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James Patefield

Career Path: Outreach Team Lead, Mediaworks Online Marketing
Location: Newcastle, UK

Having done some work experience at an in-house marketing department prior to applying to university, I knew that marketing would be the career path I wanted to go down and cemented my decision to study a degree in Marketing Management. When second year came around, I began searching for work placements for my third year, specifically marketing-focused ones and was successful in being accepted on a 12 month placement at Daniel Thwaites, a brewing, pub and hotel company based in Blackburn, working as a Digital Marketing Assistant in the marketing department's E-commerce team. Around halfway through my final year, I began researching graduate career opportunities in marketing and applied for an SEO role at Mediaworks Online Marketing, a leading digital marketing agency based in Gateshead, after picking up a flyer from them at one of Northumbria's careers fairs. After a couple of interviews, I was offered a job shortly before my last assignment hand-ins and have been at the company since July 2018, the same month I graduated.

What are you doing now?James Patefield

I have been at Mediaworks for about 18 months and started as an Outreach & PR Executive, working with some major national and international brands such as Lookers Motor Group and Michelin Tyres. After 12 months, I was promoted to Outreach Team Lead, where I manage a small team within the wider Outreach team. My day-to-day involves working with different clients on their SEO campaigns, in order to meet their specific objectives. As my client base varies considerably by industry and individual needs, no two days are the same! My job is to get my clients' online coverage and occasionally in print, through the pitching of engaging, topical content to both the national press and industry-specific publications and websites, which in turn both promotes our clients' brands and drives traffic to their websites in order to improve their rankings in Google search results and position them above their competitors, using target keywords based on customer search terms to facilitate this. Both online and offline coverage for clients across the team have included mentions in the Express, Sun, Guardian, Mirror and London Evening Standard, amongst others.

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

It goes without saying that Newcastle is a fantastic city and being consistently named as the best student city in the UK was partly an influence! Apart from Newcastle itself, I wanted to go to a university that had the right course for what I wanted to do that included a placement year. I wanted my university choice to have top class facilities to support this, have a solid academic reputation and, initially for first year, have a good choice of student accommodation too - Northumbria had all these. As with most other students, I visited a number of universities around the country to get a feel for each one and see what they were about and Northumbria was by far and wide the one that stood out for me and ticked all the boxes. The Business School was second-to-none and I was very impressed with the enthusiasm, knowledge and friendliness of the academic staff that I met on open days who made me feel welcome and I felt I could really see myself studying there for the next 4 years.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I enjoyed studying at Northumbria as the teaching methods were varied which gave me the opportunity to adapt my learning. I attended lectures, seminars, workshops and also worked with other students on my course on group projects throughout my degree. I felt there was a good balance between these teaching methods and different methods suited to specific modules. This included workshops/group projects for creative marketing-focused modules and lectures/seminars for theoretic management-focused modules. Of these teaching methods, my favourite ones were the workshops/group projects as I prefer 'hands-on' experience that gives me the chance to apply my learning in a given situation and I also like working as part of a team. I found that Northumbria offered a great variation of teaching/studying methods as they give students the opportunity to excel in different ways and recognise how best they can learn and study.

How connected was your course with industry?

My course was extremely well connected to industry as some of the staff had industry experience themselves and were able to share their knowledge and insight first-hand, which I found to be invaluable. Placements were also included on my course and actively encouraged, with Northumbria having strong links to businesses both on a local and national scale. In my final year, my Digital and Data Driven Marketing module involved us working on a group project in the form of a national competition set by the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM), an industry body specialising in accredited marketing qualifications. I was also given the opportunity to work towards one of these professional qualifications as my degree course qualified for this and after sitting an exam at the end of final year, I was awarded the IDM Certificate in Direct and Digital Marketing. Interesting guest lectures have included representatives from Virgin Money and a freelance copywriter.

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

I can't stress enough how important and beneficial doing a placement is - it was one of the best things I did, not only for my degree but my career as well! In terms of my studies, doing a placement allowed me to apply what I'd initially learnt in marketing from the classroom to the workplace. I gained valuable first-hand experience of a real-life working environment for a full year, as opposed to a week's worth of work experience a few years previously. At Thwaites, one of my responsibilities was to manage and execute a substantial web project that involved me redesigning and relaunching around 80 different pub websites for the company's Pub Operations division. I was able to improve my communication skills as I was required to liaise with a number of internal and external stakeholders, including members of the E-commerce team, Pub Ops team and the pub tenants themselves, who were in essence, my customers. As well as web design, I also learned about other fundamentals of digital marketing, including SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), CMS (Content Management Systems), E-commerce, Email marketing and Social Media marketing. Through the knowledge that I acquired on placement, I felt that this set me up well for my final year's Digital and Data Driven Marketing module, as well as my career at Mediaworks. This was due to the commercial awareness I had of the digital marketing industry as a result of my placement. Regarding my career, having a placement on my CV and a placement portfolio with it (required to be completed when doing a placement) gave me a real edge in my Mediaworks interviews as I had some real-life marketing experience to talk about and some tangible evidence of my skills to show for it. My interviewers took interest in my portfolio and one of them asked if they could borrow it to read after my interview which was a good sign that I'd stood out from other candidates and offered something memorable in my interview which is crucial in the competitive graduate jobs market. As mentioned earlier, my placement also gave me more commercial awareness about the digital marketing industry that I now work in, albeit in an agency as opposed to an in-house marketing department but the principles of digital marketing remain the same nonetheless.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing about my course was being able to combine marketing theory with a year in industry as I felt these complimented each other really well in terms of the knowledge and skills that were transferred between university and the workplace.

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

Studying at Northumbria helped give my career a real edge as it has a leading reputation as an academic institution, particularly in Business and Law which allowed me to undertake an industry-accredited professional qualification in digital marketing which I may not have had the opportunity to achieve elsewhere. I believe that having this qualification, as well as the high-quality teaching that I received throughout my course has given me the knowledge and skills required to succeed in my career and industry. The University also has great ties with industry, particularly local businesses, which I feel has helped me, with my job being based across the river in Gateshead.

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

The skills I learnt on my course that I use the most in my career include time management, teamwork and working to deadlines. This is due to the time constraints of working on client campaigns and being able to prioritise tasks as well as being efficient with time on these tasks and delivering client campaigns to specific deadlines. As well as my own team, I also work with other colleagues from different teams within the business when it comes to clients and their individual campaign needs. Regarding knowledge, the Marketing modules, particularly the Digital and Data-driven Marketing module, taught me the basics and fundamentals of marketing and digital marketing, that, with the theory learned throughout the course, complemented my placement as I was able to apply this knowledge to my work and indeed gain additional knowledge in marketing from professional colleagues during my time in industry, which in turn has helped me in my career in digital marketing as I have been able to similarly apply all this knowledge and use this experience in my current job.

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

The experience of student life as a whole in Newcastle, shared with my friends both on and off my course, would have to be what I enjoyed most about my time at Northumbria! I also enjoyed the fact that I was lucky enough to have access to top class facilities (The Business School), as well as interesting topics and modules throughout my course and a fantastic placement year too!

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

Order a prospectus and book yourself onto an open day! Explore the campus, talk to course tutors, ask lots of questions and get a real feel for the city as well - doing all that really cemented my decision to want to study at Northumbria.

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

Fun, Challenging, Rewarding

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