Portland Profile: Jake McLeod

Portland Profile: Jake McLeod

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?

I had a mentor a few years ago – the husband of a colleague of mine – who was a wonder at giving advice, and I have probably only just started to absorb most of it about four years later. But, he always told me to just “take a breath before you answer”.

Sounds like such an obvious thing, but that one second to pause before you respond to a colleague, client or boss can be the difference between advice that feels rushed and rambled, or considered, thoughtful and trusted.

Our business is built on trust and relationships and while my colleagues still can’t quite shut me up, I like to think I’m now more considered in my response after taking on board this advice.

What is your favourite part of your job?

There’s two things for me. One is finding new solutions to old problems. In my job I get to work with some amazing clients and people who are looking to break the mould and tackle challenges using new and innovative tools, to reach new audiences in a digital space and confront really complex issues like misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

Second is the people. I get a lot of energy from other people (the classic extrovert) and love working with such interesting and diverse colleagues and clients. Working remotely I’ve really struggled with this aspect, but it’s been great to start seeing colleagues now that lockdown is easing in the UK.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve learnt from in your career?

I think it says a lot about me that I immediately thought more of the blunders: the time I missed my flight back from a work trip in Rome despite being in the airport three hours early; when we had to get all of our party conference branding reprinted at Jessops in Manchester because we messed up the delivery; or the time I was a bit too stern with Gordon Ramsay when he was pretending to throw a football over Theresa May’s head in the corridors of Downing Street.

But seriously, what these reminded me of is – and in the words of Gloria Gaynor – “I will survive”. Our work is important, but we aren’t saving lives. It’s good to have perspective and be able to let stuff go at the end of a tough week.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self starting out in comms, or to someone entering this field of work?

That chip on your shoulder is heavy. People are not judging you for skipping university and being the young guy in the office, they are trying to impart on you the stuff they learnt from being in their careers for ten years more than you. Listen to them, learn from them, and let them teach you what they know and ignore what’s not your style.

What do you do to switch off from work?

This is where I am meant to list all the amazing hobbies I have and the time I ran a marathon in less than two hours… but rather I am much more boring in that I like cooking at home and reading trashy books and more often than not, a glass of wine in the sun with friends.

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