James Waters, Senior Client Manager
James Waters is known for his cool, calm, and collected mindset combined with his problem-solving mentality. I sat down with James to find out his secret to remaining unruffled, why he chose his career path, and his journey to psLondon...
JW: I’m a Senior Client Manager at psLondon and I’ve always wanted to go into advertising. I did media studies in my A-levels and went on to study marketing at university, so it’s something I've always been interested in. Building connections with people also comes naturally to me, which is a core element of the role.
With his natural flair for building connections, I was curious to know if he had always had his eye for partnerships as a career path.
JW: I didn’t know what the industry was like but, I just gravitated towards it through my surroundings. I always liked watching ads and had my favourites. I think if I knew more about the industry, I might have pursued a more creative role but in hindsight, I like where I am. The role allows you to be both creative and strategic as well as having the relationship-building side of it.
It was interesting to see how James gravitated towards advertising from the creative and strategic sides. It made me want to know what his favourite adverts were growing up...
JW: There were quite a few but it would probably be one of the old Levi’s ads.
Fast forward to the present day, I was keen to find out what brought James to psLondon.
JW: I worked for a few agencies before ps, the last couple were both working on one retained account, and I knew that I didn't want to always be in the automotive and publishing sectors. I wanted to join somewhere that was a bit smaller to get more hands-on throughout the agency and be closer to the commercial side of the business.
I agree that having knowledge and expertise is very helpful, especially when navigating client projects as they are so varied. I heard James was a big fan of music events and I wanted to find out a little bit more about his love for live shows...
JW: I’ve been going to gigs since I was young, and try to go to a few festivals each year, I ticked off Glastonbury last year. What I listen to has changed so much over the years. I used to go to local gigs at weird places like village cricket clubs which were fun as a kid!
James’ ability to add multiple strings to his bow and diversify was a theme I was recognising...
JW: Yes, I guess I’ve always liked to try everything which comes across in all my music phases but more generally through my personality, tastes and career. It gives you the feeling that you are always doing something new and allows you to try as much as possible.
I found this to be an interesting perspective as not everyone has this point of view. He continued to elaborate on that so eloquently...
JW: You could do one thing and enjoy that experience thinking it's the best ever thing. But you could have a hidden passion you’ve never tried. My ethos is to try everything; you might love something you have never considered. That relates to account management because you need to wear many hats, making you the jack of all trades, really.
Great point! Account management enables you to balance various things in one. I wondered if this tied into James’ sense of curiosity...
JW: Yes, I find working on different things keeps it interesting. If there’s a new sector or channel I'm working on, it’s always super interesting learning about it and figuring out a way to solve the problem or make the most of it.
In addition to his great work, James is also known around the office as being forever unruffled and calm. I wanted to know what he thought of this description and if it was accurate to him.
"I tend to approach things in a calm way as I believe things will always get solved, you just need to work out the solution, it won’t be a problem forever - there’s always a workaround."
JW: Yes, it's always been a description of me, it’s never a surprise. I was once told by one of my old Creative Directors “You’re the most unflappable account manager I’ve ever met – keep it up”.
I tend to approach things in a calm way as I believe things will always get solved, you just need to work out the solution. In every situation where there is a small or big problem, you may feel like there’s nothing you can do, but there is always something that can be done. Everything's always doable in a certain way, even if it’s different to what you initially wanted to do.
With such an admirable mindset I wondered if he saw it as a connection to his problem-solving mentality.
JW: Absolutely, I don’t necessarily see problems as a problem, it’s more as a challenge to turn it around or as some people would say, an opportunity.
Thinking about the different roles at ps, I found this to be a great benefit to colleagues. I asked James why he thought his unique state of calmness was beneficial to the team...
JW: It’s really important because your clients look to you for a sense of calm, it shows that you’re on top of things.
It’s the same for working with internal teams, from the strategy to creative teams, they don’t want you to be worried as it’ll worry them also. Their job is to focus on strategy or design, it’s not their job to worry about other things, it's easier for all teams to focus on what they can do to ensure solutions and success.
Considering his great skill for remaining calm, it made me ponder on the thought of unwinding. How does James unwind? Does he need to unwind or was he always unwound? I needed to know his secret...
JW: I don’t really need to unwind too much. There can be a lot that happens during work but once I get home, I try to reset by asking myself “Do you need to be thinking about this now or can it be done the next day?” which helps me find that balance. As with everyone, I do end up thinking about projects outside of work, but it can also end up being unproductive.
Such an inspirational response! Outside of his calmness, James also has a big interest in sports. I wanted to know what his favourite sport was...
JW: It’s hard to narrow it down to one sport but I’d say one of my favourites is surfing! I used to go to Cornwall once a year but haven't really done that much of it in recent years because of the cost and taking my board. Another favourite of mine would be snowboarding or skiing, I used to be a skater, I like playing a bit of football in the park, and I used to play ice hockey in my teens – I’d say that’s a pretty good overview of my love for sports.
Amazing selection, considering his calmness, I was surprised to see Ice Hockey in the mix as it’s an intense yet exciting sport. Back to being a client manager, I wanted to know his thoughts on what makes a great client partnerships person.
JW: A good client person needs to be calm, and level-headed within the organisation. They need to have strong communication skills and be the voice of the agency. I think you really need to have a creative and strategic mindset to be able to comment on both especially when working on the account management side of things. Another key factor is understanding the client and what they need, both as a business and personally. Your client might have pressures from internal stakeholders which don’t that you need to be aware of, and as an account manager, you can support that by helping them problem-solve.
And finally, I wanted to know, if psLondon could work with any client on earth, which one would he choose and why...
JW: Probably something like Carhartt WIP as I’m a fan of the brand but I’ve always wanted to work on an aftershave ad, there’s no logic or rational element to them it’s all emotion – I think it would be quite fun.