Tobi Ruth Adebekun, Communications Manager, International at Snapchat
Tobi Ruth graduated in 2014 after studying French and International Media and Communications Studies BA. She now works for Snapchat.
Why did you choose your course?
"I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university, but I really enjoyed the A levels I did. I figured that if there was a course that combined my two favourite ones – French and communication and culture – I’d do that. I basically went on the UCAS website and searched!"
I looked for a course that I’d enjoy, instead of having a particular job in mind.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Nottingham?
"So many things! There were some amazing lecturers. I deeply appreciated my French speaking teacher. Her name was Lucy Sawyer-Da Rocha. She was encouraging and challenged me to get better. I also absolutely loved Professor Stephen Bamforth who, as well as being smart, is just a whirlwind of a person!
I also loved the campus. Trent Building, where my course was based, is really beautiful. Then of course there’s The Downs and the lake – my friends and I used to go running around it in the summer.
Finally, my year abroad was simply the best year ever!"
Any staff shout-outs?
"Professor Stephen Bamforth. He came to visit myself and other Nottingham students during the semester we spent at the University of Réunion Island, during the year abroad. He came with us everywhere – even to one of our lectures! He met my family when I graduated and ever so kindly was one of my references when I was offered my job at Snap.
Cathy Johnson, one of my dissertation tutors, was also great. My dissertation was on the media communications side of my degree. With an independent project, she had perfected the balance of supporting and encouraging you, but not pushing you in a certain direction, rather letting you come to your own conclusions and deciding what you wanted to do."
Starting uni can feel daunting – how did you make friends and develop a community?
"I had friends of friends who were also starting at Nottingham and so they introduced us. My course was pretty small, there were only five of us that year, and still today we’re all connected and good friends.
Joining societies are also a good way to meet people. I went to Freshers Fair and joined anything and everything that grabbed my attention!
I actually didn’t stay a member of any societies after my first year, but I’d made friends from all of them that I kept throughout my university experience. I also go to church, so I found a community there, too.
In my first year I lived in Broadgate Park, which was pretty big, so there were always a lot of people around. You can meet people on your corridor, in your building, the building next door. At the beginning, it’s just about meeting as many people as possible and going to as many events as you can."
Tell me about your year abroad…
"Until I did my year abroad, my French speaking was far from good, so I wanted to put myself in a situation where I had no choice but to learn. I went to a university info event about studying abroad and, right at the end of the presentation, there was a picture of the University of Réunion with a palm tree in the background! I knew then that’s where I wanted to go!
Three of us from my course went and we all learnt so much, not just about France but about ourselves! It's a really unique learning experience when you are completely out of your comfort zone.
We made friends with other students from the UK, Germany, Sweden and Norway who were also on a year or semester abroad. Many of us have kept in touch.
After one semester there, I moved to Nîmes, in the south of France and worked as a receptionist at a hotel. As you can imagine, answering the phone every single day for three months taking reservations was great for my French.
I then got another work placement and moved to Paris. I worked as an Executive Assistant (EA) to a British woman who worked in fashion, mostly as the brand ambassador for an American swimwear brand. That was also a great experience, not just for my French but for work. My first grad job out of university was EA to the managing director of a PR agency, and so the woman I worked for in Paris was my reference! We've kept in touch and her daughter just so happens to work in PR, so I’ve been able to mentor her and support her as she begins her career.
After Paris, my friend and I were not ready to go home, so we decided to go to attend a language school in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean for a month. Overall, my year abroad was my favourite year from my university experience – I had a lot of fun and learnt so much in every way. I also made many friends that I hope to keep for the rest of my life."
What are the main skills that you got from your degree? How have they helped you?
"Having another language is an incredibly helpful skill, especially when you’re working in a global organisation. I joined Snap when we’d just opened our office in Paris and got to use my French when dealing with our French team members, journalists and partners.
I do also think learning another language helps you to have more understanding of others. It can be nerve wracking when you have to talk to a partner or lead a meeting in a language that is not your native one – especially in a professional setting! I know how that feels, and that awareness and empathy keeps inclusion at the front of my mind. Some of the smartest people I know, and the people I love working with the most, think about this too."
On the media and communications side, all of the concepts and theories that we unpacked and interrogated at university are real things that I have encountered throughout my career. Having those different perspectives, theory and knowledge helps me to be a better communications professional.
Did you always have a specific career in mind?
"I had no idea and, in many ways, I'm still figuring it out!
What I always say to people I mentor is, especially in the first couple of years of your career, what's truly important is who your manager is and the work environment you are in. The reason I took my first graduate job was because I walked away from my interview with the managing director inspired by her story and wanting to learn from her.
There’s no use in having your dream job and a rubbish manager. However, if the job is average but your manager is amazing, that can present a whole host of opportunities you may not have expected to learn and grow. Having someone on your side like that is a whole different ball game."
What’s your favourite thing about your job with Snap?
"It’s so cliché, but it's the people. I’ve been part of this company for almost five years now, so there’s people I’ve known for all of that time who have grown close to me.
As I’m in the international communications team, we have team members based in France, the Middle East, India and Australia. We come from totally different communications disciplines as well, so it’s really interesting for all of us to look at the same problem and come up with entirely different solutions based on our perspectives and experiences. I love that part of my job.
I also love the creativity. Communications is so wide ranging – from crisis and corporate comms, to B2B and creative campaigns – I’m very lucky to have gotten to work on many of the different things. I love having variety and learning new things, so that's perfect for me!"
What does ‘success’ look like to you?
"Learning and growing and being challenged. I try my best to embrace change and look for an opportunity to learn. It’s the good type of tension to have in your life.
Success for me is being able to rest at the end of the day, switch my brain off and just stop. It’s also laughing every day with my colleagues and having people within our company respecting and valuing what we do.
Roles like communications and PR are often behind the scenes and a little bit mysterious, so people don't quite understand what you do or how you do it. Success is also the other teams I work with appreciating and seeing the value and impact of what I do.
Then there’s happiness, balance and spending quality time with my friends and family, and making sure my life doesn't revolve around work."
Find out more about French and International Media and Communications Studies BA