- Course: MA Economics
- Year of graduation: 1995
- Job title: Managing Director
- Company: ICM Unlimited
Tell us about your degree - why did you choose it and what inspired you to choose Leeds?
I attended Leeds University Business School graduating with an MA in Economics in 1995. I chose to complete an MA in part due to the tough economic conditions which existed at the time, and was therefore keen to differentiate myself in the graduate market by attaining a second degree. Already having a BA in Economics, the choice of course was relatively simple, and I chose Leeds based on its strong reputation in the business community.
What was the best part of your studies here?
Although my MA was a taught course, I found studying at Leeds liberating – the amount of freedom to conduct research of your own and discover new theories and perspectives has been undoubtedly beneficial in giving me the skills to make decisions in business. During my undergraduate degree, I had become increasingly interested in the applications of econometrics, and my MA at Leeds offered me ample opportunities to further develop my skills in this area – which led to my first role as a graduate being that of an econometrician.
How has your career progressed since leaving the Business School? Have there been any notable highlights?
My career has progressed further than I ever expected it to. From highly analytical beginnings working and building advertising and pricing models at Nielsen, I have developed a huge number of other skills in the workplace. I have had the benefit of working with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Vodafone, helping them to adapt their strategy in the areas of sales, branding and customer experience. For the last 7 years, I have been successfully running businesses in the market research arena – during this time I have become a frequent commentator for the industry in both industry and public events.
Can you tell us a bit about your current role?
My current role is Managing Director at ICM Unlimited. ICM is most well-known for the work it does in the political arena, not least its long-standing relationship in conducting all political polling work for the Guardian. ICM is primarily concerned with affecting behavioural change amongst consumers of large brands including Vodafone, Aviva, Argos and the BBC. In my role, I lead the overall strategic direction for the business, which is exciting in a time of unparalleled change in the industry – driven by technological change and the increased availability of information and data.
What was your impression/experience of the facilities, the staff, your peers, the student union, the City of Leeds and the region itself?
The facilities that the university provided back in the mid-90s are nowhere near as advanced as they are today. The advancements in technology that have occurred during the past 20 years have undoubtedly resulted in very different conditions for learning to those that I experienced, although I did have access to everything that I required to have a successful period of study at Leeds. Similarly, Leeds as a city was just starting to change from a northern industrial heartland into the amazing and vibrant city that it has become today. I especially enjoy coming back to both the city and the broader area, I believe it has an unparalleled mix of amenities, combined with outstanding natural beauty on the doorstep.
What would you say is your defining memory of studying here?
The University of Leeds undoubtedly succeeded in providing me with the additional qualifications and skills that have allowed me to be successful in my career. Sharing an MA course with part time professional students also helped me in developing some of those workplace skills that I perhaps had not developed during my undergraduate course.
You have been a part of the Business School Nurturing Talent Mentoring Scheme for two years now, what initially drew you to the scheme?
When I first heard about the scheme through a University newsletter, it immediately struck a chord with me. During my time at university, I spent very little time thinking about what I was going to do after graduation. Whilst there were some resources available such as the careers office, being able to tap into experience from business professionals would have been invaluable. It also felt like a great way of giving something back to the University.
Could you briefly describe what being a mentor entails?
I’m sure that there are a number of ways of answering this question, and much of that will depend on both the mentor and mentee. In short, it is about providing guidance and building confidence as students make decisions about their future career choices. This may involve helping students to make their CVs more distinctive, preparing mock interviews/selection centres, and discussing placement and career opportunities. It is absolutely about supporting students though, not about telling them what to do!
Have you enjoyed the experience?
Enormously. I’ve been fortunate enough to be nominated for Mentor of the Year in both the last two years and felt enormously proud to win the award in 2014. More than that though, it has been amazing to see the mentees that I’ve worked with develop and become visibly more confident in their own abilities. I hope that I’ll continue to work with both of my mentees so far as they move towards full time employment following their final years this time around.
Do you feel the experience had benefitted you? In what way?
It’s incredibly humbling to be honest, and gives a sense of enormous satisfaction to know that you’ve provided help and guidance that has made a real difference to the people involved. Of course, many of the skills from a mentoring perspective are directly transferrable back into the workplace, and I have looked to use these with my team at ICM Unlimited, whether those who join via our Graduate Academy, or those who are looking at their next career move.
Would you recommend being a part of the scheme to others? And do you plan on continuing your mentorship in the future?
If you can commit the time to be an effective mentor, and have a genuine interest in helping others self-improve, absolutely! I’ve been fortunate to have worked with two very different, but fantastic mentees so far – and this has made the job of being a mentor far easier. As with many things, the more you put in, the more you get out, and I look forward to working with both my current mentees and future mentees in the coming years!