After many years spent working in digital media recruitment, I continue to be fascinated by the stories that those in the community have to tell about their career. To that end, a few months ago, we launched FFS.
Otherwise known as Futureheads Five Stories, this is a regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell. We aim to find out more about their career in the digital world, and the lessons they've learnt along the way.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
For this edition, we're joined by digital strategist Simon Nixon.
What’s the story of your career so far?
I built my first website in 1994 whilst I was living in Chicago, so next year it’s 25 years in digital for me - which is crazy when you say it like that.
I’ve been on a journey that started with web development, passing through project management, client services, user experience, service design, product ownership and strategy. I even got offered a Creative Director role, so I’ve pretty much completed the circle!
What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?
Calm down and stop stressing!
I found project management and client services exhausting. Obsessing over every detail. Carrying the weight of delivery on your shoulders. Trying to second-guess what the client is thinking and feeling. It can become unhealthy in my opinion. It's one of the reasons why I was so happy to say goodbye to waterfall and massive Gantt charts.
The other piece of advice would be to tell myself that it’s ok to speak to your mind in front of those people you perceive to be senior to you. They are just people like you. Say what you think, tell the truth and worry less about the consequences. I only really gained that freedom when I went freelance.
What do you love most about what you do?
The variety of the days. None are ever the same.
I love mentoring and helping people in my network. I’m certain my legacy will not be software, it will be the people I’ve helped.
Turning an idea from a blank sheet of paper into an actual “thing” is hugely satisfying and slightly addictive.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
- Don't be afraid to do the unexpected - A respectful ‘shock’ can be very effective
- Don't rest on your laurels - Instead, always strive for something outside of your comfort zone
- Know what you stand for and what you don't - It’s important to have business morals and to stand up for them
- Your network is valuable - feed it and it will feed you
- Don’t be afraid of senior stakeholders - outside of work they are just someone’s friend/relative/neighbour - speak to them with respect, but without fear
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next five years?
There are three main challenges that come to my mind.
Being a customer champion of change (both internally and externally) needs a home in the boardroom and its own vertical. The champion of change will soon become the most important role in a business.
For large businesses, adapting to change and fulfilling their need to be digital brands may prove too much and we might see some well-known brands fail in their efforts here. This, coupled with the continuing need to embrace new technology from legacy systems will challenge some CTOs and CIOs.
World-class digital customer service is going to be a problem for some companies who are already struggling to fulfil it through their existing channels. Customers expect instant solutions and help especially via digital/social channels - many businesses are simply not geared up for this.
A little bit about Simon
Whether it be a strategic, commercial, technical, service design or a product-related challenge, I am motivated to deliver great work time and time again. Whether I am expected to work directly with Senior Executives or embed myself into a delivery team, my integrity is constantly evident in the way I approach my work. Clients and colleagues will always see my boundless energy, passion and enthusiasm as I look to integrate myself into the heart of a business.
Outside of work I have a 1969 VW Bus, I play tennis, I have two dogs, am actively involved in local Theatre and I play guitar in a band.
Want to take part in our FFS series? Say hello at email@example.com.