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Max Holford

Career Path: Product Manager, SoPost
Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

I always say my “reason for being” is people - I simply find the human experience inherently fascinating, how we all live here on this planet and have always felt I should dedicate myself to improving the lives of all people (in whatever way I can). In parallel, through my early teen years, I felt compelled toward creativity and technology as a means to explore this fascination through making photographs, databases, websites, music or sculpture - but all of it centred around people, their problems and experiences.

What are you doing now?Max Holford

Currently, I’m a Product Manager for a product sampling platform. I help connect consumers, brands and publishers who have a shared interest in beauty, fast-moving consumer goods and retail products.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

Originally, I’d used my UCAS applications across University of Teesside and University of the Arts London and to my complete surprise was accepted for all of them. However, due to being the victim of an assault in my teens, two weeks before the term was due to start, I realised I couldn’t bear to stay in my hometown but didn’t have the confidence to go to London. Northumbria University was the only university that had the exact course I wanted to do (BA Hons Interactive Media Design) as well as being away from home but not too far. At short notice, I emailed the course leader who urged me to meet with them, I instantly got a sense of their genuine passion, saw the amazing facilities at the Design School and it all just felt right. I tell this story because it was a real pivotal moment in my life and I’d urge anyone in similar circumstances to go with their gut instinct!

What was it like studying at Northumbria? 

Loved every second - from the important academic deadlines to the extra-curricula field trips. Naturally, the courses I studied were multidisciplinary as was the core of our work - lectures covering philosophy, art history and design principles to seminars of life drawing, external professionals encouraging debate and hands on creation and experimental work. I felt the genuine enthusiasm of every lecturer and really made an effort to soak up as much as I could. We were always encouraged to work openly, collaboratively and to a high standard whilst having fun along the way, which is pretty much my mantra to this day.

How connected was your course with industry?

For my Bachelor’s degree, we took on a handful of ‘live’ briefs (for Ericsson and D&AD) and the excitement of that was truly thrilling however the coursework on my Masters degree was entirely ‘live’ as we essentially worked as a ‘think tank’ to organisations under the umbrella of academia. We worked with community organisations (eg. Newcastle Gateshead Council) to SMEs and start-ups (eg. Atom Bank) to global enterprises (eg. Unilever) that was a real step-up and a great sandbox environment for the corporate world.

What was the best thing about your course?

In every organisation I’ve worked within or worked with have always said their biggest and best asset is their people and it couldn’t be truer at Northumbria University. From the catering staff to lecturers to librarians to campus services to local people to fellow students. To be more specific though, the professors and lecturers who guided us were so dedicated and evangelical about design, business and technology it made my team mates and I so focused on simply solving problems for people and I’m so grateful for that experience.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

My Masters degree in particular focused solely on ‘live projects’ so we were exposed and granted access to real problems with real constraints and given the freedom and trust to work on every facet of them. On top of this, the sheer amount of extra curricula opportunities (should you want to take them).

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Curiosity and persistence!

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

My friends, I’m very proud that my friends and I struck the perfect balance between complete dedication to our course and living a leisurely life at the same time. Secondly, the time and space to practice the purest forms of design and design thinking!

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

I'd start by enthusiastically telling them about how beautiful the surrounding areas of Newcastle are and all my favourite places to have quiet coffees. Then I'd just say to ponder whether they have that gut feel and if so, dive right in with both feet!

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Life-changing experience.

For more information about me visit:

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