As part of our ongoing series of interviews with professionals in development, alumni relations, marketing and communications we share with you the thoughts of Naomi Nunn from the University of Edinburgh. We would like to thank Naomi for taking the time to talk to us. If you are interested in sharing your own experiences in this way then please do get in touch or complete our survey.
My Career in…. Marketing and Alumni Relations
Naomi Nunn leads the alumni relations programme for the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.
What was your first “proper” job? Does it relate at all to what you’re doing now?
Other than a variety of secretarial and administrative jobs, the first job I consider to be part of my career path was working in internal communications for a division of BT that dealt with major IT projects. A lot of the skills I learnt there, such as communicating technical or complicated ideas in a simple way and using the web for communication, come in useful in my role now.
I am now in charge of Alumni Relations for the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Informatics is often referred to as ‘computer science on steroids’ so is an extremely technical field.
Could you briefly describe what career route you took to get where you are now? Was it a linear progression? Did you change careers or sectors? Did you retrain?
During my time at BT I moved from internal communications to marketing and communications. While there I undertook the CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing, which has proven to be very useful in Alumni Relations (which is after all, a form of marketing).
My main career path change here involved moving from the private to the public sector. However, many of the skills I developed at BT have served me well in my role at the University. Much of my training and development since working in Alumni Relations has been self taught, in the area of social media communication. While there are training courses available for this field, I found that ‘playing around’ with the tools was the best training there was.
What drives and motivates you as a person?
I enjoy working with other people and having a varied job. When I get positive feedback from alumni on my communications and events I feel especially motivated.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy the fact that there is always something new to learn or discover. Using social media for alumni relations is a new field and it is exciting to be working at the forefront of it. However, I also really enjoy the face to face aspect of the role – meeting alumni in the flesh is great, and finding out what makes them tick and how they relate to their time at University is fascinating.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
The fact that, even though I am relatively new to the area of using social media for alumni relations, there is really no one else in my office who has more experience with it and who can offer support and advice. While it is sometimes exhilarating to be at the cutting edge of a particular area it can also be quite daunting at times.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your profession what would it be?
I’d ensure there was more overall institutional support for alumni relations, as alumni are the University’s best selling tool across the globe. All alumni have the capacity to be great ambassadors and give something back, even if it is not financial, so that should be more widely recognised – although this is improving all the time.
What would be your top three tips for someone considering a career in your profession?
If you want to get into alumni relations, learn all you can about social media by joining as many sites as you can and playing around with them. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things out (using a new social networking site, hosting a different type of event) – some may work and some may not but you won’t know until you try. Ask your audience what they want, but take their answers with a pinch of salt – what they think they want and what they actually want aren’t always the same, but being asked will make them feel included and important.