After Heriot’s Blog

Next up on the blog we have Andrew Thornton, a Marketing professional who is currently working on national campaigns for Public Health Scotland.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Andrew Thornton, Class of 2012

What is your current role?

Marketing Officer, Public Health Scotland.
I work in the Immunisation Marketing Team at Public Health Scotland supporting national campaigns to promote uptake of vaccinations such as COVID-19 and Flu. Our work centres around ensuring informed consent and that reliable information about vaccines is available in accessible formats for the citizens of Scotland.

What was your journey to get there?

My business journey started by taking Higher & Advanced Higher business management at school. I then studied business management with marketing at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Whilst at university I worked in the Student Union’s marketing team. On graduation I joined a print & marketing agency in Edinburgh as a marketing trainee. I was unfortunately made redundant and then moved to the marketing team of a startup energy supplier. Despite a strong start it became one of the many failing energy suppliers in the market just now, but I had luckily decided to seek another job before it was too late! In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, I was virtually hired to join Public Health Scotland and support the COVID-19 vaccination marketing efforts. The lesson being that the world of business is not always smooth!

What are your achievements?

After graduating I was fortunate to be picked by the Institute of Data & Marketing to take part in their annual Marketing Summer School in London. The school was a residential experience to recognise the next generation of marketing talent and to introduce them to life in the industry. We were taken to a leading marketing agency to work on a real client brief as well as a glitzy networking event to meet key industry figures. I was proud to be one of the 30 students picked out of 350+ applicants following a rigorous application process.

On a personal level, I’m a very proud husband and dad to a 20 month-old daughter! (Although she is trying to climb on top of my laptop as I type this!)

Tell us two abiding memories of Heriot’s?

I was at Heriot’s for 11 years so it’s hard to pick just two memories. The striking setting of the school really sets in my mind, and just thinking how lucky we were to have such a stunning outlook onto Edinburgh Castle from our classroom windows. The picturesque nature of the school explains why we often felt like celebrities with tourists regularly trying to take photos of the school or take an impromptu ‘Hogwarts’ tour! I was also fortunate to be able to go on a number of exciting trips with the school. I remember driving into Paris on our coach as part of our Alps trip, whilst we all blared out YMCA! Or our trip down to London which Mr Dickson had planned out in meticulous detail to the minute. He did an amazing job of making sure we crammed as much as possible into our time in the city including a West End show.

And two ‘takeaways’ from Heriot’s days?

The message of ‘work hard, be kind to one another and be happy’ was continuously emphasised to us, particularly by Mrs Franklin and Mr Wyllie, the then head of Junior School and Senior School respectively.  This is a simple ethos but one that is hard to disagree with for a school or anywhere else in life. I remember our commendation for effort meetings in the chapel where we would be praised for getting a majority of top marks for effort in our subjects. Working hard and giving everything your best effort, was definitely the priority.

I also remember the school’s emphasis on celebrating all academic achievements. It wasn’t all about getting straight As. If a C in a challenging subject was a success for you, then the school would celebrate this with you.

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

The University experience is lots of fun and very rewarding, and something I would recommend. However it’s not the only path you can take, so don’t forget to consider all the options out there to make sure it’s the right thing for you.

The employment market is a competitive place. Think about what makes you stand out as an individual and try to get some unique experiences under your belt. For those with a business career in mind, that could be starting your own business (mine was doing websites when I was at school!) or if marketing could be your interest then start thinking about your social media brand and presence.

Learning also doesn’t stop when you finish school. Whether or not you choose to go into further education, most career paths will require you to keep developing yourself and keeping up to date with the latest trends. Try and make time for professional development to keep building your skillset. Some industries will require you to become part of a professional association, but even if it’s voluntary, consider joining one to showcase your professional achievements (for example the Chartered Institute of Marketing for marketing).

As cliché as it sounds, try and find something you are passionate about. But don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time. Life throws curveballs and sometimes you may have to switch industries or career paths. I had the misfortuante of being made redundant from my first ‘proper’ job after university, but I’ve come out stronger and have learnt the importance of picking employers that will value you as an employee. And finally, work hard, but importantly, be happy!