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A decade of digital distinction

Digital guru and renaissance man Alan Coates is celebrating 10 glorious years with 44. We take a whistlestop tour of his career so far, and then get personal with a quickfire Q&A.

Alan’s 44 ‘journey’ began in 2009, after he cold-called Managing Partner Corin Ashby and cheekily asked for a job! His audacity was rewarded when he was taken on as a part-time Editorial Assistant.

He cut his teeth providing magazine production support, was swiftly taken on as a full-time employee, and was soon running his own projects.

His passion and talent in the area of technology quickly became apparent. Al was unleashed on a series of exciting, industry-leading and award-winning projects. Standout examples include the launch of a new intranet for Volkswagen Group UK and a multi-platform app that told the story of the impact of Hurricane Sandy on US employees at National Grid.

Today, Alan’s our Head of Digital, running 44’s Birmingham office in the heart of the city centre. We caught up with him to talk tech, teamwork and a decade of growth…

Hi Alan! Tell us more about your interest in digital communications.

I’m a real fan of technology. I remember the first time I pinch-zoomed an iPhone, used Sat Nav in the car, and created an interactive magazine for one of our clients – each moment was magical. Digital communications offer us the most opportunities for measurement, helping us prove that the work we do creates a lasting impact for our clients and their colleagues.

You’ve been with the company for 10 years – how does that feel?

Firstly, I think of how lucky I am to be where I am today, with the team, projects and clients that make my working life so interesting. Secondly, it’s rather humbling to think of my influence on the agency in terms of the processes we use and the culture we have. I’ve been feeding into these as both a technical lead and senior member of the team, and it makes me extremely proud to be a part of the 44 DNA.

What are the main changes you have experienced at the company over the years?

When I first started at 44, there were two of us in the office, and we had three magazines on the go. Now, everything is ten times that scale. To work on our many projects, we’ve developed specialisms and new product offerings, and continue to create new partner relationships. Internal Communications (IC) is being taken more seriously than ever before, which makes everything we do that much more impactful.

What are your biggest professional achievements?

There are a few particular highlights for me. One is holding the debut edition of the first magazine I ever project-managed from start to finish: Our World for Anglo American. It’s also great to have won awards with the IoIC, IABC or FEIEA for the various digital projects I’ve helped to deliver with the team. Another accomplishment was being made a partner of the business, just before my 10-year anniversary.

What’s your favourite thing about working for 44?

In IC, a company’s team is everything. There’s nobody at 44 that I don’t like, don’t respect, and don’t look forward to working with more in the future.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

I’m excited about when we finish our first Augmented Reality project. I don’t think it will be too long until this kind of thing has a place in IC.

Finally, how would you describe 44 in three words?

I’d be inclined to say ‘experts in communication’ or ‘makers of change’, but I think I’ll settle with ‘friends of mine’.

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