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Matt Marks

Career Path: Commercial Marketing Graduate, Centrica
Location: London, UK

Before attending Northumbria I was loosely set on the idea of pursuing a marketing career, admittedly due to the fact my sister worked for a marketing agency. After a fair amount of research, I soon realised that the variety of career opportunities within marketing meant I'd be very likely to find an enjoyable niche, but this would include a lot of trial and error on my end. Choosing a degree specific to marketing was the first step toward this career path.

Being able to learn the foundations and theories of marketing provided clues as to where I felt particularly drawn. I found the creative aspects particularly resonated with me, but I also enjoyed drilling down into data and analytics to identify patterns and inform the direction of marketing activity. Come the end of my time at university I had a good idea of where I'd like to go, but still wanted a professional environment which afforded the flexibility to try a variety of areas. As it happened, the marketing graduate scheme I secured offered three eight-month placements, and the business actively encouraged me to find my niche. When I finish the graduate scheme in 2022, I'll be rolled off to a management position with clear opportunities to progress further.

What are you doing now?Matt Marks

As part of the Commercial Marketing graduate scheme with Centrica I'm in my first eight-month rotation. I'm completing this at the office in Leicester, but divide my time travelling down to the London offices for meetings and development opportunities. My position as Assistant Digital Transformation and Adoption Manager places me within the Digital team at British Gas Business, which is the B2B arm of British Gas.

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

Northumbria was the second university I attended as an undergraduate, so I had a number of friends attend and graduate from Northumbria before I got started. Based entirely on social media, it appeared Newcastle was an ideal student city. I looked into the course itself and liked the idea of an industrial placement year, along with the module content throughout the three years. The extensive funding into the business school and university as a whole led me to believe it'd be more of a modern university experience than I'd had at my previous institution, and I was ultimately proven correct.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

There was a healthy mixture of lectures, seminars, group and individual work. I found group work to be an early exercise in delegating workload, with admittedly mixed results. It's challenges like those which really set you up for professional life, even if it feels frustrating at the time, and you're made into a more capable professional because of it. Another element of studying at Northumbria which improved my confidence and capability was assessment feedback. Particularly in my last year of study I found the depth of feedback hugely encouraging, with certain strategy pieces likened to a high professional standard. This gave me the confidence to pursue ambitious graduate roles and feel a sense of belonging within a FTSE100 company.

How connected was your course with industry?

I completed a 13-month industrial placement as an Assistant Product Manager at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which served to put the theories I'd learned academically into practice. The placement was an early opportunity to experience the successes and setbacks of working in a large company, without the deeper consequences of being a fully-fledged career professional. I've only recently been able to appreciate the lessons I learned during the industrial year now I've reached that 'fully-fledged' stage, and I've been able to bring knowledge to my position to add value.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

The placement year contextualised much of the theory I learned during my first and second years at university, while adding knowledge of practical applications. This experience is ultimately what got me my graduate role, as I was able to talk confidently about achievements and deliveries to 'sell' myself as an ideal candidate. Going into my final year, the placement gave me a head-start on individual assessments involving marketing campaigns and I was able to achieve some of my highest marks in these areas.

What was the best thing about your course?

The variety of content relating to marketing and business in general served as a very solid foundation for professional and personal life. The subject matter as a whole would benefit someone who plans on pursuing a career, but also someone who plans to have their own small business. It builds a business-led mindset which would otherwise take years of independent research to achieve and it's really up to you how you make the most of it.

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

The biggest edge I received from studying at Northumbria was the placement year opportunity, as I was able to take these lessons on into my later career. Aside from this I was able to build soft skills as a society president, which I now realise was an important foundation for my current people-management skills.

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

The main takeaway into my career from my course and placement year is, as expected, general marketing knowledge. More specifically to my role, I built the foundations of my workload management skills on placement, where I learned the vital use of OneNote to keep myself sane when managing projects. As mentioned previously, group work at university has enabled me to hone both communication and negotiation at a stage when group deliveries have a tangible monetary impact.

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

The most enjoyable aspect of my time at Northumbria were the events endorsed by the University and student union, specifically St Patrick's Day. The University were keen for everyone to make the most of student life.

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

Dig in to the course content and make sure the stark majority of the content is something which you have a positive gut feeling about. You'd be incredibly lucky to be 100% sure about your future career direction and a lot of people make the mistake of assuming they have their life planned out at 18. The key is to dip your toes in as many things as possible until you find something you enjoy, are good at and gives you a clue toward next career steps.

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

Definitely worth it.

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