Ryan Grimshaw: BA (Hons) Creative Writing 2012-15, Head of Brand and Marketing at Topodium Group
“Winchester set me up in creative writing and combined my passions outside of academia. I was taking part in extra-curricular activities while studying at the best university for my subject. It’s a real testbed for creativity. When it got to applying for jobs I had so many different experiences to talk about in interviews. It was a creative’s dream come true to have those opportunities.”
Ryan Grimshaw has gone from communicating through creative writing to being responsible for brand, marketing and communications at a global sports, health and leisure agency. After graduating with a BA (Hons) Creative Writing degree in 2015, Ryan worked as a Marketing Officer at The Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for The Arts. Since then, in the space of six years, Ryan has worked his way up to become the Head of Brand and Marketing at Topodium Group.
Ryan says the different creative opportunities he experienced at Winchester helped him impress in job interviews when applying for work.
“Winchester set me up in creative writing and combined my passions outside of academia. I was taking part in extra-curricular activities while studying at the best university for my subject. It’s a real testbed for creativity. When it got to applying for jobs I had so many different experiences to talk about in interviews.”
“I worked at the Winchester Theatre Royal and I took part in the Performing Arts Society and Hat Fair. Being at Winchester opened a lot of doors for me to perform, write for the stage, and work on choreography for youth theatre. It was a creatives’ dream come true to have those opportunities – I had my fingers in many pies.”
Ryan credits his Creative Writing degree for the communication skills he has gained and which help him greatly in his line of work. He stresses how communication is an undervalued skill. He is also keen to mention how supported he felt during his degree by his lecturers who he is still in contact with today.
“Creative Writing sets you up for success as a writer or in any communications role. What struck me was the range of genres the course offers and the expertise and passion of the lecturers which underpins that. They really fuel the course and I am still in contact with many of them today.”
“Some people see creative writing as a bunch of people writing lovely stories, but to me it is about being able to see the granular detail and the bigger picture at the same time. People often see one or the other, but studying creative writing gave me the ability to see both points of view. It is a joining of the creative and critical approach. Communication can be difficult, but the best communication is refined and edited down.”
Ryan is thriving in his current role as a Head of Brand and Marketing. This senior role means he is in a leadership position and manages a global team. Being a strong communicator is crucial to his role, and Ryan uses his storytelling skills to motivate and inspire others.
“I’m using what I learned through storytelling to not only bring people together, but to tell the value and worth of our brands and partners. The ability to take what is complex and communicate it in a clear and relatable way is key. It helps me to build teams and understand clients’ business needs and goals.”
“I’ve always felt like an outsider, and when you feel like an outsider, you’re always looking in and often see things people don’t always see. I turned what I perceived as a weakness into a strength. I’m a huge believer in selective vulnerability and being your authentic self – it is how I apply my skills into my leadership role.”
Ryan took part in many extra-curricular creative projects while studying at Winchester. However, he mentions his time in the performing arts society as an experience that taught him a lot, both personally and professionally.
“I took part in the performing arts society known as PAW (Performing Arts Winchester). We were all like a family when performing shows. I was 300 miles away from home and I barely went back to Bolton, so being able to connect with people, and uncover their stories and build new relationships was important.”
“I would really listen to others’ stories and their experiences while thinking: I can take from that. It may come as a surprise to some, but I’m quite the introvert - I’m not one to be centre of attention - I’m more of a conversational thief; it’s all free information that I pocket for a rainy day.”
Being in PAW also gave Ryan some of his best Winchester memories. These include a musical he performed in called Spring Awakening. The coming-of-age tale which explores themes of identity, family, gender and authority hit close to home for Ryan.
“Performing the role of Hanschen in PAW’s Spring Awakening is a wonderful memory for me. The show really resonated. I’m the first in my family to go to university so the tale had synergies such as me finding my own place in the world against expectations, and through exploration and education. The cast were like a family and it was a really nice experience.”
“Every night at the end of the show we would all perform a hauntingly beautiful eight-part harmony and the hairs on the back of your arms would stand up because everyone was living it. That show was West End standard.”
“Alongside the performing, I was also on the volleyball team. I’m not the most sporty person but it was so much fun – I met new people I wouldn’t normally typically socialise with.”
“I have memories of going on nights out and having good fun because university is about finding the balance between being studious and enjoying your time and taking that with you into your career. Don’t follow your passion, bring it with you.”
Being from Bolton and now living in Bournemouth, Ryan mentions how studying at Winchester expanded his horizons and gave him the chance to meet other like-minded creatives.
“I had a lot of opportunities being at Winchester – I was exposed to things I perhaps would never have come across if I stayed in Bolton. I met people at university who I can still get advice and opportunities from and do the same for them. It transformed the trajectory of my future.”
Now, as part of a senior management team and someone with a variety of marketing experience, Ryan has some wise advice for current students while reflecting on the start of his degree.
“This is the advice I give to my team: fail fast and fail forward.”
“Don’t be afraid to experiment and look silly. Learn from your failures and lean into your own creativity – that’s where the best ideas come from. Don’t be afraid to bring your authentic self to the table. And don’t aim for perfection – it doesn’t exist.”
“I started my degree not knowing what I wanted to do. I didn’t have a passion to be a published author as such. I really had to have a good chat with myself during university so don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers, and just enjoy the journey.”
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