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The Clientside Podcast

Balancing work and life, with e-commerce specialist Nic Jones

The Clientside Podcast

35 min Nic Jones

Andrew speaks to Nic Jones, an e-commerce and online marketing specialist with over 20 years experience, both agency and client side. Over the years he's worked on both large e-commerce design-and-build projects and microsites, as well as SEO, PPC, SEM, and developing mobile apps. In this thought-provoking conversation Andrew and Nic somehow cover everything from pink flamingos to floating heads on computer screens, while delving into the sometimes strained dynamics between agencies and client sides. Nic calls himself a strategic thinker, and gives good tips on how to protect your mental health in a busy working life.

Listen on your smart device or read the transcript below

Sometimes there's a lot of suspicion about agencies because everybody's looking at each other going, 'Well, what do you do? Well, you don't do anything. We're doing all the work.' 'No, we're doing all the work.' 'Well, you're not very good at this, so we're going to do it ourselves.' And it's like, if there were better working relationships, then maybe there'd be a better output. And as I said to someone the other day, 'People buy people'. That's how agencies work best.

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Podcast Transcript

Andrew: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Clientside Podcast. Thanks for tuning in today. I hope you're doing well. I'm your host, Andrew Armitage. I'm also the founder of a digital agency called A Digital who are the sponsors of this podcast. And in this episode, I'm excited to be joined, as usual, by a special guest.

Andrew: Okay, so my guest today is Nic Jones. He is an e-commerce and online marketing specialist with over 20 years experience, both agency and client side. So, welcome to the Clientside podcast, Nic, great to have you, thanks for joining me today.

Nic: Yeah, great. Thanks for inviting me.

Andrew: So, just give us a little bit of background to your history in the digital sector.

Nic: Well, without boring everybody with 20 years of history, I started in what you'd call traditional marketing, because the Internet didn't start in this country until about '95, and I started in '89. So working through a bit of urgency, a bit a client side in traditional marketing, then managed to get a role in in a company who did all Virgin holidays.

They used to do the brochures, but they also did the websites. So I landed luckily in a really, really good business in Leeds and spent a few years building websites for Virgin Holidays, which someone taught me how to do it – which was fantastic. So that's how I got into it.

Andrew: In the day when websites were comparatively simple, I imagine?

Nic: They were, we hand-built – every Virgin Holidays brochure had its own website and we hand-built them all. There was a little bit of scripting in the background, bit of CGI script, actually, Perl to to pull in some research, but the rest of it was all done by hand. I actually populated it from the page because the guys downstairs did all the repro on the brochures. So yeah, that was happy days. Talk about proudest moments at some point, but that's the starting point.

Nic: I think it's probably one of the best because to get into a business that does that right at the start – and this is 1999, this is still early days of the web. So topping that was difficult. So I just spent quite a few years account-managing, project-managing, doing some hand-building, coding. I'm not a developer by any stretch of the imagination. People who know me listening to this will go, 'He's not a developer.' I'm not. But I can read a bit of code and a lot of developers I know know where to copy it from, right?

Andrew: Yes.

Nic: So, that is a lot of developing – sorry, guys who I've worked with, you know, you cut and paste it from wherever. I spent a lot of time doing things outside of work as well. And I think that's that's been really important for me, to expand your own experience by doing it for yourself. So whilst I do have a website – it's been neglected over the years – I've done WordPress sites, I've done my own affiliate stuff, I've done SEO, I've done PPC, but I've done it all for myself as well as doing it within work.

Nic: So trying to build that general understanding and then moving through agencies as you do. I spent probably too long in the first one. People tend to leave after a couple of years. I'd like to spend four or five years in the same place because it suits my lifestyle. I actually thought, the other day, you know, I've never missed a Christmas play, I've never missed a parent's evening, I've prioritised to a degree family life alongside work. And I think it's suited me.

Nic: Someone asked me, why are you not a big managing director of a huge business having 20 years? Because I don't want to; I want to do something that suits me. And I suppose my mental health – we'll talk about that later – but just doing something that you enjoy because you get more out of it. Money's one thing, but actually enjoying what you do is much better for you.

