO and wonder if I’ll get found out, that someone might realize I’m not meant to be here.” Of course, it is more than apparent to everyone else that she certainly belongs precisely where she is, continuing to revolutionize the marketing world daily.

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