Nicky Glenn has been involved with SNS Group - a Glasgow-based multimedia production company set up over 20 years ago - since 2005, after leaving school in 2003. Starting out as a Picture Desk Assistant, he worked his way up to become the Social Media Manager, as well as a member of the company's Business Development team.
You left school in 2003 and didn't pursue a University degree, instead joining SNS Group in 2005. What was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Nicky: I actually did make a brief foray into further education but I soon realised it wasn't for me. I loved school, and did well at it, but I was ready to decide where I wanted to be as an adult and University wasn't it. The minute I saw what SNS were looking for, I knew I had to go for it! Media has always been my "thing". I was delighted when I finally heard they wanted to take me on. Remembering the awful jacket I wore to my final interview, however, makes me surprised that they ever did!
I must admit that it was a serious culture shock for the first few months. I was probably guilty of still having my student cap on, enjoying too many nights out and thinking this is what life is all about. When I was able to knock that out of my system (and I got the hang of the early morning starts), I started to enjoy it massively. It felt great to have new responsibilities and to have the chance to start impressing people. After my first review with our MD, about 6 months into my career, I knew I'd made the correct decision and at that point decided I was in it for the long haul.
Universities produce many a good man, but learning your job as you're doing it has always made more sense to me. Apart from Doctors, they should always go to University first :-)
You worked as a Picture Desk Assistant for 4 years, doing post production work on photographic and video material. What did you learn in those first years at SNS Group?
Nicky: Those first four years taught me a lot. Starting from the ground up has genuinely set me up for all that's in front of me now. Skills learned then, such as image and video editing, are skills that I still use on an almost daily basis.
I also found out what it meant to work in the media industry. At times it was scary. It's a fast-paced, tough environment and there were moments of "am I right for this?" and even "I need a hug". Once I was used to the job though, I was able to understand why it appears so fierce. People working to tight deadlines, quite rightly, just want things to get done.
Without doubt, working on the Picture Desk required a lot of teamwork. I got better and better at dealing with people over time and as my skill set increased, so did my responsibilities. Forward planning, logistics and organisation came into my workflow and these were the three very important skills I improved on in those four years. I couldn't do my job now without them.
SNS Group are great at laying down the foundations for their staff in any given department before deciding where each individual should start to specialise after a few years. Anyone joining our Picture Desk will learn the same skills I did before they settle on the exact type of role they want to move into in the future. Similar to the Army's basic training, only you get your own desk.
Remaining with SNS Group, you worked as a Deputy Picture Editor for another few years before taking on the Social Media Manager post a little more than a year ago. Tell us more about your current post - having worked within the same company for several years, do you do anything differently now than when you first started?
Nicky: A lot has changed in the ten years I've spent at SNS Group, not just my role. When the world jumped head-first into digital, we did the same. Our design and video departments grew quickly and are still growing now. This led us to thinking about new ways to promote our services and, more importantly, new ways to communicate with clients and the public. What we do, particularly the sports photography side of the business, is of huge interest to the general public and we wanted to start talking to them about our content. It was clear we had to improve our Social Media offerings, and that's where I came in.
During my years as Deputy Editor I had already started honing my skills in areas of Social Media. Nothing ground-breaking, just things that I felt we could improve on if we gave it the time it required. When it became clear that Social Media was here to stay, our MD decided to create a permanent position to first bring us up to speed, before then utilising it to communicate with the wider world. To boost the knowledge and skills I already had, I was sent on different courses, seminars and conferences over the first six months of taking up the position.
So yes, I do a lot differently now. Rather than having management responsibilities over one department - the Picture Desk - I now have the pleasure of planning Social Media policies, rules and regulations for the entire company. I'm not alone though - there are others at SNS Group who love Social Media and do everything they can to help me drive things forward. My right hand (wo)man Claire is quite the bag of tricks when fresh ideas are required! I also do a lot more reading these days. Blogs, feeds, timelines, adverts, newsletters and everything in between. Social Media never sleeps.
Working with Social Media for a living, in what ways do you think media students, graduates and jobseekers can perhaps best utilise online platforms in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers?
Nicky: Nowadays, when it comes to finding a job, especially one you love and expect to make a career out of, Social Media is hugely important. Whether people care to admit it or not, Social Media is now one of the first places employers will check when considering a prospective new employee. You have to be careful that what you've said in the past doesn't come back to haunt you.
We all love a good moan from time to time but my advice is, and always will be, DO NOT DO IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA! Everyone is entitled to their own views and opinions, but something said in the heat of the moment may come across as extreme and could rule you out of the running from the start.
The flip side of that is the good bit though. Social Media can and will help you stand out if used properly. LinkedIn is the perfect place to build your online CV. Even if you're fresh out of school, you can populate your profile with your interests, hobbies, school grades, any certificates or qualifications you might have gained elsewhere and any work experience you've had, however small. Be confident, be open about your strengths and what you're looking for from your future career. Follow conversations and enter groups that are relevant to the career path you want. The amount of insight available across all Social Media, not just LinkedIn, is invaluable when starting out. You may even get the chance to chat to people of influence, those that can point you in the right direction and offer you the advice you need.
Above all else, be social. Sometimes just asking the right questions and saying the right things can drive you right to the top of an employer's list.
Thinking back to your school days at Stranraer Academy and your first years at SNS Group, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in media production?
Nicky: My advice to my younger self would be "stop doing only what's expected; start doing more". Thankfully, I now live by that mantra. My advice to anyone else would be to just go for it. If starting at the very bottom is what it takes to get into the industry, go for it. With the right attitude and application, anyone can make it in the media and you'll soon be climbing the ladder, learning new skills, meeting new people and doing new things. There are so many avenues to take, so many mediums to work in - if you apply yourself from the very start, you'll get there. Once you do, you'll never look back.
You can follow Nicky on Twitter: @NickySNSGroup