For this series, we'll be interviewing members of our team and asking them to share their journey at b4b. This month, it’s our Technical Director, Alistair Paton.
When did you join b4b?
I started in April 2013 as Sales Manager. I came in to improve documentation and our sales process, so that we could win bigger business. At the time, we were building websites on version two of our custom CMS – we’re now on CMS 7.
How did your role progress from there?
I began helping out with project managing the larger website builds, and liaised with clients. Gradually, I moved away from that and started managing the SEO team. As part of this, my role covered PPC, SEO, email marketing, and lead generation. In 2014, I was promoted to Operations Manager.
When Hayley (now our Marketing Director) came on board, she took over the SEO side of things and I moved to working on the bigger websites, such as The Staff Canteen. By 2015, I’d joined the board of directors as Operations Director.
What first drew you to b4b?
I always wanted to be involved in marketing and I had a penchant for technical things, gadgets, and learning new skills. Ours is an industry that’s always changing, which gives me the chance to really get stuck into things.
Where did your love of gadgets come from?
I remember my best ever Christmas present was a Gameboy, which came with a magnifying light over the top of it. I would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and playing Super Mario until I was told to stop!
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I studied Business and IT at college, but didn’t go to university as I wanted to get straight into marketing. However, I found I struggled as I didn’t have a degree. There weren’t so many marketing agencies around back then, as marketing was all offline, so I knew I needed to get some experience.
I tried to get involved in marketing where I could, and did some online courses as I went along. I had to make up for my lack of degree with work experience.
Having a really varied background has helped me. I worked in the marketing team for a Spanish property developer, wrote website and ad copy for a loan broker, and also worked as both a Sales and Account Manager. My last role before b4b was Account Manager at Southern Print.
What do you like about working for an agency?
It’s always a challenge and there’s something new happening every day. I really enjoy the variety and chance to help a lot of different companies.
Describe a typical day in your life
I check in with the team, then lead our standup (morning briefing). After that, it’s emails and meetings about the various projects we have going on (some internal, some external). Throughout the day, there will be ongoing conversations about our workflow and resources, and I’ll check tasks for the team if needed. I also have regular management meetings to discuss the direction of the company.
What’s your advice for anyone interested in a job at b4b?
If you really want to get somewhere in your career, you can make it happen at b4b. For people with drive and initiative, this is a place where you can really progress.
How has b4b changed since you started?
Our marketing team used to consist of one part-time and three full-time members of staff, and there were no specialisms within the team. There were four people covering all the website and software builds in the UK, and our Polish development team was made up of just five people.
What’s been your most notable project to date?
The PGS eSports app has been one of our biggest and most successful projects to date. My favourite thing is that it’s been a very collaborative process. They know what they bring to the table and also what we do, so we work very well as a team. They have a lot of energy for the project and a great deal of commitment. They understand and are up for the challenges that a technical project can come with, which always helps!
What’s been the proudest moment of your b4b career?
It’s been wonderful to see the development of the people in my team, and how they’re open to learning. It’s important to me to nurture others and watch them grow.
How did you end up becoming a director?
It was never actually the plan! I just showed leadership skills, and was always trying to propel us forward and make us better – I never settle for just being comfortable. I believe in recognising our strengths as a business, then working to break boundaries.
What’s the best part of your role?
Being able to work across lots of different projects and have a positive impact on both my team and our clients.
Everyone says they enjoy coming to work. Even during harder times, people say they enjoy coming to work. Sometimes I have to hold myself back from doing work in the evening – it’s not a need, it’s a want! But I know that giving myself a break gives me the headspace to think better, so I make myself step away.
You oversee our Culture Committee – why is this important and where do you see it going?
It’s great to put down on paper what we feel we are as a business, and where we’d like to be. Culture is a work in progress and everyone brings something new to the mix. I’m just trying to push our values through into everything we do.
Work is important but people need to be happy at work. The appraisal process we have in place is really important, and we’re holding career pathway meetings with everyone, to make sure they’re going in the direction they want to be.
What does being a company director involve?
You look at people in different ways – not just as an individual or an output, but as a future. Everyone provides a different dynamic; when you take one person out, it changes things.
Being a director is about having more of a bird’s eye view of things, and that’s not an easy thing to get into. It’s important to bring everyone on the same journey, and that’s a culture thing. We share a lot with our employees, and believe in transparency.
Reflection is a key part of being a director, as you constantly want to move forward.
What’s next for you, Alistair?
We’re getting a lot of enquiries about apps and we’re considering breaking that out into some specialisms. We created the Bowlr league and membership management system for bowls clubs, and there is a chance that some of our projects may break off and becoming separate entities. Would I take over these projects and manage them directly? Who knows!
Want to start your b4b journey?
If you’d like to work for a forward-thinking agency that rewards talent and invests in its people, we’d like to hear from you. Check out our current vacancies here.
Where will your b4b journey take you? Imagine the possibilities…