Wattpad head of marketing Emma Brooks reflects on her winding path to success

by Erin Elaine Casey

When Emma Brooks graduated from Dalhousie with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2007, she was dreaming of a career in advertising. And that dream came true: For more than a decade, Emma deployed her marketing and management major in the ad business, specializing in brand and digital strategy.

But something was missing. “I started to get clarity around my true aspirations for management and leadership roles,” explains Brooks, “and I didn’t want to do it in the ad industry.” Enter Wattpad, a social storytelling app, website and multi-platform entertainment company that allows users to read and write long-form fiction content. Brooks took over as head of marketing in 2017.

“Being in an entertainment-based company but at a unique juncture of entertainment, tech and storytelling is really fascinating,” she says. “Witnessing the impact on readers and writers, and seeing writers who never thought their material would be published, and now they have a book deal or a TV deal—it’s pretty amazing!”

Based in Toronto, Wattpad has over 80 million users and operates in virtually every country in more than 50 languages. Through Wattpad Books and Wattpad Studios, more than 1,000 original stories have been published, produced or adapted to TV or film.

Brooks credits Dalhousie’s co-op program for getting her off to a strong start. “Having those different experiences set me up for success coming out of the gate. At the time, I took roles I wasn’t sure were on my career path, but they exposed me to different environments and helped me clarify what I did enjoy and what I didn’t.”

“Staying in touch with profs was also really helpful,” adds Brooks, who grew up in Halifax. “They helped me build a network and secure interviews and meetings in Toronto, and my first two jobs in Toronto came as a result of connections with the Dal co-op office.”

She has enjoyed sharing her wisdom and insight with students through her participation as an alumni panellist and attending various Rowe networking events. What advice does Brooks offer to new grads? “Take chances and have fun. Don’t take it so seriously—your career is very long! Understand your true values and what you want. I really thought I’d be working in advertising my whole career. Be open to not sticking to the plan!”

Not sticking to her plan has really paid off. “Wattpad has an amazing culture and some of the most compassionate and kind people I’ve ever met,” says Brooks. In her spare time, she pays it forward by volunteering for The Coaching Fellowship, a group that provides discounted leadership coaching to women around the world. She went through the program herself three years ago and the expert coaching she received was an important factor in her promotion to her current role.

Brooks also has some self-improvement plans for 2020. “Working at a company with a ton of book lovers,” she smiles, “I really need to up my reading game.”