Dr Jonathan A.J. Wilson – Alumni Interview, July 2014
‘My hopes are simple: work smarter, for more gains; to help more people; to grow as a person’.
There is no doubt that to be a successful academic, motivation and dedication are key attributes. Yet the ferocity with which Brunel’s alumnus Dr Jonathan Wilson attacks his work is remarkable. He graduated from Brunel’s Business School with a PhD in 2012 and since he began lecturing at the University of Greenwich in 2008, Jon has published over 145 pieces of work – winning several awards – and has spoken at conferences on more than 85 occasions. However, his journey into academia has not been a direct one; his undergraduate degree was in Chemistry, but he soon turned to business. ‘As much as I loved science, I enjoyed talking to people more than test tubes, so I decided to do an MBA [Master of Business Administration]…and I ended up moving to London to start a career in advertising’.
After building a successful career in industry, Jon finally made the move to academia and came to Brunel for his PhD. On his motivations, he says that, ‘I felt that I would be closer towards feeling that I had made a difference in other people’s lives for the better. I mean as an academic, someone leaves you with a degree, they get a better job, earn more money and have the opportunity to do more things – on one level it’s that simple’.
However, it certainly was not a straightforward journey; ‘When I first started researching the branding and consumer behavioural aspects of halal properly, nearly seven years ago, a lot of people, especially in academia, couldn’t really see the benefit in it’. It was not until he started sharing his ideas more internationally and drawing parallels with behavioural patterns in other cultural phenomena that this started to change. Now, his research is in high demand – tapping into an area not yet substantially explored.
Of his achievements that Jon considers most significant to date, he highlights his talk about marketing and innovation in the Muslim world, as part of the Kellogg Innovation Network Global Summit. In the audience he noticed that Philip Kotler – ‘I’d used his text book back in 1996 when I was doing my MBA’ - had turned up for the talk; it ‘was one of those moments when I felt that this feels like the opening of a new chapter’.
In advising today’s graduates, Jon points to using the internet to your advantage. ‘Maybe it’s a bit late to say this to graduates, but start working on your LinkedIn profile while you’re at university. As an analogy, look at your LinkedIn profile as a gardening project. It’s going to take a little while and some constant tending to, but if you plant the right things and keep them fed; then things will blossom and it gets easier’. And for his own students? As a Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Advertising, Branding, Marketing Communications, and Consumer Behaviour, he’s replaced in-class assessed presentations with YouTube videos with the idea that it could be included in student’s job applications; ‘I’ve already had my first success story, with it making a difference to a student’s application, where she was offered a job in advertising, which is great’. This innovative approach to the classroom was a contributing factor in Jon being presented the Staff Member of the Year Award at the University of Greenwich recently.
For the future, Jon is optimistic and his drive to succeed is undeniable: ‘it’s about time I wrote a book which pulls together some of the articles and talks that I have been delivering over the past few years’. This is to be compiled alongside his continued academic lecturing, heading workshops on Branding and Marketing Communications for major companies and his research pursuits. He’s the first to acknowledge, ‘I don’t sleep much’, but the idea that he can always do more – achieve more – motivates his work. With this in mind, there’s no doubt that we’ll continue to see much more from Dr Jonathan Wilson.