George Paige

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Aerospace
Job title: Global Head of Brand, Creative and Social
Subject of study: Law
Year of graduation: 2013
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Etihad Airways

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

Since finishing my studies in Law I have probably had one of the more unconventional journeys for a Law graduate. The same day that I graduated Exeter, I received a call from my first employer, Merlin Entertainments, telling me that I had been successful in my application to join their marketing graduate scheme. For my parents this was quite the shock, their son who had studied hard to become a lawyer had decided he was going to make a difference in the world of leisure and entertainment instead! But I didn’t regret it for a second, throwing myself into the opportunity that was presented to me. Seven years later and I had held positions within Merlin that involved me flying to Japan to launch a new LEGOLAND, to running their global loyalty scheme and finally the marketing for The London Eye. In January 2020 I then received a phone call from an ex-colleague now working in the Middle East, to join them in a place called Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Having grown up in France for the biggest chunk of my childhood, I always knew that I wanted to move abroad again at some point in my professional career – and this opportunity sounded like that perfect moment in my career. Fast forward a few months and I was jumping on the last flight into Abu Dhabi before they shut the country down as a result of Covid-19. Despite the challenges that this period presented, at the time I was the Head of Brand Strategy for a leisure destination that had ambitious growth plans – and it was an incredibly exciting part of my career. Then, a little after two years later, I was approached by Etihad Airways as a role had come up within their Brand, Marketing and Sponsorships division to lead the global brand for Etihad. Having always wanted to eventually get into the Airline industry one day, this was my opportunity and since joining Etihad a little over 18 months ago I haven’t looked back!

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

Exeter gave me an incredible opportunity to try and understand what I was passionate about. From taking part in clubs, working with the Students’ Guild as a Trustee to doing part time work with an events company, through all of this extra-curricular activity I soon learnt that my strengths lay elsewhere. Halfway through my degree (At the time I was studying Law and French Law), I decided to drop the French part of my curriculum and focus on achieving my law degree – which would give me the best opportunity to start my career in Marketing. Whilst this was one of those life milestones that we are all faced with as an undergraduate, and as an adult, it was the best decision I ever made. That decision set in place a trajectory for my future self, to invest in a career that I was passionate about. Marketing, and Brand in particular, is one of those careers where no day is ever the same – it is varied, it is all encompassing and above all else, it is creative.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was on the Halls Committee of Lopes, a part of RAG and a Trustee for the Students’ Guild.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

The best part of my time studying were the opportunities that were presented to get involved in the community at Exeter. Beyond just the studies (believe it or not I actually loved learning about family law and trusts!) I was getting involved in so many different things in student society at Exeter, which built my confidence significantly and prepared me for the world beyond University. As I look back though, I realise the value that this Law degree has given me. On the one hand, it is almost unheard of to find someone that studied Law end up in the creative and marketing fields which is always a great conversation starter. But more importantly, having studied law gives me an edge when it comes to thinking strategically – I tell my teams now that the one thing they should invest their time in is how to think and act strategically, logically and rationally.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The best part of my time studying were the opportunities that were presented to get involved in the community at Exeter. Beyond just the studies (believe it or not I actually loved learning about family law and trusts!) I was getting involved in so many different things in student society at Exeter, which built my confidence significantly and prepared me for the world beyond University.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Before I moved abroad when I was a child, my family and I had our roots in Devon – so it felt like a logical place to go back to, but other important things on my selection criteria were choosing a campus university, one that had strong credentials (both overall and for the law faculty) and one that was not far away from the countryside.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

On the law degree side, definitely the ability to think strategically, logically and rationally. This has given me an edge when it comes to leading business plans and executing yearly strategies. It has also been incredibly beneficial in growing the teams that I lead as well. But to the same extent, the work I did outside of studying during my time at Exeter, gave me the personal skills the really helped me (some call it ‘soft skills vs. hard skills’ but I don’t rate that naming). It taught me the value of confidence, of understanding people and engaging with people and the ability to build relationships. I also worked with some great bosses in my part time job whilst at Exeter who weren’t shy in giving me direct feedback, which helped me to grow an external lens and to develop my self-awareness – something that has remained so important at every stage of my career to date.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

A number of things, but as a student, start with passion. Find your passion, what interests you, then do the work to find out more about how you can get into that field or area. You don’t always have to listen to your parents/guardians, this journey is about you finding out who you really are and deciding on a career path that you will enjoy for the rest of your life. Then when you start your career it is all about work-ethic, take the opportunity to show the world what sets you apart, work smart and build relationships. Create work that you are proud of, invest time in it, and the rest will fall into place.

Do you have a piece of wisdom or general advice you’d like to offer?

Find your passion, what interests you, then do the work to find out more about how you can get into that field or area. You don’t always have to listen to your parents/guardians, this journey is about you finding out who you really are and deciding on a career path that you will enjoy for the rest of your life. Then when you start your career it is all about work-ethic, take the opportunity to show the world what sets you apart, work smart and build relationships. Create work that you are proud of, invest time in it, and the rest will fall into place. 

What are your plans for the future?

I used to have a five-year plan, I don’t have that anymore and wouldn’t recommend that for anyone reading this. In fact, I read an incredible leadership book that suggested I reframe that for my team with two simple questions; to ask of them where they see themselves in (1) 18 months and (2) where they see themselves at the point of retiring. I apply that same logic to my own plans now, and for my 18 month view right now I have my first child on the way so will be shifting my focus to that little project for the time being and my ultimate goal from a career perspective doesn’t actually have a title, but I feel I have landed in the right industry for me and hope to grow within the brand and marketing side of airlines, maybe one day becoming the CMO or equivalent (with the caveat that I don’t know how my life might change when I have a baby!)

 

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