Our series What I Learned … takes a look at people who have pivoted from unusual job roles before settling on life in the adland. This week, we caught up with Alex Moran from Space & amp; Time, who shares his lessons from life as a Ugandan teacher – and lessons for his current position as an SEO lead.
Hi Alex! Tell us a little about who you are and what you are doing right now.
I’m the search engine optimization (SEO) lead at a growing marketing agency Space & amp; Time. I lead and grow the team by boosting brand visibility and demonstrating to brands the value of SEO across mediums they may not have considered part of the search. In the past, I had held roles at Jellyfish, Dentsu and WPP.
Previously I worked as a primary school teacher, with my first role teaching IT in Uganda for a year. I was 23 years old when I packed my bags and landed a role in agency sales to move to the Ugandan capital Kampala. When I was there, I also helped the local earth care charity market, taught the basics of business studies, and even coached local teams.
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Learning IT definitely started as a challenge … first we didn’t have any computers. So I need to focus on things that have become part of our natural language that we don’t need to learn. If you’ve never circled a computer mouse before, you only know ‘mouse’ as a thing. We later found an online scheme called ‘Computer 4 Africa,’ which provided laptops for schools.
Another challenge is managing too many projects at once. That means I spread thinly at a young age, at a time when I was experiencing many changes in my life. In reflection, it can be more effective to focus on one or two projects rather than taking too many at once.
What impact was that time in Uganda for you?
I liked teaching so I continued to do PGCE afterwards. [English education standards and tests] Ofsted and the SAT didn’t guide me with the same feelings, so with new skills and life experience working abroad, I rediscovered agency life with a fresh perspective. I knew from working in digital channels that my passion lay in SEO, and I decided to do what I liked most.
I’m incredibly lucky to be able to run an SEO training course in my current role, so I can bring my teaching skills to the digital world. It’s part of my job that I take a lot of enjoyment from. I try to make sure they are in my sessions as well.
Do your lessons as a teacher still resonate with you?
Sometimes, you need a wide lens to know what you want to zoom. Experience helped me understand the value of choosing a specialist. In that, I first focused on the technical part. Although it is important to have a broad understanding of the channels and capabilities, I recommend that you begin to seek and develop specializations.
I was lucky at [previous agency] iProspect to first work in a technical role, and then move on to local SEO. However, if your company can’t offer a different role, there is still room to ‘champion’ specialized services and become experts in Amazon SEO products. You will soon realize: no matter how ecological you go, you are not the only expert out there and there is a lot to learn.
Would you recommend working as an international teacher to others?
I’m not the first or last person to spend a year working abroad; In fact, my mother and grandmother both worked in Africa in their twenties for a year. I’m also not the first or the last person to move from teaching to the corporate world.
I think a lot of people leave university without a job set in mind, or the job market doesn’t initially facilitate their dreams. Take time to do something positive and improve; it will help you find what you want to do on a permanent basis. Don’t feel like a year out is too much time to give up seeking a career. If you plan to work for another 40+ years, it is important to take the time to find the path that is right for you.