Andrew Pickup: Actively Seek Bigger Challenges


He advocates that anyone who wants to take their careers to the next level must not be afraid to take risks.

Contrary to what most career coaches may advise, Andrew Pickup, Senior Director for Communications at Microsoft Asia, encourages us to actually change environment and seek for greater responsibilities especially during the early stages of our careers, as that’s when we could afford to take certain leaps most of us may be reluctant to take later on.

Andrew Pickup, Senior Director for Communications at Microsoft Asia

Can you tell us a bit about how you started your career? What are some of your best moments in your professional life?

After graduating with a degree in Marketing in the mid ’80s, I began my career in the marketing department of Royal Life, a large UK financial services company. They specialized in direct marketing, which at that time was still a relatively new channel for the financial service industry.

It was great fun.

We would place an direct-response advert in the newspaper at the weekend and our post-room would receive mail-bags overflowing with cheques by Monday morning. Very instant, very accountable; loved it.

After two to three years down the road though, I wanted to try something different, so I moved to the agency-side with Saatchi & Saatchi working as an Account Director, working on the British Airways, Avis and Vodafone accounts.

Living in London, working at Saatchi’s, creating campaigns for some great global brands, all during the early ’90s (a boom time for the capital) was about as much fun as you could wish for.

But again, after two to three years, I was itching for something bigger, something that was growing fast, that I could be part of.

It turned out Microsoft was my destination!

When I joined Microsoft UK in 1992, they had just launched Windows 3.1, which had proven to be a massive hit.

The company was growing fast, realized it was going to become a household brand and was specifically recruiting traditional brand/marketing expertise. Which, thankfully, I had!

Since then, Microsoft has sustained me – personally, professionally, intellectually, creatively and financially — for over 20 years and across two continents.

And it continues to challenge, surprise and delight me every day.

If you could advise your 20-year-old self today, what would tell him?

Two bits of advice. First, take more risks, don’t be afraid to fail.

When you are at the early stages of your career, you have relatively little to lose.

So ask for greater responsibility, actively seek bigger challenges and change roles frequently to generate a broader range of experiences.

Second, examine the balance between your EQ/IQ, between your Conviction and Connection (with others).

As you will learn later in your career, the more senior the role, the more you will rely on your EQ skills and less on your IQ and functional capabilities.

What has been the most valuable advice you’ve ever gotten when you were facing challenges in your career?

Know the difference between a coach, a mentor and a sponsor. To have a successful, and sustainable, career you will need all three.

Map them, nurture them, but — most of all — make use of them.

What would you advise the millennial just starting with their career or aiming to take their careers to the next level?

Ask questions, seek greater responsibility, build your personal network, take risks. And be nice.