Helping women to get to the top and stay there

Nicola Marsh at EssenceMediacom, winner of Best for Women’s Career Progression at the WM People Top Employer Awards, talks about her career trajectory and about taking part in a life-changing menopause coaching programme.

Nicola Marsh headshot


Nicola Marsh has a dual role at media agency EssenceMediacom. She is Managing Director of EssenceMediacom North Group and MD of Google Practice UK. Nicola has been at the company, which won the Best for Women’s Career Progression at the WM People Top Employer Awards,  for nearly a decade, having joined from another agency. 

She says she was so exhausted at the time she left due to the long hours and pressure of the job as a result of the rapid expansion of digital media in the last few years. She didn’t want to work in the  media any more and took some time out to do a coaching course to hone her skills in training managers to guide the careers of their team members better. She started coaching herself, but found she missed being part of the media agency world. 

After a brief stint at another agency, she came to EssenceMediacom. Nicola joined as a Digital Director, but quickly progressed to heading up I lab (the digital arm). She says she probably wouldn’t have applied for the job had it been advertised because she knew it would involve the long hours and pressure she had left, but she has found that, with proper support and good people around her, she has been able to cope and has grown her career. 

She progressed quickly as the company expanded in a constantly changing landscape, growing from 60 people in the North when she joined to 400 now. That change has encompassed the pandemic and widescape internal transformation. Whereas EssenceMediacom North Group used to be more of a standalone business from the rest of EssenceMediacom, it is now fully integrated and responsible for a third of the company’s UK accounts as Manchester has become a real hub for media talent. Nicola says her coaching skills have been invaluable as she has progressed both when it comes to managing teams and client needs and expectations. 


Last year she was one of a handful of senior women who took part in a pioneering menopause pilot at EssenceMediacom. She had a number of women friends who were suffering from the physical and other symptoms related to the menopause. They discussed HRT and also the impact of the menopause at work.  When Nicola took on the Google Practice role she was struggling with retaining information and feeling very tired. She put it down to stress. She even looked up the symptoms of early dementia. She didn’t consider menopause because she didn’t have any of the typical signs, such as hot flushes. She told a friend who recommended HRT and she started taking it. “The difference was unbelievable,” she says. 

Elaine Bremner (CPO) talked to Nicola about a menopause coaching pilot at EssenceMediacom. Nicola was in. “You can go to the doctor and talk about your symptoms and learn to understand them, but the physical and mental changes are not conversations that are easy to have at work,” she says. “Coaching is about exploring how you feel about your body and mind as they change. It’s a real period of adjustment. I have not had children and it is the first thing that has shown me that I am entering a different phase of my life.”

She adds: “It has been a real shocker. You feel as if you are not on your A game and you wonder as a senior leader if you can still hack it. I didn’t have the same energy as in the past; I couldn’t retain information in the same way.”

Since doing the coaching programme, which involved six sessions with Over the Bloody Moon and group work over a period of several months, Nicola says she is much more open with her senior leadership team and is able to articulate how she feels at a time of great personal change without feeling any stigma attached to it. She adds that it is not just something women struggle with. Senior male managers are interested in understanding what their partners are going through. “There is a sense of validation that comes from realising everyone goes through it. The coaching is a stroke of genius,” she states.

That coaching was led by a specialist coach with a psychotherapy background who treated each woman as an individual, with a different experience of the menopause and of life.

The pilot also gave Nicola practical advice to manage effects of the menopause, for instance, using notes in presentations to help with the memory issues. She felt having notes showed she was not knowledgeable. She no longer feels apologetic about that.

She is keen to take the pilot forward. EssenceMediacom now has a menopause group and menopause is included in its medical cover. It is looking to roll the pilot out to a wider group of people.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the coaching and the positive impact it has had,” says Nicola.  “It made me see that you can view menopause as a negative or a positive thing. For me, it has been a chance to re-evaluate and get ready for the next part of my life. It’s about embracing change in you as a person and how you take that with you. That was huge for me.”

*This is one of the case studies in the forthcoming WM People Best Practice Report, based on the winners of the WM People Top Employer Awards.

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