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John Thomson

Career Path: Learning Program Manager, Amazon
Location: Milan, Italy

My background consists of 13 years of industry experience in HR, L&D, project management and coaching across diverse sectors, including FMCG, military, manufacturing and technology. I’m a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) an experienced coach and an SDI facilitator, I have had the privilege of working within top-tier international organizations such as Amazon, Nestlé, Rolls-Royce and the Royal Air Force in a range of national and international roles. 

What are you doing now?John Thomson

I currently work in Milan, Italy with Amazon Business (the B2B side of Amazon) in Learning & Development. Across Europe I have a population of about 400. My role focuses on up-skilling this group on a range of topics including technical and soft skills. I split my time across coaching, building and delivering material, recruitment and several projects. Outside of the office I also do some further coaching, speaking and writing on a range of HR and development related topics. 

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

I was drawn to Northumbria due to the HR course on offer. I knew at eighteen the specific area of business that I wanted to focus on and Northumbria stood out as a leading university that offered a specific HR course. Additionally, I had the opportunity to do a placement as part of my course which I thought was important and the ‘real-world experience’ did, indeed help me to stand out from other graduates after graduation.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I had a great time. In addition to my course, I also took an active role in RAG, Student Union activities and joined a number of sports teams over the four years. 

How connected was your course with industry?

I did a 12 month placement in my third year. Working in Leeds as a recruiter for a small recruitment group. 

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

I think that the fact that I did a 12-month placement really helped me in landing my role on the Rolls-Royce graduate scheme. It showed that I was able to apply my understanding of the topic beyond an academic environment and understood how a business operated in reality.

What was the best thing about your course?

I really enjoyed the material that I was studying. While I didn’t excel in every area there teaching was of a high quality and the support I received from the staff was great. 

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

It really set me up for success when I graduated. Especially with my placement, I was able to offer something a little different from other new graduates. 

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

I think the ability to think critically about situations. While the textbook material has been useful, I think that the discussions, application to industry and case studies that we looked at have been the most relevant to what I have done subsequently

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

I really threw myself into the university experience, the studies, the social stuff and extra-curriculars. I think that this helped me to develop as a person and I made some wonderful friends along the way. 

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

As with any university, it’s an investment of energy, time and finances. I’d suggest thinking about where the university and course could lead you in the future and thinking about whether that’s a direction you’d be happy to take. 

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

Enjoyable, enriching and foundational.

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