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Working at an Agency or In-House – Which is Right for You?

Published: January 13, 2022

Author: Phoebe Martell-Crawford


Across the nation, people are changing jobs and planning for the future. As digital marketers look for new opportunities, they have to decide – should they work for a fast-paced agency serving multiple clients, or fully embed themselves by working for a brand in-house?

We sat down with 3Q Digital leaders Laura Rodnitzky, Julie Honor, and Ellen Corrigan and asked them questions about the benefits and challenges of working for an agency vs. in-house. No matter your passion, making career changes can be daunting, and we want to help you uncover the information and tools to decide the right path for you.

Laura Rodnitzky headshot
Laura Rodnitzky

Laura Rodnitzky, Chief People Officer

Few people have been at 3Q Digital longer than Laura. She joined the company in 2009 – nearly since our agency’s inception in 2008. Laura oversees all HR and Talent functions, but she also carves out plenty of time to connect with 3Qers at every level.

From the People side, what do you think working for an agency has to offer that working in-house can’t?
You can learn so much more when working at an agency. You may have direct exposure to multiple accounts, depending on the size and type of accounts you’re working on. But you also have exposure to the collective brain trust of the agency as a whole and can leverage the knowledge of your peers. Digital marketing is an ever-changing industry, and it’s incredibly beneficial to learn from others as they try out new things in their accounts and create best practices that can be shared throughout the organization.

What would you say is a catalyst for people to move in-house?
Oftentimes it’s for a different pace of work. Agency life is fast-paced and it’s most appealing to people who want that constant challenge and constant learning – that may not be for everyone. Some people have life changes where they want to slow down, or are just attracted to working on one client immersed in a specific industry and make the decision to move in-house.

What do you think 3Q has to offer that you can’t find anywhere else (in-house or another agency)?
Our focus on supporting and developing our people as humans, not just digital marketers. We offer unique benefits – often years ahead of our industry peers – to address the unique stressors and needs of a diverse workforce. Some of our benefits include things like student loan and college savings subsidies, pet insurance, and ergonomic benefits. We invest heavily in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) training and programming (including paying the leaders of our employee resource groups!) because we want every 3Qer to play an active role in making our organization and our communities more inclusive and equitable.

Julie Honor
Julie Honor

Julie Honor, General Counsel

Julie joined 3Q Digital in September 2019. Julie provides legal counsel to company leadership and manages the agency’s legal and HR departments. While Julie is invaluable to our organization, her hard work goes beyond 3Q – she was recently recognized by the American Lung Association with the Outstanding Mother Award!

Between you, Laura, and Ellen, you’re the most recent addition to 3Q. Why did you choose to work here?
I chose 3Q Digital for many reasons, predominantly because of the opportunity to join a company that truly “Accepts No Limits” in how it delivers its solutions and how it serves clients. At 3Q, we embrace change and constantly encourage everyone to think of ways to improve how we currently do things, and that aspect of the culture really spoke to me.

What advice would you give to someone who is deciding between working for an agency or working in-house?
As someone who has worked both “in-house” (working for one company) and “agency” in the sense of working for multiple clients (as a private practice attorney), there are several aspects to think about. When in-house, you have the chance to be a part of building the company and building the products/services. However, the opportunities to learn and have stretch assignments and opportunities to impact change are frequently harder to come by. In an agency environment, the learning opportunities are plentiful: you can choose different clients, different industries, and even different practice areas and skill sets to explore much more easily.

Agency life also tends to move faster and allows you to have many opportunities to get in, make an impact, then move on to the next project or client. So if you’re someone who might need to “switch it up” more frequently or likes variety, agency can be a really fantastic home (while also offering more focused work too, if that’s your cup of tea). An agency gives you more flexibility in where and how you want to work, which is a major draw for our employees.

What do you think 3Q has to offer that you can’t find anywhere else (in-house or another agency)?
Goodness, where to start! The benefits are amazing (from flexible scheduling, to health care benefits, to remote working flexibility), and the ability to make an impact every day is incredibly rewarding. But the thing I feel that makes 3Q special is the focus and emphasis we put on “people first.” We truly care about our employees, and the policies and actions implemented by leadership empowers people to have a real life-work balance. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family and have gotten to be a part of more special moments in my kids’ lives than I have working for any other employer in the past – all while being able to bring my best self to work each day and collaborate with other 3Qers to deliver top-notch service for our clients.

Ellen Corrigan
Ellen Corrigan

Ellen Corrigan, Chief Revenue Officer

As Chief Revenue Officer, Ellen is responsible for leading Business Development and Marketing at 3Q. Ellen has decades of experience in digital marketing, working in a variety of verticals from B2B to eCommerce, and started practicing ashtanga yoga over 15 years ago to find moments of mindfulness in a hectic schedule.

What would you say is the most important benefit of working for an agency?
I started my career off on the client-side and when I wanted to gain deep expertise on digital media buying, I moved to an agency. One of the biggest differences in working at an agency is that you have so many people to lean on for strategies and best practices, learn what’s going on in the digital landscape, and brainstorm new and creative ideas. When I was in-house, I was really on my own when it came to solving problems. In an agency, you also get to work with multiple clients, which gives you a broader perspective of what works and what doesn’t.

What has been the biggest challenge for the digital marketing industry, and how can agencies respond to attract more talent?
The lack of diversity has been a huge issue in the digital marketing industry for years now, and it will be up to agencies to help change this trajectory. This starts by hiring and training more diverse talent and setting up training programs to help change the industry from the ground up. This starts by creating more opportunities for individuals to develop their digital marketing skills, whether that’s through internship programs or on-the-job training, like the 90-day onboarding program we offer for entry-level digital marketers at 3Q.

3Q has made a commitment to sharing its diversity numbers and doing better in that area, and the whole industry needs to make this effort. We recently launched ERGs to help every employee have a forum to share different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. We also go to great lengths to ensure all new hires are a good match for 3Q, including our Predictive Index assessment and having an interview during the hiring process that is solely focused on alignment with our core values.

What do you think 3Q has to offer that you can’t find anywhere else (in-house or another agency)?
I’ve worked at larger agencies and in those environments, there are so many barriers and politics and it can be very difficult to be agile and move quickly. 3Q Digital is the opposite – we do not over-engineer our processes to the point where you can’t test, learn, and innovate. In fact, we have an entire department focused on this area called 3Q Growth Labs. Also, the effort that goes into ensuring that new hires will be a good fit ensures that we maintain our culture even as we grow quickly. We want 3Qers to have a growth marketing mindset and drive innovation, teamwork, and big ideas to improve internal operations and create better outcomes for our clients.

Whether you want to be immersed in one company by working in-house or are seeking opportunities to learn and grow quickly at an agency, we hope this advice from our leadership team helps guide you to the decision that’s right for your future!

3Q Digital was named to Ad Age’s Best Places to Work list in 2020 and 2021 and Inc. Magazine’s 2021 Best Workplaces List. Not only that, but 3Qers who have left the company for one reason or another often come back to us! Learn more about life at 3Q and apply for our latest job openings here!


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