Simon Cowell, Love Island and What She Misses About Swansea
When alumna Hannah Lamden attended an event in Swansea for International Women’s Day, we couldn’t resist asking the Swansea University alumna questions about her jobs as Simon Cowell’s PA, former Media Director at Syco Music and Founder of Finery Media (the company who manage the stars of popular TV show Love Island.)
Since starting her degree in American Studies, Hannah wanted to find a part-time job so she started working at the Union bar and then discovered there was a whole entertainments department who organised events and parties.
“I got to know Russell and Ben in the Students Union and they eventually offered me a job. I did promotions for them and I gradually got more involved with the team there. I eventually started organising the SU (Student’s Union) events and liaising with a lot of the London based promoters and agents, booking DJ’s, singers, comedians and I was talking and negotiating their fees. I found that networking was quite a natural part of my personality and they would offer to introduce me to contacts or offer me internships and work experience. So from working in the Ents (Entertainments) team I was able to take advantage of work experience or internships in the University holidays at Easter or in the summer and I just made the most of the connections and turned them into an opportunity.”
“I would attribute the success I have now to the experience and opportunities I had with the SU.”
Since graduation, Hannah stayed working with Ents for a further 12 months. “The brilliant thing about the SU is that it gives a really great snapshot of what working life is. It’s a bit of a microcosm of working culture where you have to be responsible, you have to do your hours and you get a good grasp of office politics in a safe and friendly environment before you go into the wider world. It’s an easy entry point into what the working world can be. A lot of people don’t even realise it exists as a place to work but you can gain so much experience there. You also get to work with people at all different levels across the University.”
When asked about her work with Simon Cowell, Hannah responded;
“After an extra year of working with Ents I went back to London and got an internship with the record label XL Recordings, they work with artists like Adele, Radiohead and the White Stripes. I also worked with Wise Buddah who represent a lot of artists like Greg James, Scott Mills and Katherine Jenkins. The internships involved being an assistant within the wider team; dealing with logistics, booking travel, writing schedules and basically doing anything that needed doing. To do well in that environment you needed to have a positive, upbeat, can-do attitude. I was balancing interning with part-time jobs and trying to make it all work. I then submitted my CV to Sony Music. My CV was quite meaty from all the work I had done at Swansea so I was offered an interview although I didn’t know what the job was for. I then had a 2nd interview and I still didn’t know what the job was. I then had a 3rd interview after which I was offered the job. It was only then I discovered that the role was to be one Simon Cowell’s PA’s (he had 3 at the time). So I joined as the most junior member of the team and hit the ground running, working really hard, it was a whirlwind but I really enjoyed it.”
“It was pretty much as you would imagine it. It was a bit like working in the film “The Devil Wears Prada” with the exception that Simon Cowell is much more charming and nice to work with. The industry is cutthroat, very demanding and you need to make sure you deliver what is expected in the job. It was very glamorous, with lots of parties and international travel. I even lived in L.A. for 6 months. I am very grateful for all the things I got to see witnessing how the world’s wealthy and famous live their lives.”
After working with Simon as an assistant for 2 years, Hannah got to see lots of different sides of the business. It was the PR side that caught my attention and she decided she wanted to move in that direction. “Simon was gracious enough to allow me to move across to the PR team where I became a PR assistant for his company SYCO and after 7 years at the company, I worked my way up to be Media Director. I was turning 30 and was feeling that I had achieved everything I could in the job. Setting goals was always something I had done. When you reach a goal you need to take time to look out the window, find something that excites you and start again so I decided to step out and create my own media business.”
Going back to Swansea feels like going home. It’s a small student community. I have such fond memories of us all living together. It’s a moment in life you don’t realise how special it is until you leave. We had an open-door policy amongst our friends and we were in and out of each other’s houses all the time. Going out every night was great, the social side is what I miss most. It was brilliant, there was such a loving group of people who I’m still in touch with. Everyone has great memories of our time at Swansea.
Advice for student entrepreneurs;
There has never been a better time to start a business. There are so many digital tools at our disposal there is no reason not to give it a go. The advice I would give is to set sensible goals. Give yourself time to learn on the job and adjust as you go along. Be open to asking for help. Over the past 2 years people have been so willing to give me an introduction or make a connection or put me on the right path. Don’t be an island. People want to see you succeed so make yourself open to opportunities. With the technology that exists at the moment there is no reason why you can’t be the head of every department which is where I find myself now.
I stumbled across the opportunities at Swansea by being social and asking questions. You can go to lectures every day, go to the library and be with your friends but the University is a huge business with lots of employees, there is so much you can learn there from talking to people. It’s about networking and asking questions. Be proactive, people won’t just give you the opportunities you need to go and look for them, be curious, create your own opportunities.
Reach out to relevant contacts. Look for people in the industry or jobs you are interested in. People have lessons and experience that they can pass on to you. Linkedin is an incredible resource and my connections have been so useful to me over the years. The fact that 120,000 people all have Swansea University in common makes the connections quite easy.