In conversation with a mentor
About the author
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An article by Thomas Nemes
I’m an account manager at a public affairs agency based in London.
At university I studied politics though I did not really know what I wanted to do with my degree.
My passion is politics however and after graduating and leaving the university bubble I set about applying for a number of different jobs, ranging from a job at a local West London biodiesel producer to think tanks and multinational companies so I could get my foot in the door somewhere. Well actually, anywhere.
My pursuit of employment continued for a number of months until I came across an internship opportunity at Tetra Strategy.
I worked my socks off and six months later, I was offered a job. And as they say, the rest is history.
Since that first day back in January 2010, the industry’s high tempo, excitement and constant evolution has sucked me in for the long haul.
Even though I’m still a young consultant, I’ve already been exposed to many situations that have been both challenging and rewarding. However I know there’s a long road ahead to develop my skills and nurture my talent.
I’m sure many of you are in a similar situation, so I’ve decided to quiz my Founding Partner, Lee Petar, on how he got started out in the industry and how he’s progressed to the leading heights of the industry where he now finds himself.
What did you study at university and what skills developed then have you used during your career?
I studied politics and modern history, the subjects themselves gave me a grounding in exploring ideas and how to research properly, I was at university during a time of real change and I think it was that student activism as much as the academic side that really fired up my interest in trying to find work around the public affairs world.
What made you decide to get into public affairs?
I didn’t know about the public affairs industry; I sent off what felt like hundreds of applications to think tanks and MPs, and someone suggested that I should explore this thing called public affairs. I got one interview and luckily persuaded someone to take a chance!
What was your biggest career break?
That one interview, I think had I not been given that chance, I wouldn’t be in the industry today.
Have you had a notable mentor?
I am very lucky in that I have worked for some truly inspirational people. My first boss, the one who decided to take a chance on me was the most fantastic first boss anyone could hope to have. She had impossibly high standards, she was driven, ferociously intelligent and huge amounts of fun. She gave me a fantastic grounding.
What is your biggest achievement in your career?
I think setting up Tetra Strategy with my business partner James O’Keefe and working with clients remains the highlight. I’ve been involved in some amazing things since establishing Tetra, and no one of them would have happened had we not set up on our own.
Why did you decide to start your own agency?
My father had always worked for himself, so I always just assumed that at some point, one should try working for yourself. The challenge changes every day.
What advice would you give to young people climbing the career ladder?
Always try and look out for those climbing the ladder. Or as my mum always says, be nice to those you meet on the way up or you’ll meet them on the way down!
Embrace new experiences, you never know when you will need to draw on the lessons that you have learnt by doing something else.
What qualities do you look for in new recruits?
Enthusiasm, excitement and energy.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry and where do opportunities lie ahead?
The speed at which words and actions can now get communicated is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. Bad communication can travel around the world in the blink of an eye. It requires a different way of thinking to deal with that. And in terms of the opportunity, those who learn how to harness that speed of communications will be the giants of tomorrow.