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Graduate stories - university romance leads to perfect business partnership

12 February 2016

Catherine Robertson

Now here’s a lovely Valentine’s Day story if ever there was one. One of our graduates, Catherine Robertson, met her husband John here at Abertay, where they were both studying in what became Dundee Business School.

After pursuing separate careers for a number of years, they decided to team up in 2013 and now run the hugely successful Robertson Collaborate from their home-based office in Newport.

We caught up with Catherine to find out what life’s been like since graduating in the 90s, what it’s like working in collaboration with her husband, and how studying at Abertay helped prepare them both for the world of work.

Why did you choose to study at Abertay?

“After leaving school I went straight into a sales job and that gave me a real taste for business life. The business studies degree at Abertay had a great reputation for enabling people to get good jobs in the commercial world at the end of it so that sealed it for me.”

Did you go on any interesting placements as part of your studies?

“Luckily yes. At the time, the honours degree required us do two six-month placements in order to graduate. I spent six months at Fife Health Board HQ in accounts, which confirmed my view that I didn’t want to go into accountancy. Then I did a very interesting six months at Royal Mail HQ working in Total Quality Management – TQM for short – alongside the management team on improving mail delivery systems and processes and customer service. It felt very dynamic and big businessy at the time!”

What did you do your dissertation on?

“My dissertation was on TQM based on my role at the Royal Mail and I got in touch with TQM gurus in the US as part of my research. They said they were going to cite excerpts from my dissertation in their next book but I never found out if they did. Communication was all going on via phonecall or letter back then. We weren’t using email or the internet at this stage yet in the 90s. I particularly enjoyed the dissertation though, as it was based on real business life.”

Catherine Robertson

You now run your own business – how did that come about?

“I met my husband John at uni. He was in the year above me on the same course. We both got graduate jobs at NCR in marketing and product management which was fantastic. Following a couple of years at NCR I went to Blackadders Solicitors and latterly I was director of marketing and operations of the firm. I had a maternity leave of four years and then started out as a freelance marketer with just one client initially to test the concept of outsourced marketing.

“Things have grown year on year since then and in 2013 my husband joined me straight from his role as Marketing Director of the online publishing division of Brightsolid. I think the idea of running my own business was always there. My dad set up his own business and both my parents were involved in it so it seemed a natural choice in many ways.

“As ex-marketing directors our business - Robertson Collaborate - offers outsourced marketing director services to small and medium sized businesses. Through the creation of a marketing plan, often focused on digital marketing, we help businesses increase sales.

“It’s a limited company and it works very well for us. Generally we have our own clients, although occasionally we’ll work on projects together where we think both our skills are needed. We’d worked together before and so we had some idea what it is was like before we decided to go into business together.”

Catherine Robertson

Would you encourage other students to study at Abertay?

“I recommend Abertay quite regularly to young people. It’s served us both very well and has led us to great careers. I have a couple of good girl pals from uni days, one of whom is in relationship management for an international trust company in Luxembourg and the other is an executive director at an investment bank. We had a mini reunion with other classmates last year and everyone is doing diverse and interesting things. It’s worked out very well for all of us.”

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in their career?

“We get quite a few people sending us CVs even though at this time we aren’t employing anyone. Unfortunately if we spot typos or spelling mistakes we struggle to read any further. I’d really recommend those applying for positions research who they are applying to thoroughly and get a second set of eyes on all written communications including the email intro which is the first thing that’s read.

“Also for anyone interested in marketing I could highly recommend a career in digital marketing. It’s constantly evolving and very dynamic so one for those who like things fast paced.”

For more information about the courses on offer at Dundee Business School please visit the following pages:


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