So, you know, I haven't moved around a huge amount. I worked at McCann-Erickson for 18 months or so, didn't enjoy a massive company – 300 employees. It wasn't for me. And then my last agency was was Über in Sheffield, a fantastic company doing. We did most of DFS's TV ads for about six or seven years. We did Harvest Furniture and I just did the digital side of that, walked in on day one and said, 'Okay, what digital clients have we got?' And they said, 'We haven't got any!'

Speaker4: Right.

Nic: Okay!

Andrew: There's your first objective!

Nic: So these are the things we used to do. And DFS stuff in Leeds but built alongside a colleague of mine the digital side of the business to a big enough agency within an agency really.

Andrew: Right.

Nic: So it's been a lot of pushing things forward. That's what I enjoy doing. I enjoy taking smallish things and making it into something bigger. I ran my own business, worked with my brother and a couple of other guys and and we built a fairly sizeable business; after I left its now Enjoy Digital in Leeds – that started off with two of us in a in a place outside Holmfirth. So it's little acorns and all that sort of stuff.

Nic: So I enjoy that and that's, you know, that took me to a certain point and then, get into your early forties and I'm sure there's quite a few people who get to their early forties and you go, 'Okay, what am I going to do now for the rest of my career? Still, maybe 20 years I'd like to retire before I get to 60.' But you sit down and go, 'What am I going to do?' And I realised that the agency side of things I'd gone as far as I wanted to go, not as far as I could, but as far as I wanted to go. And it's a young man's game and it's a lot of hours. I'm not against working hard and long hours.

Andrew: But it's a pretty relentless environment, isn't it? And very deadline-driven, of course, as well.

Nic: It is. And there's a huge expectation that you will put hours in outside of work time. And I've done that. I've worked till midnight and everything else. But I had a boss who said to me, 'Right, we need to get together. We've got a presentation to do. Let's start it at five.' I don't think so. You know, I'm all for working late and everything, but I'm not starting it when I'm just about to leave. So you need to sort that out. He did, fortunately. So it's the balance that you've got to find within your life and say, 'What do I actually want to do?'

Andrew: But do you feel that that work-life balance – if there is such a thing, even I know that's a whole different debate – but do you feel that you have that balance?

Nic: Yes, I do. And there's being there and there's being there. And my wife will say, you know, 'You might be there, but you're not actually with us,' because I'm on my phone and I'm reading emails and I'm replying to things whatever time of night, but I'm physically in the room. So as far as I'm concerned ...

Andrew: It's having that full presence, though, isn't it? And I know exactly what you're talking about, because, you know, it's all too easy, isn't it, just to pick up your phone and and glance down and, 'Oh, I'll just reply to that.' It's one less thing that I'd have to do in the morning, or what have you. So it can be quite a distraction.

Nic: But what I have found is because I used to work for Vale Mill in Rochdale, who own the Minky brand: at 5 o'clock everyone leaves; by 5:15, the only people who are there are the cleaners. Yes, they've got warehousing so they open a lot earlier and everything else and people work different hours. In an agency, if it's 7 o'clock you'd expect half a dozen people to be there – not the cleaners. So it's a totally different mindset. And I know that in agency you go, 'What do they do in client-side? They're all lazy. They don't do anything. They're never there whenever I want them. Yeah, because they have the right idea.

Andrew: Sure.

Nic: Do your work between the hours of whatever – I do 8:30 to 5 – do that work, and if you don't do it within that time, it'll wait till tomorrow. Nothing's going to stop.

Andrew: Yeah, there's rarely anything that critical, is there? And, you know, there does need to be a better organisation and better planning and scheduling. And you also need project managing, which comes into that and what have you. But I mean, do you think that's something that's going to change, or has changed even, as you know, we've gone through the pandemic? I mean, there's an argument that says that gets worse because if people are working from home a little bit more, they're arguably working longer hours because they haven't had to travel into work.

Andrew: They're not having to travel home. Perhaps they just walk downstairs to the kitchen to grab lunch. You know, there's a lot more things that make it easier to to stay more connected. But I suppose on the flipside, if you've got family and so on, then you're perhaps more inclined to be present while family are there. So, do you feel that is a culture that will change or that has changed through the pandemic?

