Alumni Stories – Ben Bisco, Head of Digital at JD Williams

For this week’s blog, we ask #teambradford alumni Ben Bisco about his story, from studying at the University of Bradford and the path his career has taken up to becoming the Head of Digital at online retailer JD Williams.


What did you study at the University of Bradford?

My degree was in Interdisciplinary Human Studies.

Does your degree help in your job?

My degree was a mix of philosophy, psychology, sociology and various other ‘ologies’. Marketing is all about people, so understanding the motivations of customers is really helpful. The ability to make a sound argument is handy too.

What was your first job?

Unfortunately I graduated in to a recession so I had to temp for several years. My first job was as a filing clerk.

What has your career path looked like?

I temped for a number of years, after being a filing clerk, I had a job in a call centre. My first digital role came in 2000 with a digital start-up company, sadly the company became a victim of the dotcom bubble bursting and I was made redundant. However I’d got the digital bug, so while I did more temp work, I self-funded a CIM qualification to help me get back into the industry. I succeeded and got a job as PPC manager at an agency that were just launching the department and so it just consisted of me and three other colleagues. Over a number of years I development the department and worked my way up to Head of Digital, where I was in charge of a 30 strong team and the digital department was contributing a significant amount of revenue.

After more than ten years working in digital agencies, I decided to give client-side a go. An opportunity presented itself at a holiday company, after only six months there though, an even bigger opportunity came up at JD Williams. I knew the company well as I had worked with them during my agency time and they’re a great organisation with lots of interesting challenges, so it was a no-brainer really.

Could you describe what a regular day in the office is like for you?

A normal day in the office for me would involve attending lots of meetings, directing people across everything from social strategy, website architecture and content to various acquisition channels across PPC, SEO, Display, and Affiliates. I’m ultimately here to ensure that we have a strategy and a team working to keep us ahead in the extremely competitive digital landscape.

What is the single thing you love most about your job?

Personally I love how Digital Marketing enables me to use both my technical and creative skills. JD Williams is a great brand to work for, and their ethos of ‘digital first’ in the business is very important. I enjoy the fact that I manage a team that can make a significant impact on the overall revenue which is generated for the business, and I’ve always liked working to targets too, and digital marketing allows me to measure my successes.

What advice would you give someone who is looking for a career in marketing?

Like in every field, background research of the industry and companies you want to apply for are vital. Don’t let ‘currently not hiring’ put you off, even if the company say they aren’t actively hiring, fire off some speculative CVs/applications and follow it up with a call.

Whilst applying for jobs, get out there and gain some valuable work experience, volunteer, learn a new skill set. Employers always like to see people with a bit of gumption.  If an interviewer ever asks “what did you do when you were looking for work” then “I helped out in my local school/old folks home/whatever” is a much better answer than “I sat in my pants watching bargain hunt”.

Be charming. You don’t need to be posh or know the ins and outs of etiquette. But a few manners and showing a bit of personality go a very long way.  Make sure to ask questions about the other person and to listen to their answers.  At interview, employers will try to work out what kind of person you are, first impressions are vital and a bit of charm will work wonders. Of course, you should always be yourself, but the very best you can be.

Most importantly, don’t let any failures or hurdles knock you down, keep going, and don’t give up.

Thanks very much Ben. If you are planning a career in Marketing, or any other field for that matter, please get in touch with us at Careers to see how we can help you improve your skills and achieve your goals.