Why did you decide to study the course you did at Southampton?
Southampton wasn’t initially on my radar, and I actually came through clearing because my first choice of University didn’t work out.
It was a blessing in disguise, though, as I think I ended up having a better overall experience thanks to the vibe of the city and having such a great campus set-up. I studied English literature and I remember there were a couple of tutors that really inspired me to push myself.
How did your university experience prepare you for your career?
English literature was all about narratives and the way we read and interpret the world based on our own ideological or cultural perspectives. Being grounded in this analytical discipline definitely provides an interesting lens for marketing challenges, whether its brand storytelling, uncovering bias when making strategic decisions or generally appreciating multiple perspectives and being more switched-on culturally.
You recently began working for Uber, how have you enjoyed it so far?
I find working for Uber incredibly empowering; everyone is very collaborative, there is very little hierarchy, which makes decision-making inclusive and based on championing the best idea.
What is it like working for such a big brand, particularly managing challenging breaking stories involving Donald Trump, working practices and sexism claims?
It takes a certain amount of resilience and you have to stay strong in the face of misperception and believe in the company’s mission and values.
Uber is quite disruptive within the transportation category, so naturally it attracts quite a lot of media interest. I think reactive marketing could come across as inauthentic, so it is more about pivoting from these points and learning how to move forwards – both through our communications and our actions as a business.
How have you adjusted to working abroad?
It was a pretty easy transition once I took the leap, especially given Amsterdam’s close proximity to the UK. I left my job in a London media agency to join Sonos (the wireless sound system) specialising in brand communications and loved every music-filled minute of it. The biggest barrier was the thought of leaving friends and family behind, but it was definitely one of the best things I could have done. I now feel confident enough to live and work anywhere, and I know the people that matter will always be there.
What advice would you give people going into the industry; what would you tell your ‘student self’ if you had the chance?
Start building your network early. I’m the sort of person to recoil in horror at the thought of ‘networking’ and have spent many a conference silently browsing my phone in the corner. But you’ll be surprised how a contact can turn up out of the blue one day with an interesting opportunity or idea. If you go out of your way to help people and establish a relationship at the beginning of your career, you never know where that could lead years later.
It is really important to actively seek out feedback; and listen to your critics – not your fans. When you start out as a graduate make it a priority to find out how you can do a better job and seek out coaching and you will develop and grow far quicker than your peers.
Would you do anything differently?
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am pretty proud of my overall trajectory since graduating. I started at the bottom, running data reports as an unpaid agency intern. Now I’m helping to shape the international marketing strategy in one of the world’s fastest growing technology companies.
What do you still want to achieve?
I want to learn to code and I would love to start my own small, but perfectly-formed business one day. If that doesn’t work out, then I would love to use my skills to have a greater impact within the environment and sustainability sector, ideally still in the tech industry. I’m not sure how or where, but that is the dream.
If you have a story you would like to share with fellow alumni, please email Rachael Tyler, Communications Officer at R.E.Tyler@southampton.ac.uk