Nic: I think it has changed. I think when the pandemic hit, exactly what you said, you get up at the same time. But I don't have to drive 45–50 minutes. I just come down the stairs, come in here into my little office, work, leave for lunch, work, finish at the same time as I would, actually probably a bit later, because I'm going, 'Well, I can carry on because I don't normally get home till after 6 to 7.'

Andrew: Yeah.

Nic: So it's not harming anybody if I'm here. So you end up still doing a 12-hour-day but you're actually working all of it. You're not, like you said, top and tailing it with an hour and a half driving – you end up doing a lot more and being a lot more on it and connected. But you do find that you're sat like we are now, on a screen, on your bum, one-to-one talking, which doesn't give you that sort of rounding experience, like when you were in the office.

Andrew: That's right. Yeah. The social dynamic. The group dynamic from those sorts of social interactions.

Nic: Exactly. And the whole being able to ... you'd go to a meeting with three or four people and then you'd come out and you might make some quip about, it could have been an email or whatever, but you may start discussing some of the finer points or some side points that you don't get on Teams because you go, 'Right, bye, everybody,' – click, done. You're done.

Andrew: And actually, those can be more relevant sometimes than some of the conversation that's happened in the meeting, can't it?

Nic: Exactly. That's that's the point, isn't it? You know, you get those extra bits that that can sometimes lead to a completely different idea and take you in a different direction that you would never have got, just from that meeting or a follow-up email or whatever. So I think working patterns, I think, will change.

Nic: Someone messaged me the other day and said, 'Oh, can we can I have a chat about this?' And I said, 'Yeah, yeah.' 'Right. Can you come across?' Like, what? Sorry, no one's asked to meet me in person in two years. What would I want to do that for? We don't need to. You know, I think those jollies that we used to have – 'I'm just popping to see a client for the day, in London, on expenses' – you know, you don't need to.

Andrew: And the way we're seeing costs rise, you know, those sorts of things just can't be justified as as much. I mean, I'm all for that face-to-face contact, and I think that's really valuable at some point. But, you know, if you're having a monthly check-in meeting or or even a fortnightly check-in meeting with someone, you just can't have that face-to-face contact every single time.

Nic: No, honestly, you never needed it, really. But it was just an excuse to get out of the office and do something different. But now you can do more by doing less. So in theory, you should be able to cut down the hours that you're working. So it's all theory because of course, agency is all about volume. So you need, 'da da da da da da da da. We've got we've got this, we've got this.'.

Nic: So you're always chasing your tail, but when you when you're in a client-side position, it's more like, 'This is what I need to achieve. This is the time that I've got. Oh, look, it's gone over.' Does it matter? No. Unless it's for something specific. I said before, in my last place, there are only two things that don't change. New Year's Day and Christmas Day. Yeah, everything else moves on – your birthday – but apart from that, you know. Nothing's immovable.

Andrew: Nothing's cast in stone, is it?

Nic: Even Black Friday's a different day – I know, 4th of July, different things for Americans and everything else – but, you know, generally speaking, there isn't a deadline that you can't move. And I know it infuriates agency; we go, 'Ah! Client's moved the deadline!' Yeah, that's because we haven't got enough time to do it either.

Nic: So as an agency, you never see the real results. You never see everything unless you are doing every single bit of the marketing. But again, you're just not involved in product decisions and things that are not within your control. So it's infuriating and frustrating on one side because it is slow, bureaucratic, but on the other side you do get a full rounded experience and you can change things a lot more.

Andrew: A bit more influence over how those change and how they develop.

Nic: Yeah, exactly. And you become master of your own destiny, really. If it's working, brilliant. If it's not, do something else. When I was at Minky, someone brought in a flamingo ironing-board cover. And I went, 'Brilliant. Can I have that?' Because I wanted some products that were just for the Web. And they said, 'Well, it's for a customer, but maybe you could do something else with it.' 'Right? Can I have a pink board? Because we didn't do a pink board at the time, so we created one because they're all made just outside Rochdale. The boards and the covers are done in Manchester.

