Sam Pearson graduated with a Zoology degree in 2009 and has already had the privilege of interviewing Sir David Attenborough. We talked to him recently about life after graduation and he told us all about his career in the media and gave some useful advice to current graduates.
What was the best thing about studying at The University of Manchester and more specifically your course?
One of the best things was probably the city, it is uniquely diverse, and probably the best city in the UK to be a student. Living in the ‘student village’ of Fallowfield and being only a short commute from the University and the city centre on one of the best bus services I’ve come across was fantastic! Public transport will never be as easy (or as cheap) again! With regards to Zoology, undoubtedly the best things were the field courses. Getting the opportunity to study in Ecuador, on a Scottish island and even getting out and about in Manchester were all brilliant. The culture, practical knowledge and ability to work in a team have proved very useful professionally, as well as being great experiences.
What career path were you interested in pursuing when you were a student?
Wildlife film making (or pretty much anything relating to wildlife communication!)
“Getting the opportunity to study in Ecuador, on a Scottish island and even getting out and about in Manchester were all brilliant. The culture, practical knowledge and ability to work in a team have proved very useful professionally, as well as being great experiences.”
How did you get into working in TV?
Getting into TV takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. Some of my friends and colleagues chose to do Masters courses in media-focused subjects, which are great for learning the practical skills and industry knowledge, but I’d had enough of formal learning and chose to dive in head-first! This meant starting from the bottom, securing internships and work-experience whilst working in menial runner and production assistant positions in order to get the necessary industry experience. After a year of struggling and on the brink of deciding it wasn’t for me, I managed to secure a job at ITV Studios working in the Factual department. This proved to be the turning point and has subsequently led to a variety of roles in several businesses, both in production and online.
I imagine the highlight of your career was interviewing David Attenborough – can you tell us a bit about it?
In my current position at UKTV I work as the Multiplatform Producer across all the factual channels, one of which is the natural history and science channel, Eden. I produce online support for our programmes, including David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, where Sir David addresses some of the curios that first inspired him to pursue a career highlighting nature’s wonders. One of the supporting pieces for this series is an online interview using questions collected from Eden’s fans across Facebook and Twitter, this provided a great excuse for me to go and meet him! Watching him work is an absolute inspiration. Not only is he a font of knowledge, he works incredibly hard for long hours, retaining focus throughout the shoot. Before each scene he will take a quiet moment by himself to piece together what he’ll say, and then deliver his piece to camera with incredible precision, usually in only one take. It is an incredibly humbling experience meeting one of your personal heroes, never mind one of the most famous and admired people in the world! To say I was a bit nervous when the time came to ask him the questions would be an understatement!
Based on your own personal experiences, what advice would you give to recent graduates?
First and foremost your CV is most employers’ first impression; make sure that yours is great by seeking advice from careers advisors or those in the profession. Work experience is a very useful way to bridge the gap between academic and professional experience, make relevant contacts, it’s also a great way to find out whether you’re suited! However, make sure that you aren’t exploited as free or cheap labour — there needs to be a plan for you while you are there; shadow the right people, gain the right experience and don’t end up just filing their paperwork.