Full circle: what I’ve learnt from becoming a boomerang employee and rejoining my old company

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As I said recently to an ex-colleague who didn’t know I was rejoining my old company: “Surprise!”

To be honest, I’m as surprised as she was. It’s been just over a decade since I left Nielsen McAllister and yet – surprise! – here I am.

Spookily, as I pointed out in a LinkedIn post during my first week back, the dates of my initial departure and subsequent return match uncannily with the movements of Christiano Ronaldo away from, and back to, Manchester United.  Likewise Russell T. Davies, showrunner then and now of Doctor Who.

Apparently, the term to describe the three of us is ‘boomerang employees.’ While I can’t claim to match the journeys of Ronaldo (multiple Champions League titles, captaining Portugal to Euro victory) or Davies (writing 2021’s best TV show, It’s A Sin), I’ve had plenty of adventures in the world of B2B communications.

At time of writing, I’ve been back at Nielsen McAllister for three months.  So, what have I learnt from rejoining my old company?

Things haven’t changed

Nielsen McAllister still has its specialisms, as it did then. The agency remains incredibly strong in delivering communications for packaging and our MD, Bob Bushby, has retained many of the clients I worked on during the Noughties – a remarkable testament in an industry as volatile as PR and marketing.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated in my younger years was the benefit of having this specialism. I’ve since worked at more generalist agencies, adapting my skills to deliver campaigns for clients in… *deep breath*: logistics, roofing, private education, glazing, plumbing & heating, fleet management, construction equipment, legal services, groundscare, squirrel wrangling.  [One of these may not be true.]

There’s a lot to be said for working with multiple companies within the same supply chain.  It means getting a deeper appreciation of the challenges facing their audiences, and the opportunity to build stronger relationships with journalists, trade organisations and other critical stakeholders.

Everything has changed

Other than that, though, Nielsen McAllister is to, all intents and purposes, a different business. For starters, the office is in a different location, as the business moved not long after I left. It’s a bigger, nicer building, all the better to house the bigger, nicer… no, just-as-nice… team that now works here.

That expansion reflects the seismic shifts in B2B communications during the past decade, which is ironic, because I left to broaden my skillset. From my humble beginnings as a wordsmith, I’ve been able to diversify in full-service marketing agencies.  I can now comfortably manage campaigns involving design, social media, SEO, video, podcasts and webinars. I even handled a virtual reality project once.

Yet rejoining my old company, I now sit alongside a team that delivers social media on a daily basis, as well as building their knowledge of digital marketing.  The future looks incredibly exciting.

I have changed

When I first met with my namesake, Simon Wildash*, to discuss returning, he told me I’d changed. Best. Compliment. Ever. I wouldn’t be happy coming back and doing the same old routine I was doing when Kanye was still Kanye (and still good), and before anybody had really heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The reason I’ve come back is precisely to combine the best of then, and the best of now.  The plan now is that I harness all of the wisdom I’ve accrued during my decade-and-a-bit away and integrate it into the stuff that Nielsen McAllister still does extraordinarily well.

Three months in, I know exactly what we need we do to make this happen. Now the fun really begins. Come back for future instalments so you can laugh at just how deluded and messianic I was when I wrote this.

* For the record, Simon W has changed too. Back then, he was a client of Nielsen McAllister. Now he’s running the show with Bob.

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