Alum of the Month

Conor Chapple

Conor Chapple

November 2013

New York Program

January 2006 Intake

What and where did you study before your Mountbatten internship?
I firstly achieved my HND in Advertising & PR from Perth College; I enjoyed the course so much I decided to gain my BA degree in Corporate Communications from Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University.

What made you apply for the Mountbatten programme?
I have been obsessed with New York City from the minute I watched 'The Muppets Take Manhattan' as a child, and in 2000 I went to New York and the city did not disappoint. I was completely mesmerized and while standing on the viewing platform on top of the World Trade Centre admiring the best view in the world, I made a vow to myself that I would come back and live here. That opportunity presented itself as I was doing a detour to one of my tutorial classes in a building I had never been in before and I saw a poster on the university notice board advertising a year in New York and how Mountbatten would be doing a presentation that evening. To say that caught my eye would be an understatement. I went with some scepticism, but after a Q&A session with Jo Harvey and Elizabeth Singh I was convinced it was for real, and decided I had to apply. I now look back with wonder and gratitude about the gift fate had in store for me that day!

Describe your sponsor company and your role within it.
I got a placement at Toth Brand Imaging, an Advertising & PR agency based in the heart of uber trendy Soho. It was the most stunning office environment I had ever seen, it was open plan, artistic, a typical New York loft style office that looked like it had come straight out of the pages of a swish magazine. Our clients were from the fashion and lifestyle industries, such as Kwiat Diamonds, Rocawear, Tommy Hilfiger and they also represented celebrities such as the designer Rachel Roy and the TV chef Rachel Ray, who I got to meet on quite a few occasions. My role as Office Manager consisted of communicating with senior individuals within the firm on queries and problems associated with office services on a daily basis, ensuring all facilities issues were dealt with promptly and efficiently, attending management meetings, Travel Booking, and liaising with suppliers in regards to issues and costs. More importantly & above all else, I had to make sure the office never ran out of Starbucks coffee!!

What was the highlight/most memorable moment of your working experience during this year?
When the senior executives were out on business the Art Director (A really terrific guy) took me out on a few fashion shoots, I went to a warehouse in Brooklyn, a roof top shoot with the models in skimpy swimsuits and an Interior design shoot in a Manhattan townhouse. I would usually help set up, do the water run, and take down scenery, as far as I was concerned there was no job too big or small! Sometimes the shoots lasted into the late hours but not surprisingly I had no issues with doing any overtime! What a job my colleague had I do have to say.

What was the social highlight/most memorable moment during this year?
There were a number of sensational occasions but a few really stood out. Volunteering at 'Dressed to Kilt' fashion show was brilliant fun; I saw Sean Connery and Sir Stirling Moss, and I also shook hands with Donald Trump. I also went to a number of music gigs such as Snow Patrol, KT Tunstal, James Brown, the Scissor Sisters at the V Festival at Coney Island and Madonna at Madison square Gardens. Watching the Boston Bruins win at TD Gardens in Boston, and celebrating afterwards, the atmosphere was just fantastic, and having a pint in the 'Cheers' bar, and being in little Italy when Italy won the world cup and seeing the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there were the little occasions when you just kicked back and relaxed with your friends in Central Park or a side walk café watching New York go by. Those occasions were great but it really was the friendships that I made that year that was the icing on the cake, I'm still as close to them today as I was back then and I will treasure these people until the end of my days

Please share a little wisdom/philosophy that you acquired during your internship.
For me personally, Mountbatten was the first step in doing something incredibly different and exciting in my life but I never knew what direction to take or how to go about it. I had always played it safe and I wanted to do something that would really test me as I believed I had it in me. Life should always be an adventure, filled with challenges, excitement, and constantly pushing yourself to see how far you can go. For a country boy with little experience of the big wide world getting a place on Mountbatten was incredibly daunting but I had never felt so alive. It certainly raised a few eyebrows when I told people I was moving to New York but as the old saying goes “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do”. I was moving to a new country, meeting new people, and would officially be a working adult. I was fortunate that I had a summer placement with an Advertising & PR agency in Scotland so I was vaguely aware of what to expect when I started my placement, but was still excited to see the differences in British and American business practice. I felt a great deal of pride and accomplishment at the completion of my Internship and was able to return home with my head held high. My year in New York gave me a new sense of confidence that I did not know I had, which then enabled me to say yes to life, and that included saying hello to a new life in London.

If you could change anything about your internship, what would it be?
Lewis Carroll once said “I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Looking back I do wish I had taken a few more chances and not stayed in the Mountbatten comfort zone, New York has so much going on and so much to offer; get involved in as much of it as possible. I did start doing volunteering but that was towards the end of the year, it really was a great way to give something back to New York and to actually meet some New Yorkers! It was very easy to get caught up in Mountbatten life, but there are millions of people in New York and don’t be afraid to say hello to them. Carpe diem. I regret spending too many weekend mornings nursing a hangover but those hangovers were the results of some brilliant, crazy nights out with wonderful friends. I wouldn’t have swapped those nights out for anything but I think a bit more restraint couldn’t have hurt. However I shouldn't beat myself up too hard because I did do everything I said I would and a lot more!

What happened after completing the year - what did you do next?
I got a job as an event manager at a hotel in Scotland, it was a great experience and living at home enabled me to pay off some of my New York credit card debts. However, after a year I moved to London where I found myself working closely with the US Ambassador and the Consul General at the US Embassy. I was assigned the rather grand job title of “VIP Concierge” and my role was to act as a PA to people who came to the Embassy with VIP status. My days ranged from meeting and greeting the likes of Madonna, Robbie Williams, Amy Winehouse, Salman Rushdie, Daniel Craig and Naomi Campbell to American Ambassadors and military personnel who came to the embassy on official business. l needed to be flexible in my approach, display a high level of attention to detail, be able to prioritise my workload and float easily between different departments, such as American Citizen Services, Consular Services and the US Immigration department. Plus I got to attend numerous functions at the Embassy, as an employee not a guest though. It was an amazing job, however at the time I felt I needed to focus on a different career path, so I accepted a role in student admissions in an International University Halls of Residence which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Where are you now in your working life and what do you do?
I currently work in Conference and Events for a luxury hotel, as a duty operations manager, somehow I found myself back on the “shop floor” but I realised I missed the socialising aspect of what I used to do. It’s a high pressured environment as one minute I could be setting up and hosting a 200+ conference that was taking place in one suite and in the other a sombre Funeral High Tea. I take great satisfaction from being a part of such special occasions such as surprise birthdays, christenings, especially weddings as they are always happy days and you really do want their day to be as perfect and memorable as possible, plus the fact that the Champagne always flows like tap water which is a nice little perk of the job!

Do you have any future plans that you would like to realise & what are they (career & social)?
In the future I would like to leave the hospitality industry and ideally move into a more corporate environment based in the city of London. I would be highly tempted by a career within the charity sector. At present I really enjoy living in London, but I need lots of sunshine in my hair, an ocean breeze on my face and to feel the sand beneath my feet. If I could get a job that involves lots of traveling to hot and sunny destinations, socialising opportunities and great pay then I would be set for life but isn’t that everyone’s dream job?

Is there any other information that you would like to be included?
If you get offered a really amazing opportunity just go for it because you might later regret it if you don’t. People are always wowed by my New York experience, but when I encourage them to apply to Mountbatten themselves, I usually get a look of slight hesitation across their faces which is quite a shame as they have no idea what they’re missing out on, but each to their own in this beautiful world of ours.