Suzie describes her career as taking ’the scenic route to her dream job,’ and is now the Communications Director at Nordic Approach.
Interview with Suzie Hoban
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? Is there anything you especially remember?
The late Peter Davis was one of the best teachers of my life and I hear his voice every time I write.
What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.
‘Zig zagging’ is the diplomatic way to describe my career. I was working for SBS as a digital media producer while studying at Deakin. The year after I graduated I moved to Singapore and worked as a digital media producer for Discovery Networks (home of the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and more). From there I moved into advertising which was the best and worst professional decision I ever made.
I worked in strategy and my job was to explore the ways in which people were using the emerging media platforms so we could craft engaging advertising campaigns. I received intensive training in marketing and branding, and I worked with very smart and creative people who really challenged me professionally and intellectually. It was exhilarating. I was also miserable. My personal values simply don’t align with the work of an advertising professional, which is basically to create problems that we can solve with the products we are trying to sell.
Until that point I had taken professional opportunities as they arose. I decided it was time to take some control of my career, and find a direction that combined my skills and my values. I have always loved food but I knew I didn’t want to be a chef, so in search of other food related careers I studied a Master’s in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. It was as fabulous as it sounds. There I discovered cacao and coffee, or more specifically, I learned that the supply chains for my favourite food and drink are very unfair to those who produce the raw material.
After my studies in Italy I followed my now husband to Colombia. There I spent seven years doing the professional hustle, pulling together various sources of income, some of them more fulfilling than others. I started a business offering chocolate education and consulting to craft chocolate companies and chocolate consumers. I also taught at a university in their gastronomy programme, and I made artisanal chocolate products.
In 2018 I was offered a job in specialty coffee. This industry is focused on very high quality coffee for which farmers are paid higher prices. The industry’s principles align with my own: coffee should be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable for everyone involved. It should also taste great.
Today I live in Oslo, Norway, and I am the Communications Director for a specialty coffee importer called Nordic Approach. I develop the brand strategy and communications plan for my company, and I tell the story of the coffees we buy, the farmers who produce them, and the time, money, energy and love they invest to create a high quality and differentiated product, something that deserves a high price.
I took the scenic route to my dream job.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
I have been driven to make the world a better place, or at least leave it without inflicting further damage.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of career you have embarked on? If so, when and how did you realise?
Ah, no. See my story above. However, every position I have held has taught me something valuable. I didn’t enjoy my time in advertising, but it was the best training in branding and marketing I could have hoped for. Thanks to these skills, and experience from every other job I have held, I now have my dream job.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?
It is worth the salary sacrifice to feel you are making a positive impact on the world. Also, learn to write.
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
Deakin taught me how to write. It is, by a very long margin, the most important professional and personal skill I possess.
What are your passions outside your work?
Cooking, especially baking, learning new languages, living in different cultures, plus my husband and daughter.
How would someone describe you?
Hyper organised. Driven. Pretty good cook.
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
Most of the jobs I have had did not exist when I was studying. It is impossible to chart a career when you don’t know what changes lie ahead, so develop transferable skills. Writing is a good one!
Focus on what fulfils you, and never be afraid to pivot into a new role or industry. Every position will teach you something you can take to the next one.
What is something that amazes you?
Polyglots! I didn’t learn another language until well into adulthood, by which time my brain was already fixed in the logic of English. I am amazed by children and how easily they absorb new languages, new logics, and new ways of interacting with the world. My daughter is four years old and she speaks Spanish, English and Norwegian. I am equal parts jealous and proud.