Neil Thornton, a former stylist, and private shopper turned fashion writer, social media addict, and style seeker. Founder of whatneildid.com
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
It was never my intention to end up here. I’ve always tried to live as a ‘yes man’ (within reason, obviously). I had just moved to London as I was acting and working as a swimming instructor and a bouncer – I know, odd as hell, right? Though you’d be shocked at how similar drunks and kids are.
I decided acting wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted to try and find a solid career path and after discussing it with friends I decided fashion would be where I’d love to work. I had the chance to get some work experience as a Stylist for a big luxury fashion company. I said yes. I was told to get twitter and start a blog to help get my work and voice out there. It was the blog that made me realise I preferred writing about fashion. So, I found myself a job as a writer and worked my way up from there, while always keeping the blog going alongside.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I’m an early riser. Usually, I’m up between 5.30-6.30am to train before work. I get into the office around 9. I’m a list maker. I look at yesterday’s to-do list and update it for the new day and add in anything I’ve received in from emails. I catch up with my team and get going with the day. If I’m not in meetings, I spend the morning getting the smaller projects, like weekly editorial and emails out the way and use the afternoon lull when I find emails drop off a bit to work on meatier projects like new launches and campaigns. I earmark one morning or so a week to churn through data reports to see how we’re doing and make a list of actions for the team based on the results. As I’m the kind of person who keeps an eye on emails when OOO and on weekends, I set myself a limit of staying past clock-off for a maximum of one hour, but I try and get out on time.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
Like I said, I’m a list maker. So, my desk can be littered with Post-its, though I try and keep it in my notebook. I’ve tried using apps and productivity tools to manage my own work but I always fall back to pen and paper. If it’s not on paper it’s usually in my head. I don’t even organise my inbox into sections. I have a knack for remembering who sent what and I just use the search bar. And my inbox always has zero unread. For my team’s workflow, I’m a big fan of Trello. It’s a super easy online tool, that’s also free. It allows us to keep track of projects from briefing stage, through copy, design, and sign-off. For our calendar, we use Google Docs – Sheets to be specific – so everyone can access and edit their areas as we go. We use a bespoke table I created to suit the needs of our team. It started life a lot simpler at one of my first jobs and I’ve adapted it along the way.
WHAT DO YOU DO OR GO TO GET INSPIRED?
Everything and anything. Because I work full-time in content marketing, and then I come home and blog, which is so similar, I have to use whatever is at my disposal to keep my mind fresh. From the usual magazine reading, internet surfing and social media to doing my own personal projects or reading fiction to switch off, taking my mind to simpler state that allows me to view things with an uncluttered mind.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
Quote: ‘We’re not saving lives.’ Sometimes in this industry, especially working in the luxury fashion world, people can get a little caught up in the craziness. I think it’s important to not take it too seriously and remember there’s more to life. Keeping this in mind actually, helps me approach my projects in a more open-minded way.
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Team management! I’m now managing the biggest team I’ve ever looked after before and it’s very important to me that I’m the best manager I can be to them. But a big team means multiple personalities and multiple careers I’m responsible for. I’m working really hard to make sure I’m guiding them properly.
IS THERE A PRODUCT, SOLUTION OR TOOL THAT MAKES YOU THINK IT IS A GOOD DESIGN FOR YOUR DIGITAL PUBLISHING EFFORTS?
I use WordPress for all of my content needs. It’s such an incredible and flexible platform. It answers so many of the needs of my blog and the companies I work for.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
Be nosey. (But not annoying!) Keep your eyes and ears open and get involved. I always try and understand how everyone in wider team’s work. It’s important to know other’s restrictions, problems, and responsibilities. It also means you make better informed, and therefore successful, decisions that get you noticed. Don’t be afraid to through your idea into the hat, but be open to having it shot down and make sure you learn from the critiques.