Nic: So we designed and put together a pink board with this flamingo cover on it and pushed it out and started selling it. And you can do that. And it's like, wow, this is great. This is a whole new idea. And at Roar Ambition, we started with three products when I arrived; when I left, we had nine – so not a huge amount, but I created three of those.

Andrew: Yeah. You're closer to the coalface, aren't you? I suppose, so you get to to sort of see a little bit more of what's going on and those ideas can sort of jump into your head a little bit more. Whereas, you know, between agency and client side, you've got this invisible wall, almost, haven't you? And sometimes actually it can be quite visible, but your agency just can't be there all the time. When you have some of these conversations or these products suddenly appear, that can then be the trigger, or even the catalyst, to develop a new product line or even a new campaign to to promote a particular product line.

Nic: Well, that's it. And you can also say, 'Would this product work? Do we think this product will work online? Do we think this product will work in the States? Do we think, how can we how can we push two products together? How can we do these things?' So you are bringing your part of it to the table and having these discussions that you just get the end product of that, from an agency point of view.

You just go, 'Right, this is what we've decided.' And you go, 'That's a terrible idea. Who came up with that?' Well, actually you're sat at the table now going, 'Yeah, it's still a terrible idea, but let's go with it anyway,' because we can we can do something, but we understand the thinking behind it and you get much more depth of understanding. So you can take that away and say, 'Okay, well, I'm going to go down this route.' I may have gone down that route had I not understood how that decision was made. And it's terrible on the podcast, I'm waving my arms about like I always do, but nobody can see it, which is probably just as well.

Andrew: Yeah, well, I can be a bit the same as well sometimes, but so, so interesting that you talk of those ideas and things like that. I mean, is that something that agency side can do better? Is there something they can do better to be a part of those conversations? Or is that really just the way it is? Fundamentally, you've got two different organisations.

Andrew: And yeah, we've seen a lot of moves from particularly larger companies trying to move some of those agency relations in-house. You know, they've built up their own in-house team that ultimately allows them to be closer to some of those conversations, closer to product, closer to customers. So, you know, is there something that agencies could be doing better around that front or is that just a natural divide that will always be there?

Nic: I think that's a relationship. I think we had strong relationships with quite a few of our clients at Über, but I don't think we'd ever say whether you should do a red one instead of a blue one. But I do know what you mean. I have seen agencies put people into a company for three or six months who can work closely with the marketing team. But again, you know, you probably in a bigger company who have lots and lots of different departments. At McCanns, there were 300, I knew probably about 20 of them.

Nic: So it's a very difficult thing, but it's something that I do think – sometimes there's a lot of suspicion about agencies because everybody's looking at each other going, 'Well, what do you do? Well, you don't do anything. We're doing all the work.' 'No, we're doing all the work.' 'Well, you're not very good at this, so we're going to do it ourselves.' And it's like, if there were better working relationships, then maybe there'd be a better output. And I said to someone the other day, People buy people. That's how agencies work best.

Andrew: Selling relationship ultimately, aren't they? But there's byproducts which could be a website, could be a campaign, it could be an email, PPC or whatever service is being provided.

Nic: Exactly. But your main problem is you always know that you get the A team out to pitch and then you don't know what you've got in the back room. And that's always, again, the difficulty when you go, 'Yeah, but you're not actually going to be doing this, are you, it's going to be the grad.'

Andrew: Sure.

Nic: The 20-something-year-old grad.

Andrew: It's down to the junior.

Nic: Yeah. Doesn't understand it. And sorry to all graduates, but we've all been there. Been the new boy.

Andrew: So tell me a bit more about Shopify. Is Shopify that hub for you in an e-commerce sense or are you still doing certain things manually? Things like fulfilment payments are obviously going to be hosted within Shopify. Just how far have you gone with those integrations that a platform like Shopify can provide?

Nic: Shopify is a lot of bits. You'll sit there and go, 'Right, I just need this bit of information.' 'Oh, it doesn't exist. But there's an app for that.'

Andrew: Yes, quite.

Nic: 'Yeah. $5.' 'What? I only want to know what people left in the basket. Surely that information's there?' 'It is, but you can't have it.'

