Jonny Combe

BA Marketing

UK
Customer Strategy Manager, BMW UK

Briefly describe your career history to date: 
I left Stirling to work for BMW UK.  Since then, I have worked in the following roles: Marketing executive (MINI UK); Customer Service Manager (BMW UK); Customer Service Support Manager (BMW Financial Services); Corporate Sales Manager (BMW UK).  I am currently the Customer Strategy Manager for BMW UK.

What attracted you to this career? 
Cars have always been my passion and I wanted to work for BMW more than any other car brand.  I liked the idea of working within a large, well known, premium organisation, and working my way to the top.

How did you get into your current job? 
I've been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, and have also had some good results working in previous roles.  The key factor however is that some senior people within the organisation have “backed” me over the past few years which is absolutely critical to progress in this type of organisation.  Oh, and I’ve worked hard too! (That's obviously the very condensed version - I could do the long one but it might bore you!). 

Describe what your current job involves: 
Overall responsibility for Customer Strategy at BMW Group (BMW, MINI and Motorrad). Responsible for the development and implementation of new customer programmes both centrally driven (from the head office in Munich) and locally driven (in the UK). I'm also ultimately responsible for our outsourced call centre based in South Yorkshire.  I work with the Customer Director on a number of initiatives of varying sizes and scales – some short term pilots, other long term projects which will be rolled out over a period of months or even years.

Describe a typical working day: 
It has to be that awful cliché - "no two days are the same". That's not quite true, I spend some days in the office sitting in meetings, other days I work from home to get peace and quiet (and get some work done), other days I'm in London or the surrounding areas at a Customer Forum or Workshop, some days I’ll visit a BMW or MINI dealership and most months I visit our call centre in south Yorkshire (which is probably the least glamorous of all of those!).

In what way did your time at Stirling shape your career to date? 
In my view, learning how to work well with people is more important than learning any technical skill you learn as part of your degree.  The teaching staff are excellent, but most importantly university helped me to start to understand what motivates people, how people relate in different ways, and what you can do as an individual to influence others.  My role now largely operates around professional relationships of one sort or another, and I think my time at Stirling helped kick off that learning process.

List three things that you love about your job:  

  • The cars – for a man who loves cars there is nothing better than taking a new BMW home every 4-5 months.
  • The brand ethos – our brand values echo in everything we do right down to the small details (there is a specific way we have to park in the carpark so that all the cars look perfectly aligned).
  • The people – I get a kick out of building new relationships and developing existing ones.  In my role I get to work with some very senior people inside and outside the organisation, some people with a wealth of experience (my boss started working for BMW before 7 years before I was born), and practically everything in between.

List three things you dislike about your job: 
I honestly can’t....

What advice would you give to current students in terms of preparing for life after graduation? 
Get some work experience now. When you apply for a job there will always be someone else with better grades or a better degree. There is no substitute for experience.  

Network. I didn't really know what "networking" was when I was at university, so if you're a student and you do, you're doing better than me. Networking is a hugely important skill to practise so start now, it'll probably help you get a job and it'll definitely help you once you're in it. 

Work out what you want to do as a career.  A lot of students don’t know what they want to do, which I can understand.  But think about what size of company you want to work for?  What industries interest you?  What jobs do your friends have that you find interesting?  Do you want to work in the UK or abroad?  What motivates you?  What do you want to do outside of work that will affect your career decisions?  There’s no right or wrong, but spend some time thinking about what you would like to do and don’t worry about what your friend choose.

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