Staff Writer: Custom Media K.K
Maxine Cheyney graduated with a degree in Communication and Media Studies from Loughborough University in 2013. Having grown up and lived in various locations, Maxine now resides in Japan where she works as a writer with the British and American Chambers of Commerce.
I primarily chose Loughborough because of my interest in sports, but also because of the campus. My sister was already in her third year when I started, and coming from the tiny island of the Seychelles, being on a friendly and international campus was a top priority for me. The course itself gave someone like myself who wasn’t quite sure where she was heading in the media world a chance to look at the whole landscape rather than just focus on one thing. At the time, the course had high rankings (and second in the country now!) so in the end Loughborough ticked all of the boxes.
Apart from the academic side, as an international student the network of friends I made at Loughborough have been invaluable in helping me to further understand different cultures, get used to working with different people and apply my ability to learn new things quickly. You end up staying in touch with so many people, following people’s successes and having an endless list of contacts (always great for a journalist!). I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent and innovative people at Loughborough, and it taught me to be head strong and carve out my own niche. In particular, the course opened my eyes to how the media sphere really works, and there was a long time where I did not want to pursue a career in media especially as a journalist, but I soon realised that I had to be someone who would change it rather than someone who was stuck on the side-lines talking about how corrupt the media is.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
I’ll say what everyone says after they leave university and start working; make the most of it. I didn’t take advantage of the resources I had, and believe it or not, I do wish I had visited the library more and perhaps not done my dissertation in a week (Don’t tell my Professor Wring). It’s a fun course, with fewer lecture hours, but don’t let this fool you. Listen to what your professors tell you. They always know more than you. And, the more you read, and the more questions you ask of your professors, the better you will do. These are people who get quoted in the news and who are called upon for their knowledge of media and political landscapes.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, what impact did these have on your experience?
I was a serial extra-curricular participant, potentially a bit of a geek. In my time at Loughborough I was Vice Chair of the Social Sciences Department, in charge of communications for the Global Development Committee, Culture Sub-editor for Label magazine, Head of Marketing for Label magazine, Kickboxing Club Social Sec, Kickboxing Club Chairperson and was part of a radio trio called ‘Loughborough Loose Women’ on LCR.
I was always tired, excited, constantly intrigued and endlessly learning. It was through doing all of this that I gained real hands on experience that you don’t get inside a lecture theatre. It forced me to manage my time effectively, deal with different characters and prepare me a little better for the shock of the ‘real’ world. Not to mention I made so many friends through all these activities, it stopped me from feeling homesick too often. It’s easy to feel isolated at university, especially when you’ve been shipped out from faraway lands. All of the clubs definitely made me feel a part of the university.
Custom Media is a media, design and market-entry/expansion agency that specialises in print and digital publishing. So we publish both the British Chamber of Commerce Japan magazine, Acumen and the American Chamber of Commerce Japan magazine, The Journal. In addition to that we do a range of print, marketing, website, social media, app and video projects in both English and Japanese. The client portfolio is huge and ranges from schools to government bodies and international airlines.
It was one of the most last-minute decisions I have ever made. I am a planner, and the decision to come to Japan was made on the day I had applied for a new role within the same company, over a plate of ribs. I was at a point in my career where I didn’t feel there was enough movement or enough challenge. It was time to move on, I was feeling stagnant. When I was offered the opportunity to go, jobless, to Japan of all places, how could I say no?
How has this impacted upon your lifestyle and skillset? How about overcoming any cultural differences?
I was under the impression that I was an adaptable person. I’d grown up in Kenya and the Seychelles before moving to Loughborough and then London. I had enough friends from both school and university to dub myself internationally astute. But the shock when we arrived in Japan jolted me out of my false sense of security fairly quickly. Communication was the first problem, I was quite literally illiterate. Working in the English-speaking media sphere in a country where the first language is not your own was the second issue. The third were all of the cultural norms that are unknown and obscure to the rest of the world. But what a wonderful feeling it is when everything finally clicks and when you truly understand things. Society here is so respectful of each other and it’s been such a wonderful change from the harsh, sometimes unfriendly realities of London. But, as everyone knows, the work ethic here is like no other and this is something I am still getting used to.
Skillset wise, I’ve had to learn everything in double time. When I first arrived I was freelancing, then teaching and freelancing, and then teaching, freelancing and part time at Custom Media before I finally started here full time. I’ve taught myself so many things and really honed in on my writing and photography skills. I’ve become a better listener (great for someone with a loud mouth like me) and I’ve learned to slow down. Tokyo is a bustling city like London, but the way of life here has impacted on the way I conduct myself at work.
It’s an incredible opportunity. The exposure I am getting to business professionals, and for a little bit of a feminist like myself, strong successful women, is huge. Everything I am learning about writing for such a high-level publication and about the extensive world of business is invaluable.
I started off in an industry that I knew nothing about (yachting), at a company that focused on print and online news. I found that it was difficult to be enthusiastic about subjects that you aren’t passionate about especially as a writer, and more so as an editor. So despite getting all the support and training I could have asked for and a great team, I needed more exposure, and topics that were interesting to me, which is why I then took a step back and moved to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Being there brought me back down to earth and also reminded me that I could do so much more. That’s when I realised I needed a challenge. Custom Media has thrown me into the wider media sphere and given me the opportunity to get my fingers stuck in to everything from feature writing to copywriting and video reporting. I’m developing core skills that I’ll need to progress in this field later in life, whereas in my previous jobs I was a little more all over the place and less consolidated.
My plans for the future only go so far as tomorrow, and there’s still so much to explore in Japan. Whether Japan is for the long haul, who knows, but I know that I’ll get itchy feet at some point and soon enough will be ready to move on again. I’m still at the beginning of my career so anything could happen!
One day I’d like to be the kind of leader that isn’t stuck within the status quo, and isn’t scared to make a change or challenge people, and after the events of this year, I think my generation are probably all thinking the same way. I want to be able to look at myself and be proud of every mistake I’ve made and be happy with the chances I’ve taken.