Andrew: Yeah. And do you feel that Shopify as a platform ... one of the things I've observed, you can very quickly add up that subscription with quite a lot of plugins and what have you, to get you that functionality which ultimately, if it's fully automated for you, you know, that's going to be saving a huge amount of time. But I think quite often you start relatively small and you can quite quickly end up with a much bigger subscription. And it becomes a whole different beast from what you expected when you set out.

Nic: If I had in-house developers, which I had at Roar Ambition, Magento was the way to go, because I think it's just a much better platform. But Shopify, for me, the entry level version of it, once you've set it up, you can then add plugins for this, plugins for that, that I would have just gone to one of our devs and gone, 'Can you get that?' 'Yeah. Be a couple of weeks.'

Andrew: Well that's the thing, you potentially get the flipside, you can turn things around a lot quicker because actually there's so much that is already made. Yes, okay, you might have to add to your subscription, but if you want it now and potentially if you only want it for a month just to trial something, then you also have that flexibility. So yeah, there's pros and cons on both sides really, isn't there?

Nic: There are, and the test-and-learn opportunities with Shopify, with being able to turn these plugins on and off is actually a lot broader. It's good when it works and it's frustrating when you're going, 'I only wanted that something.'

Andrew: Yeah. And while you don't need to be a developer, you do need to know the platform, to know its quirks and the ins and outs of it, and that in some cases, is no small undertaking.

Nic: Well, exactly, what you don't want to do is press a button and break it because it's live.

Andrew: Yes.

Nic: There isn't a dev version of it. But you can create copies and work on that. The data. You've got one data set, so you don't break it.

Andrew: Yes, exactly. Otherwise you won't be leaving at 5 o'clock.

Nic: Yeah, well people say, 'Why do you never put things live on a Friday?' Well, because I'll tell you now, if it breaks, you're staying.

Andrew: Yeah.

Nic: Nobody wants to stay late on a Friday to fix something. But to be fair, that is one of those things that the pandemic and working from home has brought, it's actually the ability to say, 'You know what, it doesn't really matter because I'm sat at home anyway.' So I can be live on a Friday, and if it breaks, I'm still going to go next door into my living-room. I'm going to fix it so it doesn't really matter anymore. And so anybody who's still using that 'don't put things live on a Friday' excuse – that's gone.

Andrew: I'm not sure I'd agree.

Nic: Well, but it does depend on if you're still working from home. And yeah, a lot of us still are, too. Two years on. Yeah. My setup here at home now is so slick in a way. A couple of screens, all the gear that I need. You know, you've built it up over the over the last couple of years.

Andrew: I actually quite enjoy working in busy places like coffee shops and things like that. I can find I can really zone into to what I need to do. But I get into that that zone and I can work well, but I'm on a much smaller screen. You don't necessarily have a mouse and it can take longer to achieve certain things, even though you might be in a more productive place, sort of mentally, if you will. Uh, so, having the flexibility is great but, but it does have its downsides in some cases as well.

Nic: It's a good point that, because whilst you can work in a coffee shop and I'm sure it's just because there are people there and say you're not talking to anyone and it's quite noisy, but you almost ... it's a ... it's not a comfort blanket, but it's just comforting to know that there are other people and you can just get up and order a coffee and you can speak to someone and they're human and they're in front of you.

Nic: From a work perspective, you've really got to find that balance between being on your own, just getting your head down and do what you think is right and actually working within a collaborative group environment where other inputs and other people – even if you go, 'What do you think of this?' and, 'Yeah, I can send you an email and you can read it, but can we just discuss it for 5 minutes.' 'But we can do it on Teams. Yeah, okay. But you know, it's everything you can say, yeah, but I can do everything from here. I can, but is it really ...?

Andrew: It's good to see the whites of people's eyes and, sort of, their reactions to things as well, sometimes? If you're presenting some sort of idea or new approach, then, you know, it's sometimes those reactions that don't get captured on screen that ultimately tell you, 'Oh, have I overstepped the mark? Is that a good idea? Ooh, maybe I need to rein that back a little bit.' Those sorts of things all come out in that face-to-face contact, don't they?

