University of Derby rising star: Callum Collins

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Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 15/09/2022

The University of Derby is the headline partner of Generation Next. It takes an active role in the local business community, supporting entrepreneurs and organisations of all shapes and sizes, while also producing a significant number of highly skilled graduates who remain in the region.

Let’s find out more about one of its team – B2B marketing campaigns officer Callum Collins.

What is your career journey to date and what does your current job role involve?

During my school days I was never considered to be very academic, I struggled in lessons and was told by teachers that I wouldn’t get into university, and I should not apply. Despite this I decided to stay on at sixth form and as I came to the end of my studies reached the first crossroads in my life. I had two choices – apply to university and face what I’d been told would be huge disappointment (as my grades were not what I wanted), or take some time out and gain experience in a working environment.

I had been working at the John Lewis Partnership since the age of 16. It was during my studies that an opportunity arose at the Waitrose store I was working at. A secondment came up which I apprehensively applied for and later found out I was successful in gaining. My new role was assistant section manager, customer services. At just 18, this was a huge sense of achievement for me both in terms of personal growth and career development. This opportunity proved to be a big influence in shaping my career aspirations and inspired me to believe that I was capable of far more than I had been led to believe whilst I was at school.

I embraced the job role, taking every opportunity I was given to learn more. I achieved a huge amount of knowledge and experience in customer service, branding, and leadership and mentoring. I was excited to learn about the world of business and as my secondment was coming to an end, I found myself having to again consider which path I should take. I had begun to look at going to university and had attended a couple of open days focusing on business courses, but I still wasn’t sure it was quite right. Expectations were high and my grades couldn’t quite match some of the requirements being asked for. As I broadened my search I glanced at the University of Derby and with an open day that weekend decided to attend. This was the best decision I had made; it was exactly what I’d hoped for, I was inspired by the ethos and excited for the course they offered; marketing (PR and advertising). The course encompassed everything I had been interested in and so I applied and was successful in gaining a place.

Over the course of my three-year degree I embraced every opportunity available. I continued to work at Waitrose as a team leader, studying in the week and returning home at weekends to work. In my second year I secured an internship with the digital marketing team at University of Derby. I embraced the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning in theory. This opportunity not only supported my learning but was to be the steppingstone into my first role once I graduated. By chance, a further opportunity also arose to work with a local entrepreneur in a marketing agency.

As my studies came to an end, I was thrilled to graduate with a first-class honours degree, not only that but the biggest surprise was being presented with the Derby Business Schools prize for Best Marketing/PR & Advertising Student.

Ready to kick-start my full-time marketing career I searched for the right role, within the right organisation doing something that I would be passionate about. Still working part-time in multiple roles (one being my internship at the University of Derby), I was fortunate to find a full-time post within the university in the digital marketing team. Following a successful interview, I was appointed to the post of web & digital support assistant.

After just under two years within the digital marketing team, I moved onto pastures new in securing a role as digital marketing officer at the University of Nottingham. Within this new role I learnt new skills in product marketing as I supported student recruitment for undergraduate, postgraduate and research into the Faculty of Engineering.

Twenty months after starting at the University of Nottingham, I was ready for my next opportunity. Knowing that I was passionate about education and the opportunities it presented, I knew I wanted to stay within my sector. In my search, I was fortunate to discover the University of Derby was hiring. Knowing the organisation and the excellent leadership within, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. Following a successful interview, I was appointed to my current role of B2B marketing campaigns officer.

Within my current role I work on a wide range of tasks and projects. My remit includes partnerships, apprenticeships, executive education and business enterprise and engagement. No two days within my role are the same, with tasks varying from organising and managing photoshoots, content creation, working on printed collateral, working on digital campaigns, using data and insight to report on performance and of course using my passion to develop accessible and user focused web content.

What challenges have you come across in the past two years and how did you face them?

