Creating Icons

Creating Icons

From Aberdeen to Creating Icons - Nathan BirchNathan Birch

MA (Hons) Economics & Management Studies, 1996
From Aberdeen to Creating Icons

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
It was the furthest University I could find from my home town in Yorkshire. I'd taken a year break between school, originally destined for Newcastle, but after working in Hong Kong for a year, had a change of tack in what I wanted to study and looked for a Uni that would let me study Economics and Management and had a typical collegiate feel too.

Why did you choose your particular course?
It was the combination of subjects I could study - the flexibility that the course allowed me because I really didn't know what I wanted to study. I only think I wanted something which would get me a footstep into "business" and I didn't want to do accounting... which is ironic, considering.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I loved being immersed in a slightly different cultural experience - there's a richness and appreciation of Scotland, its traditions and culture that you don't often see in Universities south of the border. I will always remember the first time I went to the Medics' Ball in my first year, and thinking I was dressed like James Bond in my evening suit, only to be completely outshone by the whirling kilts, and the strange dance moves that everyone bar me seemed to know. Obviously, it's also where I met my best friends, future girlfriends. Also, after a year in the rugby club, I joined the boat club and began rowing - which was a move that has brought me joy every day since.

If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
I was Treasurer and Captain of the Rowing Club in 1995 and started the Aberdeen Universities Boat Race, which saw its 25th event this year. I was fortunate enough to be invited to row in the alumni race and celebrate with many of my old rowing mates in March 2020. It's an incredible sport, an amazing stretch of river to row on, and the Uni Boat Club has some world-class coaches - everyone should give it a go.

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Join as much as you can... don't be constrained by what you did at school, who you knew, what you think you're expected to do. Be yourself, explore, enjoy it because you'll never get the time back again.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
I was hired by General Electric Capital on their graduate management program, the Financial Management Program (FMP).

What did your first role involve?
Firstly, moving to London, to work on the sale of CNBC and NBC Europe to a German media business. It's also involved a lot more study and exams than I'd been used to, but, fortunately, these were held in capital cities across Europe on Saturday mornings. Which means Saturday evenings could be spent exploring whichever amazing city I found myself in!

What is your current job title?
CEO at Interbrand.

What is your current role?
I develop, manage and grow some of Australia's biggest brands.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
I've moved across corporate strategy roles in telcos and media, management consultancy, digital strategy and now brand consultancy across 25 years. I started at GE Capital, where I was fortunate enough to be accepted as an FMP graduate, a fast-track management scheme for senior roles in GE. I moved into management consulting, where I cut my teeth in commercial due diligence under the tutelage of two ex-McKinsey and Bain & Co partners in London and Seattle. I moved into corporate strategy with Orange where I was part of the team that put Freeserve and Orange together. It was then that I decided to move to Australia, where I was a Director at KPMG in the transaction services function, followed by me starting my own digital and creative consultancy before joining Deloitte Digital in Australia for 4 years, heading up digital strategy for clients. After 12 months with Channel 9, I became CEO at Interbrand, helping to grow, manage and develop some of the world's most recognisable brands.

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Essential in that it opened the door to the next stage of my journey... I wanted to go into investment banking, but without the stamp of an Oxbridge Uni on my degree it didn't open those doors - maybe I was being a little too ambitious. What it did prove though, is that businesses look beyond a tier-one University degree and it's more about what you study, what motivates you and what your ambition is than where you studied.

One Top Tip

Be flexible, be open, because it's a winding path. What you think you want after graduation isn't always what you get. But if you're lucky, it'll be much, much more enjoyable. Also, what people say about their own experience is probably only going to be about 1% applicable to your story.