Nic: Exactly. Body language and sort of the unspoken reactions, which are exactly what you are saying. And there have been some studies that a lot of communication isn't always verbal. And, you know, you're just a floating head on a screen. You can't see the reaction or body language or anything else to to an idea. Although as I said earlier, you can with me cos I wave my arms about. You can't necessarily gauge whether something's right or a true reaction to something just on a flat screen.

Andrew: No, no. Look, we've been chatting for a while, and I'm conscious of time, so I've got a series of rapid-fire questions that I would like to ask just before we close things off. And I'm curious, what's one app, website or piece of software, personal or professional, that you feel that you couldn't live without?

Nic: The only thing I can think of is Excel, really. I've done half my life on Excel. I've got spreadsheets going back to 2000 for every penny I've ever spent on my bank account. And it started as a security thing just to make sure no one was nicking any money out of the account. It's just been a budgeting tool and it's not changed for 20 years. So I do all that. I run all the business out of Excel and everything else. So yeah, sorry. I'm not big into apps or anything. My phone has got three or four apps on it and some banking stuff, and that's about it.

Andrew: All right. Interesting for someone in a digital role. So what excites you about digital at the moment? What are you seeing that's awakening your senses and thinking that could be an interesting route to go and look at.

Nic: I think, nothing's changed, but everything's changed. So all the channels ... yes, TikTok's new and all this stuff ... but it's just the evolution of everything and watching and seeing what others are innovating and how they're pushing the boundaries of what's possible on the Internet. The change from Flash, or Director in the early days ... and it's just the evolution of digital and how things are changing sometimes for the better, not necessarily for the worse.

But it's just an exciting environment to be in because, whilst it's the same – PPC's PPC – but the changes in platforms and how Google do things and nothing else, it's never-ending. So every day is a school day. It's just a continuing learning process of kind of relearning the same thing, but doing it in a different way. And I think that's what excites continually rather than it being just one big innovative thing that you think, 'Wow, that's fantastic.' I wish I could go,'Wow, TikTok, fantastic!' But it's not, it's just garbage. I'm sorry.

Andrew: Yes. I have to say, I would agree. I haven't seen where TikTok fits into my life, to be perfectly honest, and it has been a time-waster for me. So, speaking of time, if you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend that time?

Nic: Walking. Funnily enough, I asked my wife that last night. What would I say to that? She said, 'You'd probably walk further'. So I try. When I'm at home and the weather's nice, I try and spend my lunch hour walking round, round where I live because it's very hilly, it's a very peaceful, scenic place. And I like to spend an hour walking. And if I had an extra hour, what would I do? I'd go a bit further.

Andrew: Yeah, fantastic. That's great.

Nic: I certainly wouldn't be working. Relaxing, because you've got to have that balance.

Andrew: Course you have. Yeah. It keeps you fresh, keeps you on your toes as well. As well as the health benefits, of course. So, tell me about an experience that once required you to take a huge leap of faith.

Nic: I'm quite a measured guy. I weigh up a lot of the options. I find things like changing jobs ... you know, everything's a bit, you know ... I've had some health scares in the past, and that's kind of prompted sometimes for me to sit there or lie there in bed and go, 'What am I going to do? How do I want to live the rest of my days?' Sounds a bit morbid, but, 'What am I going to do productively with the rest of my time?' So you do go, 'Right! Let's jump this way.' And I think that first move from Über was massive because you just don't know what's going to happen. 'Can I run a business, with product with 1000 skews and everything else, from coming from an agency that only sees part of it?' Yes is the answer.

Andrew: Interesting. Okay, what do you feel is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

Nic: I think, being a good listener.

Andrew: Okay.

Nic: Preconceived ideas. I used to have a lot of them, but now I find myself ... as you get older, you listen a lot more and try and take things in. Make decisions based not just on, 'Hey, I did this five years ago, therefore it must be right.' Well, actually, why don't you just listen to other people and absorb that? Use your experience and come up with what might be a better outcome?

Andrew: Yeah, I think listening is underestimated. And I always try and remember that you can spin the words around and they spell 'silence', which is, you know, just one of those strange things.

Nic: Oh, well, I've always got a silly saying for everything. So, 'I've got two ears and one mouth, so I should use them in that order.'

Andrew: Yes. I remember being told that at school.

