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Where Are You Now?

Mike Houghton

Mike Houghton

BA Economics and Social Sciences 1987

Since graduating from the University of Sunderland more than three decades ago, Mike has been working in the marketing industry. His current role as commercial manager at Able Systems enables him to practice that discipline within a global B2B operation, whilst also following these initiatives through to a wider commercial remit.

He explained: “In my current role, I look after all aspects of marketing communications and lead generation, and I am also the first point of contact for any inbound enquires that come into the business.

“This means that I get to see first-hand how our marketing activity directly impacts upon the sales funnel. It’s also a great gauge to measure the success of our ideas and the progression of the business.”

Mike, who graduated before the internet really existed, has proved his ability to adapt and says that having to bring marketing disciplines into a digital age has been a challenge but a fruitful one.

His efforts have been recognised and he has won numerous trade industry awards for marketing campaigns he has been involved in over the years.

“Each one is as important as the last, as it’s confirmation that our methodology and practices are relevant to the particular market conditions and prospects at that time. This recognition of hard work really makes it all worth it,” he said.

Mike was initially attracted to the University of Sunderland because of its location in the North East.

He explained: “Having visited Roker Park several times as a child (as a travelling Manchester United fan) I was aware of the town and the huge warmth and welcome given by the local people. Additionally, the University offered the specific disciplines with my degree that I was looking for. I really enjoyed my course and made some of my best memories at University in Sunderland.”

He still remembers fondly one of his lecturers, Dr Philip Garrahan. Mike says he was a huge inspiration for him.

“I still have fond memories of his support and advice, which I still look back on, even after more than 30 years after graduating,” he added.

Mike’s advice to current students is to keep their options open and don’t be afraid to change career path at any age to realise their ambitions.

He continued: “Despite spending my whole career in the same profession, and thoroughly enjoying every minute, I appreciate that for many graduates it is sometimes difficult to decide on a particular career without any genuine experience of full-time working. If you find yourself in this position I would say, above all else, don’t worry. Keep your options open, and whatever discipline you choose to enter as a post-graduate, soak up as much commercial experience as you can.

“Within a few years you will probably appreciate much more where your ambitions and future lies, and what route you want to pursue. Don’t be afraid to change career path at any age to realise them, and all experience is good experience.” 

At the moment Mike is extremely focused on his current role but has a number of non-executive directorship opportunities that he will pursue in the next 10 years of so as he nears semi-retirement. 

“But even with this on the horizon, I can’t ever see me not working in some capacity,” he concluded.

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