Andrew McLaughlin | Melbourne
Andrew (AJ) is a joint Economics and Information Social Computing graduate and currently works as a content strategist in Melbourne, Australia.
What is one of the most memorable or important experiences you had at UCD?
In my second year at UCD, myself and a friend set up the UCD Food Society. We both had an obnoxious love of good food and felt that it would be a missed opportunity to not set up a community that was also passionate about it. Not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, we got together a small team to launch the society. Initially, with little to no external investment, we elbowed our way to be the fifth-largest society on campus in our first year. Recently, I heard that the Food Soc is now the largest student-based society! It’s pretty bizarre to think how quickly you can grow something with a bit of encouragement and free slices of Apache pizza.
How would you say your degree has benefited you in your working life?
Working as a content strategist, it’s safe to say that I don’t use a lot of my quantitative economic principles in my day-to-day life. That being said, the skills I learned throughout my studies at UCD have made their way into every aspect of my professional career. Teamwork, organisation, work-life balance and time management skills have all proved invaluable.
What led you to Australia?
Weirdly enough, my journey to Australia started in the courtyard at Workman’s Club on Wellington Quay, where I met my partner Jeremy. We spent the next few years travelling and maintaining a long-distance relationship while we were both completing our studies. I didn’t know too much about Australia before meeting Jeremy, I knew about the Sydney Opera house, kangaroos and that they had a weird obsession with Vegemite. But as it turns out, they don’t just have an obsession with Vegemite – they also love the footie! Ultimately, I made the move to Melbourne in September 2019, once I graduated. Unfortunately, the pandemic interrupted my master plan but it all worked out quite well. As for the next few years, I’m still planning to delay my return to Dublin. We’re looking at New York or London for the next jump.
How did you end up in your current area of work?
I can get quite fidgety while studying and although I was quite busy, I needed something to throw myself into in between assignments and crowded lecture theatres. While promoting the Food Society, I connected with a few people within the media industry and immediately got hooked on branding, videography, graphics and it opened up this part of my brain that I never knew existed. Advertising is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, so I had to get a bit creative to land a job with my Economics degree. When I landed in Melbourne I found myself knocking on doors of agencies I wanted to work at, creating videos to introduce myself and messaging just about everyone my basic LinkedIn plan would allow. My approach worked and Social Garden opened its doors to me.
I couldn’t be happier to be working with an incredibly motivated and creative team that have each other’s backs. It’s not always easy being so far away from home but I love what I do and I love the people I work with, which makes it a lot easier.
What interests you the most about your job?
At the heart of my role is solving problems with creativity which is something quite rewarding when it all goes to plan.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Everyone is fighting for attention these days and there’s an overwhelming amount of noise in the marketing space. If you can find a way to have your audience view your content past 3 seconds, you’re already ahead of the curve.
What do you think your career priorities will be in 10 years’ time?
I’ve always wanted to set up my own agency and I hope in 10 years or so I’ll be somewhat closer to achieving that goal. Maybe touch base with me then and we can see where I am at.
How has your career impacted the way you see the world?
Apparently, we see between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day. Which is quite an overwhelming figure if you think about it. Advertising has made me very critical about what messages we put out and the responsibility we have as marketers to our audience. I try to have a bit of fun with it because things can get pretty bleak otherwise.
What is the proudest moment of your career to date?
I had this weird obsession with hats when I was in college. I sold over 250 hats within my first 24 hours which was a bit of a surprise. If you keep an eye out across the UCD campus and the city, you might still see some of the ‘spice bag’, ‘bag of cans’ and ‘yer man’ stickers that I left around.
We also recently launched a User Generated Content platform for creators across Australia which has been an incredible feat. You can read a little more about it in the (opens in a new window)Australian Financial Review. We’ve been able to create some unique content for our clients with the users at the forefront.
The State of Victoria has had some strict Covid lockdowns, how did you deal with them? Was it particularly difficult being so far away from home under such circumstances?
By October 2020 we endured the longest and harshest lockdown restrictions internationally while the rest of the world had somewhat returned to a covid-normal. For a time I just had to remove myself from social media and re-adjust my perspective somewhat.
In 2021 we entered our sixth lockdown, which was quite frustrating. That being said, I’m extremely grateful to be able to work from home and have stable employment.
What motivates you?
It’s a bit of a Miss Universe answer, but my friends and family are my biggest motivation. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by such creative people growing up. Everything I do is ultimately to make my parents and my friends proud.
What is the most useful book you’ve read?
Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’ should be a mandatory read for our species. Dramatic? Yes. But it completely changed the way I think about the world and provides logic about our entire existence up until now.
How do you relax?
There aren’t many true crime docu-series I haven’t ripped through. I understand the irony that they’re not necessarily relaxing though!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My parents constantly remind me that “It always works out in the end” and it does. Like most, I went through a bit of a rough patch throughout lockdown last year but it worked out and I’m here.
What do you miss most about Ireland?
The people, Christmas time, chicken fillet rolls, Teddy’s ice cream, chipper chips, l’Gueuleton – I could go on for a while here but I’ll leave it there!