Nic: It's true.

Andrew: Yeah. And final question, what advice would you give to someone who is at the start of their career in digital?

Nic: I think I touched on it before, which is ... you know, I've interviewed thousands of people over the years and, you need to do things outside of work. You need to really put some effort in and be passionate about what you do. Don't just rock up 9 to 5 every day.

And I know we've talked about work-life balance and everything else, but there is enough time in the day to create your own website, do your own things, understand a subject, really delve into it and enjoy it, because if you don't, it doesn't matter what you do. If you don't enjoy what you do, then it's just going to be a slog.

Andrew: That's really, really good advice. And, you know, I've done work with a number of schools locally, and they're sort of sixth-form students and I 100% agree, 100% agree.

Andrew: You know, we're in challenging times. The need to stand out is going to be absolutely critical, I think. I think schools should be teaching an element of personal branding, and I think that is something that ... you know, as you're saying, go out and build your own website, go and look at these things, find something of interest, build an opinion, develop an opinion around certain things.

Andrew: Those are all things that when you get into that interview situation, you're going to feel a lot more credible and stand out amongst what is almost certainly going to be quite a competitive marketplace over the next few years.

Nic: Exactly. Unless you want to be a social media marketer, that doesn't mean to say get yourself an Instagram account and do that, which is still important. But funnily enough, it was my daughter's parents' evening and she's doing computer science, and I said, 'What can she do outside of school? I've got hundreds of computers. I used to build them. What's on the curriculum? What can we do?' 'Well, not a lot, really.' I thought, 'Really? As a teacher, you should be saying, "learn some code, learn this, take apart a computer, do something." And I'm sorry if he's listening, but he was the least inspiring teacher and he was a computer science teacher. But my word!

Andrew: I think it's about tinkering sometimes, isn't it? You know, just find little things that you can try. And, you know, our history actually is surprisingly similar because I started in the mid-90s, I was given a copy of Microsoft Front Page 98 and told to build a website with it. But you know, I would have a modem that would run out the back of this great big tower computer down around the hallway into my parents' bedroom.

Andrew: And they must have wondered, what the heck's going on with this wire? And it's making all these funny noises as it's been connected to it, to to to the dial up connections that we had back then. But but it was ultimately by doing that tinkering. That's where I found my passion. That's where I found that that enjoyment of of building basic web pages and just finding pictures and putting them online and then being able to change it.

Andrew: It was like Lego for me, you know, a high-tech version of Lego. And that's ultimately what got me into it. But I do think you've got to look outside the box, as you're saying, and I think that's really sound advice.

Andrew: So, Nic, we're out of time and I've loved that conversation. It's been great to chat with you. Just tell listeners where they might be able to catch up with you online. You mentioned you've got your own website, albeit slightly out of date, but where's the best place for people to find you online?

Nic: I'm really poor at updating anything, but if anyone, for whatever reason, does want to get hold of me, all of my handles are Nicjones13, across Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare. So, you know, find me there. Is my website but that's not been updated for God knows how long. But if anyone's got any tips or advice, just just drop me an email ... but don't!

Andrew: [laughs] Look, Nic, thanks for being a great guest. Really enjoyed our conversation and thanks again for spending the time this morning.

Nic: Brilliant. Thanks, Andrew. That was great.

Andrew: So, a huge thank you to Nic for joining me this afternoon. As I mentioned previously, we'll add the show notes from today's episode up onto our website. You'll find these and the transcript from the show at If you've got any questions or comments from the conversation, then please do get in touch or leave me a comment where you first heard about the show.

Andrew: You can email me at or you'll find me at @aarmitage over on Twitter or on LinkedIn. If you can share a link to the show, to your friends, your colleagues, or even your clients, then please do. We'd be especially grateful if you can leave us a rating or a review on your favourite podcasting app.

Andrew: And, finally, a quick plug for me: If you're planning a website project, then my book, Holistic Website Planning, can be found on Amazon. How to position your website at the centre of your digital transformation. So do check that out. So that's all for now. Thank you again for tuning in and joining me on the podcast today. I'll be back with another episode in a couple of weeks' time, so I do hope you'll be able to join me then. Cheers.