A former Elgin Academy pupil - now YouTube Music Product Leader – dropped into his former secondary earlier this week to speak to S6 pupils.
Gregor Dodson, 42, lives in California with his wife and two daughters, but grew up in Elgin and was educated at West End Primary and Elgin Academy. It was his first visit to the new Academy, which he saw the construction of during previous visits to his family.
Gregor said he was motivated to come and discuss career options with senior pupils given his ‘long and winding road’ to where he is now, but started by praising the teaching he received in Elgin.
“The quality of education I received here was excellent – in particular the maths and science teachers, who were phenomenal. Three of my classmates have all ended up working Silicon Valley –we see each other now and again.
“It wasn’t just about the teaching though, there was a great school community, and as classmates we were all pushing each other.”
Gregor, who used to DJ at the school discos, had an idea of what he wanted to do in his career but wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
“When a careers counsellor asked me what I wanted to do, I said music and technology – but I wasn’t sure what that would actually look like as a job. I went to Edinburgh University to study electrical engineering, although I did look at other courses in music production and technology.
“In my third year at university I took part in an exchange programme and went to Northern California; it was my first time in the States and when I finished uni two things were clear – I wanted to move there and I wanted to do something in the music industry. That was the pipe dream at the time, before the cold hard reality of actually finding a job.”
He then took banking jobs in in London, Zurich, Connecticut and San Francisco, before deciding banking wasn’t the career he wanted to continue in.
“I took a calculated risk, left my well-paid job and started working for a start-up businesses and that was how I broke into the music industry.
“The ‘pathways’ approach used in Moray really resonates with me. When I first started out Google didn’t exist, YouTube didn’t exist and I certainly didn’t know the job I am in now existed. I took a meandering path and have ended up in a completely different career to the one I was in when I left university, so I want to let the pupils know that it’s ok to take the long way round.”
He told pupils it was important to have a vision and a passion for something.
“We don’t know what creative industry jobs will be here in the next 10 years, and we’re not expecting people fresh out of education to have experience – but what you need to convey is that you’re willing to do the work and work hard, and what your passionate about – and tell the employers that.
“As a hiring manager I can see thousands of CVs for one job, you need to show that you’re willing to develop yourself and can work as part of a team. I have mentored and managed many people through the years and one piece of advice I always give is that building a network of contacts is critical.”
Headteacher David Barnett thanked Gregor for inspiring the S6 pupils.
“It’s so important to hear from those employed in various sectors to allow pupils to gain an insight into what career options may lay ahead. It doesn’t get more current than Gregor’s jobs for Google and YouTube, so I’m delighted that he’s able to share his experience with pupils and show any career path is not ‘clear cut’.
“Creative industries is a sector set to grow exponentially, so I’m sure Gregor has inspired more than a few of our pupils to pursue a career in this industry.”
Famous for its colony of dolphins, fabulous beaches and more malt whisky distilleries than any where else in Scotland, Moray is a thriving area and a great place to live. Nestling between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands, Moray stretches from Tomintoul in the south to the shores of the Moray Firth, from Keith in the east to Brodie Castle in the west.