'I'm tenacious, I see things through'

Nicky Forrest is the managing director of the food and drink PR agency Phipps, and has worked with major brands such as Kettle Chips, The Famous Grouse and Green & Black's.

What did you want to be as a child?

A vet, because I had a crush on James Herriot.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I was quite bookish and I dabbled with the idea of becoming a librarian.

Did you go to university?

I went to Durham and did the easiest course to get on to, which was combined arts. I ended up doing English literature, Russian studies and classics and loved it. But I don't believe it matters what you study. A degree just shows commitment and that you've stuck with something for three years.

What happened next?

After university I did temping, waitressing and bar work. If you can be a good waitress and deal with people and learn how to stay calm under stress then you've learnt useful skills for PR. I worked for Macmillan Publishers, before moving into PR. I wrote to all the top consumer PR agencies, had a few interviews and got two offers. I started as account executive, the lowest of the low, and now I run the company.

How did you work your way up?

I'm tenacious, I see things through and I'm calm. I'm not a flighty person.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Yes: I lead a life I enjoy and I can work the hours that suit me because I run the company. When you're in control of your own destiny, that's when you can say you're successful.

Interview tips?

You can't really prepare for an interview because you are who you are, but don't try to blag it. I rarely interview non-graduates, although there are exceptions, and I'm not convinced that people who do PR degrees learn how to handle clients. In interviews I look not for what someone knows but for what they don't know and I will put them under pressure to find this out.

And your CV tips?

Short is good, only elaborate about your actual experiences, don't tell me how creative you are, I'll be the judge of that.

Who are your heroes?

Rachel Bell, who runs Shine Communications, and Chuck Yeager, the American test pilot who broke the sound barrier.

How do I get to be where you are?

Do a degree and send me your CV, then come and tell me what you've done with your life.