When Joe Goddard moved to Singapore 18 months ago, he wanted to expand his network and get to know the local market. One of the best ways to do this is to connect with fellow graduates, so he got in touch with the UAL Alumni team about starting a new UAL alumni group. Since then, and mostly during a global pandemic, Joe has successfully set up the UAL Singapore Alumni Group, and hosted their first series of meet-ups!
Joe graduated from Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2007 with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design and Creative Advertising. He is currently Director, Asia Pacific for James and Wilkinson Media. Here he talks to us about his experience of setting up the group, and his advice to anyone else wanting to start a group.
Why did you want to create a network for alumni in Singapore?
There were probably two main reasons why I was keen to start the group. Firstly, having done some lecturing and mentoring in the past at London College of Communication (LCC), I was keen to continue giving back to the community, either by offering up my time to support those looking to further their careers by giving advice or helping connect people through different creative sectors. I know how difficult it is to leave university and to pursue your career aspirations, so I wanted to offer a helping hand to anyone interested in any of my experiences to guide them on their way.
Secondly, because I was starting a new adventure and a new business in Singapore, very far from my home in London with no friends or colleagues, I wanted to find a way to expand my network and get to know the local market as quickly as possible. So I thought it was a great opportunity to widen both my professional and personal network in the region within creative industries to meet some like-minded people that I could hang out with socially but also with my business development hat on to connect with potential new clients.
You’ve successfully established a group for alumni in Singapore, during a pandemic. This includes hosting a series of meetups in January. What was that experience like?
It was awesome - better than I expected! There was lots of interest and it highlighted the appetite for doing more like it in the future. Having only been living in Singapore for just 18 months now, much of it under the shadow of the pandemic, it was so nice to chat with like-minded people about ideas and generally reminisce about our time in London studying at the various different campuses.
It was truly inspiring for me to hear about some really impressive careers and different journeys that the group had been on across different parts of the world and it was so satisfying to bring everyone together into the same group. Singapore has a reputation for being a bit sterile and with the main industries being finance and tech with education having a strong focus around these subjects, so I got the feeling that those that I'd met were relieved to chew the fat with other creative minds, relax and share experiences and tips with each other.
I think it was also great for some of the more mature alumni to have a bit of a platform to share their stories and pass on their wealth of experience and knowledge about how you should always be open-minded to explore new approaches in life and career. One of the key takeout’s was that often many paths are never straight, but a wiggly line with failures and learnings all along the way, but with the right attitude you'll ultimately get where you want to in the end.
Do you know of any collaborations that have come out of the group?
After our first networking meetups, which was a series of 4 separate sessions (due to covid limitations) it was clear that there were some recent graduates, many of whom didn't even get to do their end of year show, which is normally an opportunity to meet prospective employers and talk about projects, who were finding it difficult in Singapore to land their first role.
On the other hand, there were several more established alumni who had approached me and mentioned that they were looking for fresh grads with the UAL creative mentality, something that is less easy to come by in Singapore, to explore entry-level roles within their organisation.
I believe after matching up various people directly after the meetups, we were able to place 3 recent grads immediately into roles and the social media groups we have now established continue to be a place where people post about any open vacancies within their companies.
There's a real range, from posts about pop up spaces available for creatives to hire to questions on the best place to get work framed or bookbinding. Some of us in the group even managed to get a private tour of the Asian civilisation museum from the curator of the current exhibition.
I'm sure there are lots of other smaller meetups and collabs bubbling in the background but I've seen the group be a bit of a catalyst to get things going. It makes me super excited to see these types of opportunities come to fruition and it's mad how it can still be possible through WhatsApp and an open mind, even during a global pandemic!
What are your hopes for the future of the group?
I'd love to continue growing our numbers and become known amongst the creative industries as a go-to place for talent or collaboration opportunities. We have nearly 100 members currently, which is a great start but would love for new grads to keep joining each year.
I would also like to build on broader partnerships for the group with other local Art universities such as NAFA (the National Academy of Fine Arts), to collaborate on events, invite guest speakers and generally provide value to the group so everyone can continue to learn and grow. Also, I think we'd all like to hold a much bigger networking event in the short term (hopefully) where everyone can properly mingle and introduce themselves.
What would your advice be to someone wanting to set up a group?
I think there is real value for anyone looking to get involved in any type of community building project because you never know who you might meet and where it will take you in the future.
One member, Putri Soediono, founder of leather brand Pubumesu, recently told me that for her, "the UAL alumni group is an amazing community where we can all tap into similar experiences, share ideas and collaborate. It gives all of us alumni the sense of family from wherever we are so as not to feel alone in a world where Creatives are rarely heard." It was such a lovely thing to hear.
My first piece of advice is to not be afraid of asking other alumni to help with the organisation of the groups and events. Most groups will have a core, more active set of members so reach out to those individuals to help get things up and running from the start and it'll grow from there.
Secondly, it's important to keep asking the group for feedback so you can continue to shape things around what the community needs and wants. There's no point arranging a virtual guest speaker series when all people want to do is meet for a beer!
Meet some current members of the UAL Singapore Alumni Group:
Shoemaker and designer Lisa Teng
Documentary photographer Matthew Aslett current project looks at the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule
Putri Soediono is the founder of leather brand Pubumesu.
- Join the UAL Singapore Alumni Group on Facebook and on WhatsApp
- Email Joe: email@example.com
- Find out more about all of our international alumni associations and groups
- If you can’t find a group near you, why not get in touch and find out about starting one yourself. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org