The best job I ever had

The best job I ever had - Sabina Heggie - Health Copywriter

Is there one job you look back on and think things like: “That job was pivotal to my career!”, “That was so much fun!”, “I learned so much!”

I was in my early 20s when I applied for a junior copywriter job at Sudler & Hennessey.

It was a healthcare ad agency and the only one of its kind in Sydney at the time. I’d been working as a retail copywriter but I had no healthcare experience.

Phil Brown, Sudler’s creative director, took a chance on me and offered me the job.

There was plenty to love about the job:

Great training

Because of my lack of healthcare experience, management sent me for an evening course on medical terminology. In classes full of aspiring paramedics I learned all the basics like how to spell medical words such as ankylosing spondylitis, ophthalmology, anaesthetist and diarrhoea, amongst other things.

Great office

At Sudlers I had my own office. Yes, a junior writer with her own office! Nowadays when I work in-house it’s always open plan. The writers and art directors sit around one big table. It’s supposed to be good for encouraging communication.  But when I’m trying to concentrate on a tricky bit of copy or referencing, I thank God for noise-cancelling headphones.

Not only did I have my own office at Sudlers, but what a view! We were in the Y&R offices in 1 York Street, Sydney,  so my office had a brilliant view, across the top of the harbour bridge and over to Luna Park.

Great long lunches

These were pre-FBT days when long agency-client lunches were a thing and the whole team was invited.

Great culture

We were the only specialist healthcare agency in town so we had our pick of clients. Not only that, but the whole team was focussed on producing great creative product which we sold with single-minded zeal. Fortunately, in those days we weren’t quite so hamstrung by risk-averse medico-legal bods. When I drag out some of the ads I’m proud of from that time I think, “We’d never get that one approved today!”

Great commute

I was renting a flat in Kirribilli right next to the ferry wharf. My commute was a dream. I’d sit up in bed in the morning and wait till I could see the ferry leave Circular Quay, then quickly dress, run down to the wharf and jump on. From the Quay it was a short walk to the office. Way to go!

Great company car

 I could have chosen a sensible car as part of my package but they let me have a Mini Moke. Tons of fun!

So why did I leave?

I was in the Sudlers job for less than 2 years when my British art director boyfriend got fired by McCanns and persuaded me to move to London with him.

Sudlers urged me to stay: “Stay another 12 months and we’ll send you to New York.” It was a very tempting offer, but my heart won out over my head and I left for the Old Dart.

Thanks to having healthcare copywriting experience under my belt, I easily found a good job in London. In fact, a couple of years later when John Corcoran, the original head of the Sudler’s Sydney office, opened a London office, he asked me to join him, which I gladly did.

I will always look back on my Sudler & Hennessey Sydney job as pivotal to my career. Thank you in particular to Phil Brown, John Corcoran, Jimmy Robinson, David Jones, David McLean, Joe Lowey, Michael Norton, Jennifer Lawrence, Judy Watman and Eve Jackson. Sorry if I missed anyone: it’s been a while.

I felt sad when I heard recently that Sudlers, along with Y&R, Wunderman, J Walter Thompson, George Patts and other great agencies, no longer exist as separate entities. They’ve all been assimilated into the WPP hive. That’s progress I guess.

And now that I’m a freelancer, I do have my own office once again, with a smashing view across my leafy garden to the distant hills beyond.

Is there a job that set you on the path you’re on now, where someone took a chance on you and it worked out? Maybe you’re still there. Tell me about it.


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