1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?
It was at Wembley 1998. I was 15. Charlton Athletic had just beaten Sunderland in a epic penalty shootout following a 4-4 draw in a game that saw ‘us’ get promoted to the Premier League. But the result wasn’t the reason for happiness really.
It was a strange moment in the middle of euphoria I looked around and saw my mum, dad, friends and family all together in genuine embrace and it was a real moment of solace when I reflected and just thought “this is what it’s meant to be like to be happy as a family.”
2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?
It was probably when I was around 11 or 12. My mum was an alcoholic which I didn’t fully comprehend growing up. After a pretty serious incident that I don’t need to go into details with, I had a moment where I realised that I really needed to grow up and quickly.
I felt an enormous sense of responsibility to support my dad; protect my younger sister and help my mum with her addiction from that moment forward. Ultimately mum was not able to overcome her demons and passed away in 2012. I like to think that I played a small role in keeping a sense of normality within the Southam family for a few more years compared to if I “carried on” with ignorance or shying away from what was happening at home.
3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?
Meditation. I thought it was a load of crap up until maybe three months ago. I then got a discount on Mindspace through my life insurance (fell for the marketing) and thought I’d give it a go. I’m not sure whether I still think it’s a load of crap but I’ve stuck with it and it gives me 2 points in the mindfulness column with my Vitality insurance every day. They’ve sucked me in.
4. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them in high esteem?
Ricky Gervais. Beyond the puerility of The Office that got me through my university years in Swansea – he has some strong beliefs that I can relate to. The way in which he talks about atheism, animal welfare and how he approaches ‘taboo’ topics in his comedy is something I really respect.
5. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?
That I’m laid back and little fazes me. I’m not and a lot does. I’m the classic analogy of the duck who may look fine and dandy on the surface but is crazily paddling below to get anywhere. Very few people see the moments where, like the duck, I end up with my arse in the air…
6. What is your untrainable superpower?
I’ve always had a knack of being able to deliver my best work by leaving things to the very last minute. I’ve done it numerous times workwise and it’s been the same for my wedding speech, two best man speeches, my mum’s eulogy and lots more. I don’t take the ‘power’ for granted but it’s nice to feel like you can thrive under pressure.
7. In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for alarm? In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for celebration?
The same answer for both questions here.
Firstly, I can’t believe that here in the UK that is a debate that our state cannot ensure that none of our children will go hungry. It’s abhorrent and it scares me that there are some elements of society that seem to be blaming kids for their parent’s lifestyles and actions.
On the flip side, the campaign led by Marcus Rashford MBE to step in where the government will not has brought out the best of society. It feels me with great confidence that when needed, as humans, we can do what is right without any prejudice.
8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?
There are not any groups that I’ve been in where I haven’t felt like an outsider. And that includes work teams, marketing communities, family and what many would consider close friendship circles. I’m a social introvert. Although I enjoy being out, chatting and ‘being involved’ I can become withdrawn pretty quickly and if I don’t then I’m exhausted and need a couple of days to ‘recover’ at home either alone or just with the wife and kids. I’ve found in recent years that asking more questions and listening to others in a group rather than masking my anxiety by trying to be the centre of attention has really helped.
9. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?
A pair of Asics Gel-Kayano 27s. I got back into road running for the first time since 2014 during lockdown and my knees and ankles are not as robust as they once were. These new kicks help immensely.
10. Cheese or Chocolate?
11. If you were a giant mega Monster what city would you rampage first? Why?
London. I’m concerned that even Glenzilla could be taken out by one of those new electric scooters that are so prevalent at the moment but there is no better city to explore.
I’d probably take the opportunity to flatten some of the more contemporary buildings and scare off traffic for good so that we can create the canvass for a more greener capital city which people and enjoy and explore without the distractions of building works and vehicles.
12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathizing with the most? Why?
Walter White. I think he was the embodiment of living life in regret. He made mistakes, blamed others for them and had a hell of a lot of resentment packaged up. I think we can all relate to the “What ifs” and “If onlys” to a certain degree in our personal and professional lives. Not so much the reaction of cooking up crystal meth and murdering people though.
13. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?
Soon after I joined Staffgroup as Marketing Manager, I made a hire based on making my life and workload easier rather than what was best for the team and business. I got dragged over the coals by my boss for the way it worked out. I had been selfish, and I cost the business money, we didn’t move forward with our marketing vision and most regrettably I wasted six months of somebody’s career who didn’t deserve it. Since then, when I recruit or advise on it, I always use that experience to make sure the same errors aren’t repeated.
14. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?
I spent seven years in my first job after graduating in 2004. The business I worked for had gone through a lot of change and I felt like I deserved better than recruitment. So I got out in 2011 and joined a management consultancy business that had 10s of thousands of employees thinking it was a great step up. It wasn’t. It was frustrating and I couldn’t impact anything, and I wasn’t as ‘good’ as a thought I was. I was back in recruitment four months later…
15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?
If I wouldn’t mind it, is it a bad quality? I don’t mind self-doubt. Although often it is misplaced, I think it shows a desire to continuously improve. As long as it doesn’t spill over into a mechanism for fishing for adulation…
16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?
From a technical marketing point of view, I’m almost always the weakest. I pride myself on being a jack of all trades when it comes to marketing. It took me a long time to accept that and stay in my lane. Early on in my career if there was a graphic designer on the team, a specialist web guy or gal or a social media whizz then I felt like I needed to be as good as every single one of them. Was it an inferiority complex? Maybe. I’ve learnt that although I may not be the most creative marketer in any specific discipline, I’m pretty good at seeing the bigger picture and connecting the dots. And I’m cool with that.
17. When it comes to our work and industry; what scares you the most?
Repeating the mistakes of those before us. In moments of crisis and challenge as an industry and as people we seem to innovate really well but it is short-lived, and we revert to type when things calm down to chase the cash. It doesn’t need to be that way and it doesn’t do our reputation any favours let only the candidates we work with.
18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?
Bias in the hiring process. Unconscious or otherwise. Whilst there are humans there will always be bias. In so many cases we’ve gone straight to tech thinking that it will solve everything and all it is really doing is kicking the bias can down the road/hiring process. Education needs to play a greater role, and it is in many cases, but we need to accept that we’re never going to eliminate it until humans stop interacting and engaging with each other.
19. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?
Don’t be a dick.
20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?
Thank you to Glenn Southam for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Recruitment Marketer? Join The Lonely Marketers – the only place to connect with your community