1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m the Director of Sookio, a digital marketing agency based on Mill Road – not far from the ARU Cambridge campus. After graduating in 1997 I worked in radio, helping produce specialist music output for BBC Radio 2 and 4, before moving to ITV as Project Manager, becoming a homepage editor for Yahoo and Aol, and then founding Sookio in 2008. I’m also a Fellow of the RSA, a Sage Business Expert, co-host of the CamCreatives meetup group and Director of Cambridge 105 Radio. Quite busy!
2. What is your fondest memory at Anglia Ruskin University?
It’s got to be the friendships I made. All those nights at Clueless up at the Junction! Late night banter in our big shared house on Bateman Street. I’m still in regular contact with friends from Anglia now – I married one of them, for starters – and we still laugh at the same in-jokes we had twenty years ago. Actually, it’s 25 years!
3. What has been your favourite job?
There was a time in my radio days when I looked around and thought: it’s never going to get any better than this. There was a lot of writing, learning, researching, and travelling all over the place from folk festivals in Sidmouth to the Blackpool lights switch-on to recording studios in Nashville. It was all in this very creative environment where people would get guitars out in meetings, but at the core, everyone cared very deeply about the quality of the output. It’s this mix of creativity and dedication to producing work we can be proud of that I’ve carried through to Sookio today.
4. In one word, how would you describe Anglia Ruskin University?
Ambitious. It’s in an interesting position, with a certain other university being in the city. I think ARU has done a brilliant job of defining itself as something different. Not second best, but a completely different offering – more about innovation and entrepreneurship. Always looking forward. I recently went back and mentored BA Animation & Illustration students on a three-week social media project. It was great to be back and see how the place has flourished since I was there in the 90s. And ambition was definitely what was coming across – a feeling that it’s still growing and thriving, and has the highest expectations of the students.
5. What did you love about your chosen course?
Doing Communication Studies with Spanish gave me a really solid grounding in things like film history, linguistics, and video production, coupled with an understanding of the key academic theories relating to culture and society. So it was really interesting and varied, setting me up nicely for a career in digital media – an industry which is still evolving at such a fast pace.
6. What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Start building your networks early. This is something I did instinctively because I like communication and collaboration and connecting in general, and it’s served me well. You don’t realise that your chosen industry will turn out to be a small world, and the relationships you make early on could be hugely significant. Other web editors I know from the early days of digital, for example, have also gone on to develop their careers, and there are lots of times we’ve rubbed shoulders again, made useful introductions, or just learned from each other by watching from afar.
7. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
I learned a lot about leadership from different bosses – like Clare at Yahoo, who now oversees the BBC homepage, and the partners who ran the radio production company. They demonstrated this total dedication to editorial quality and showed me how important it is to tell people where they’re going right, as well as wrong. I was also made redundant twice in 18 months; the second time, I found out in the same week that I was pregnant, just to add to the fun! All of this had a huge impact on my career. Although enormously difficult at the time, as I tried to juggle a freelance career with small babies, away from where all the action was happening in London and at the height of the recession, it’s what led me to set up my own company.
8. What advice would you give your younger self?
My phrase of the moment is: always paddle your own canoe.
9. Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I’m quite good at dropping into conversation the fact I did the London Marathon. There might be one or two people left who don’t know about this! I’ve got quite into my running actually – and because I’m vegan nowadays too, it’s all powered by chickpeas.
13. What’s next?
My 30s were shaped by things happening in pairs: double redundancy; having my two wonderful boys; losing my parents seven years apart. Things feel a bit more settled now after this turbulent period and I’m focusing on growing the business. And getting in shape for a cheeky little half marathon coming up in September!
Connect with Sue on LinkedIn
Find Sookio across social media at @sookio