If there’s anyone who knows the value of networking with alumni, it’s Griffith University graduate Thomas Punch. Currently based in Montreal, Thomas is the youngest executive for the wildly successful global media company WatchMojo, and was keen to drop back into his former university to provide valuable guidance to current students when he visited Australia.
“When I moved overseas to further my career, a lot of the networking I did to build my networks was through alumni. I was essentially contacting former Griffith students a lot older than me and asking them about their career path,” he explains.
“Then it occurred to me I could do the same for the younger generations. It’s always helpful to hear from people in the workforce who are in different careers to what you might have thought about.”
And Thomas’s career has been quite extraordinary. At 30, he is one of the youngest executives at WatchMojo, one of the fastest growing digital media companies in the world with up to 16 million subscribers and about 50 million unique views monthly across their channels. Their video content aimed at the youth market is translated into seven languages. So being hired as a Vice President of Business Development as a result of hard work and industry networking is all the more impressive.
Straight after leaving his Bachelor of Business degree, Tom was successful in applying for a quantitative analyst job as part of a WPP graduate program in Sydney. After working in that role for three years, he joined with two of his colleagues, Ben Gattegno and Sean O’Doherty, to branch out on their own.
The trio started a digital media company called PT Group. The business combined a service-based product alongside a content production agency and their clients included big names such as Red Bull, Fox Sports, Bacardi and Contiki. After a few years running PT Group’s finance, legal and business development aspects, the partners decided to sell to a major competitor in the industry called Mondo Media.
His next adventure was to live and work overseas. And with no contacts on the ground, he put the networking skills he’d learnt at Griffith to good use.
“I contacted a lot of CEOs and local businessmen and entrepreneurs I’d found from reading finance articles and Bloomberg, and a few Griffith alumni. A few of them brought me in for meetings,” he says. “But then I got in touch with the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015, also the CEO of WatchMojo. He brought me in and interviewed me for an hour.”
And the fact that Tom was already a successful entrepreneur before the age of 30 was of great interest to the WatchMojo founder. “He was interested in the fact that I had built up a business and sold it, had a strong background in business and law, so he offered me one of his executive roles in Montreal.”
The graduate says a lot of what he learnt during his time studying helped him in climbing the corporate ladder so quickly. “A lot of the things that assisted me in developing my career I learnt through the coursework. That real critical analysis approach to everything I do was really ingrained in you within the degree. I remember studying business statistics and strategy 101 in the course, and that sort of methodical approach to business and planning through projects is one of the approaches that I have maintained to this day.
“I’d heard great things about the reputation of Griffith and it exceeded my expectations. It was an exciting and fast-paced environment to learn in. There’s an excellent business and networking culture there that taught me a lot.”
He says there are a few things students should focus on if they want to follow in his footsteps.
“Executives look at work ethic and focus when hiring. A strong focus within the sector you’re looking to excel in is crucial in deciding on a candidate. Focus on where your strengths lie.”
And he’s hoping that his visit back to campus can help other students in their career, just as he was helped by alumni in the past.
“If you’re looking to live and work overseas my biggest advice would be to network as much as possible. Use your networks, especially from a business school,” he says.
“When I started out, I was contacting people from Griffith Business School; I was contacting alumni 10 to 15 years ahead of me and networking with them, and asking them advice, being humble, saying ‘I went to the same school as you, do you have any advice in getting a new role and networking in a new city overseas?’
“A lot of the time most people were happy to help because of that connection. Don’t underestimate the power of your networks!”