I didn't know at that time that the type of work I do now even existed. I'd never heard about marketing, but I had heard about selling, and I felt working as a trainee manager was a way of getting into that arena. From there, I managed to get a trainee selling job with Philip Morris, and started there in 1980 when I was 21.
After working all around the UK on different sales drives, I was given a proper sales territory, selling Marlboro cigarettes to the whole of north Yorkshire. After that I got a job that had come up within Philip Morris on their promotions team, and moved down to London, but still working on the Marlboro brand. I spent the next two or three years doing outdoor promotional events, and had a Cherokee Jeep with "Marlboro World Championship Team" on the side; I went to lots of sporting meetings, county fairs and rock concerts giving out samples. It didn't really feel like work; I was having a whale of a time doing something I really enjoyed.
That led to my managing special events, and I was part of the team that launched Marlboro Lights into the UK. For that I had to recruit 300 sampling girls, who were to be dressed in white boiler suits with gold accessories and would promote the brand in clubs and bars, and all I'll say about that is that doing the interviews was a very enlightening experience.
Then it got to the stage where I'd been at Philip Morris for seven years, and knew it inside out, and so I felt I wanted to move forward and put into practice the things I'd learnt. One of the first jobs I applied for was as promotions manager for Levi's, and to my amazement I got it, making the leap from ciggies to jeans. I wasn't sure these experiences would fit together, but when I thought about it, these were very similar, iconic, youth-oriented American brands which both had links with music and lifestyle.
That meant moving from London to Northampton, which didn't seem like the best thing in the world, but I started in 1987 and went on to become UK marketing manager and then marketing director. I moved back to London in 1990, and then, this year, I was appointed director of product and programmes for global marketing in San Francisco.
I'd first visited the US in 1984, and it bowled me over. I started going on trips to America regularly after that, for photoshoots and meetings, and I became enamoured with the way America works. I thought I'd got to go and work there at some stage, but I wasn't sure when and how. Then, earlier this year, there was some restructuring and a couple of jobs came up out there, so I thought: "It's now or never."
I thought my old job was the best job in the world, but I still felt I needed the opportunity to do something different. I didn't know what a difference it would be, and the first month out there was a bit scary, but it gave me a bit of a cleansing, in some respects - making a move like that pushes you to rethink things. I've been in the job for six months now, though I've actually spent four of them travelling outside the US.
My job is to get people from different countries to share programmes and ideas for development of the Levi brand, and look at long-term strategic business. I'm making links with outside companies with global networks - TV and music companies, and other brands - and maintaining relationships with people in the entertainment world, as Levi's is part of that arena. I met Jamiroquai four or five years ago before they were famous - at a club night we were sponsoring - and now, I've got Levi's in the US to sponsor their American tour.
There's a degree of glamour attached, I suppose, but I'm a Yorkshireman, and keep my feet firmly on the ground. Photoshoots are far from glamorous: real hard graft goes on behind the scenes for something to look good. I get to go to things like the Grammys and the Brits, and big-name gigs - which I absolutely love - but it's all become part of the fabric of what I do nown
Interview by Scott HughesReuse content