Richard Thalmann works as Client Service Executive for Works MC.
Why did you choose to study at Surrey?
I came to Surrey because of its UK ranking and proximity to London. In addition the town and campus seemed like a place I could quickly settle into and enjoy.
How has your degree helped in your career?
One of the skills which has been most useful, from an entrepreneurial perspective, is the ability to write a complete business plan, from concepts through to financial details. Writing a business plan combines all of the disciplines of business into one document. If you can write a great business plan, then you can work in any business at some level.
Where has your career taken you so far and what is your career highlight to date?
After completing my course I first began as a business development assistant for an online start-up. I worked closely with the founder to develop a detailed business plan to help focus the company and gain investments and interest from others in the industry. Being a start-up, the company lacked much of the stability I was looking for, and after several months I chose to move on.
I moved into marketing within the oil and gas industry, where I was responsible for organising and marketing several global events which were held to educate attendees. I found that the company and type of marketing lacked the creative freedom I was looking for, and chose to switch into the agency side of marketing.
I joined a creative B2B marketing and communications agency (my current job), working with large blue chip companies. I now manage marketing projects and campaigns. I truly enjoy the agency side of marketing, because it's so fast-paced and I am always given new challenges. I enjoy working closely with the creatives to design and build the tools marketing teams need.
On the side, I’m now working with a friend to develop a business plan, which hopefully can become a business we can build to support ourselves and others.
It's difficult to give one career highlight, so I will mention two. Firstly, working with the start-up, seeing investors interested and dedicating their personal money because of a business plan I helped write. Secondly, in my current job, every six months we put together a portfolio of all the projects completed. It's a great feeling to see all the projects summarised into one notebook filled with images and statistics; a single document that shows all the hard work done over the last six months.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Surrey?
I have lots of great memories of Surrey. One that relates directly to my course was of a guest speaker who visited our marketing class. He was a marketing director from Ted Baker, and he came and spoke about his job and the company. It was great to see how someone could be so passionate about his work. I would have been happy if the class had gone on for hours because I just wanted to hear more!
What advice would you give to students looking to work in your sector?
I would suggest students focus on two things:
- Learn about as many project management styles as you can, so you can find the perfect style for yourself
- Get lots of varied work experience; many companies are happy to show how they work, so just ask
In my experience marketing is:
- 15 per cent analysis (why are consumers doing or not doing something)
- 20 per cent creativity and problem solving (what is the solution to get consumers to react how you want)
- 10 per cent technical knowledge (can your solution be done with the skills, tools or technologies available)
- 5 per cent financial knowledge (how do you make your budget work harder or how can you get more budget)
- 50 per cent project management (how do you combine everything to get good and effective results)
I would say project management (PM) is something students should focus on first and foremost. Project management can be done with so many different strategies and tools; all of which take time to learn, practice and adopt. Once you're in a job it's difficult to find time to learn and practice a new strategy, so you may find yourself keeping to a current but inefficient style. Being a student is the perfect opportunity to explore the different strategies and tools without losing your companies profit. Develop your PM style early!
Additionally I feel that:
- Analysis simply requires time and attention to detail – it is a matter of dedication and application of logic
- Creativity and problem solving grows through experience - it’s naturally built every time you face a new challenge
- Financial knowledge is standardised throughout most companies - once you know the basics you can go into any company
- Technical knowledge only needs to be an overview and can be learned by simply watching online videos or reading basic textbooks