Lockdown has changed my role in being able to work remotely, should I need it. Creativity and collaboration are benefits of working in person, however home working offers flexibility as well as being able to socially connect with not just members of my own team but a much wider audience that perhaps was not accessible previously. There are benefits to both home working and office working and firmly believe that hybrid working suits me.

How does your company support your learning and development?

I meet regularly with my line manager to discuss workload and up-coming projects that are available to participate in. This ensures that I have an open and honest dialogue, meaning that I can talk about whatever is on my mind. I feel trusted and supported to share my ideas, as I have an excellent team around me.

There is ample opportunity for me to use my knowledge and expertise to make an impact, while ensuring we’re innovative, and user focused. I have also been given the opportunity to support the growth of our junior marketers within the team. I am a point of contact for them, ensuring I can answer any questions in which they might have while also enabling them to successfully grow within their roles.

There are in-house learning and training opportunities, to enable me to strengthen my skills and re-fresh my knowledge. Outside of work I have my Chartered Institute of Marketing membership, which provides me opportunities to network as well as attending informative webinars to learn and develop new skills, stay on top of trends and industry knowledge.

As a young professional, do you have any advice or recommendations for employers looking to hire young talent in our region?

When starting my career, I remember seeing job adverts for junior roles that had expectations that were impossible to meet. I am a firm believer that a person’s character and attitude play as much a part of their success as experience does. Everyone must start somewhere, and a positive attitude, drive and charisma is a real benefit to anyone starting out. My advice for employers looking to hire young talent, is to not set expectations too high – a junior role, is junior for a reason. As a leader, it is your opportunity to shape an individual and support them to reach their goals and ambitions.

Furthermore, I would advise employers to look at work culture. For me culture and values of an organisation is key. We spend so much time working, that it’s imperative that staff are happy. Happiness doesn’t always come from salary! You can pay the highest salary and have all the “benefits” in the world, but if you’re not supporting individuals with training and development and do not make them feel welcomed then they will not succeed.

As a leader, you have opportunities to shape the workforce you employ and make it something truly amazing, successful teams support and work alongside each other to create positive working environments, it is this culture that leads to positive partnerships with outside organisations and a resilience in teams that encompasses drive, determination, and commitment to the employer to succeed and to be the best at what they do.

Encouraging a culture in the workplace that is open and honest allows everyone’s views and opinions to be heard. Through listening to employees and creating a supportive, welcoming environment for young talent you embrace positivity, growth, and a chance to receive ideas that changes how things are done for future development and growth of your company. No one is the master of all trades; a combination of expertise and team players creates an effectual workforce.

What are your plans for the future and who is your inspiration?

Looking forward I want to refine my craft as a digital marketeer, I am open to opportunities that will develop and provide paths to enhance my career and am excited to see how this unfolds over the coming years. There is so much to see and learn in this field of work and I want to embrace all the opportunities I can while still staying loyal to my background.

I am keen to explore a web specialist role, and with this being a passion I have I would like to explore what impact I might have in this field. I would like to progress into a leadership role that allows me to coach, mentor and inspire a great team. I have had some inspirational leaders and role models in my life, both during my time at university and within the workplace environment and this has motivated me to cultivate an environment that people can flourish in.

My biggest inspiration would be my mum, she has taught me so much. She has shown me that no matter what challenges are presented to you, you are always able to overcome these. She has taught me to work hard and has given me the determination to achieve what I want to. I would not be where I am today, without her support and commitment.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I love keeping active and am a keen outdoors explorer. I enjoy living in Derby, and with the Peak District on the doorstep, I spend weekends and free time walking and exploring the great outdoors.

During the last year I have found a passion for mud runs and have completed a Tough Mudder and a Wolf Run. This year I have another Tough Mudder and Wolf Run which I am looking forward to taking part in. I find these enjoyable and am committed to the pre-training required to take part and complete the events. The feeling of taking part and satisfaction from a good result is well worth the hard work.

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