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Making the move from London to Edinburgh: my career story

Tom Gillingham Charlotte Street Partners

Next up in our career stories blog series, we hear from Tom, partner at Charlotte Street Partners. Tom joined us back in 2018 as associate partner and we promoted him to partner at the start of 2022. 

Talk to us about your career journey, how did you start out?

I studied International Relations at Leeds university, but after getting into student radio by accident I was increasingly drawn towards journalism as a career path. Graduating at the tail end of the financial crisis meant jobs were pretty sparse, though, so I started casting the net a bit wider for roles that would combine my interest in current and political affairs with an opportunity to write.

I managed to get myself onto a (paid, thankfully) intern programme at a London agency, and on my last day asked if there was any chance of a full-time job. Eight fulfilling years, and five job titles later at that agency, I accepted an offer to come and work at Charlotte Street Partners.

Did you always know you wanted to work in comms?

No, I’ve always been jealous of people who had a ‘calling’ from day one. But this job aligns with my interests, so I’m glad I found it.

You made the move from London to come and work for us in Edinburgh, how was that transition?

In 2014 in London, my housemate who worked in-house at a FTSE100 company got a physical letter from a new Edinburgh consultancy called Charlotte Street Partners, touting for business. We both grew up in Edinburgh and he archly said something like, “These guys look interesting, we should go work for them someday.”

Before I met the team at CSP in 2018, the London bubble had convinced me that world-class communications and public affairs consultancies struggle outside of the M25. Within about two minutes of meeting the team that idea was completely dispelled and I was delighted when they made me an offer.

Leaving London was a big career decision, but the quality of the CSP team, our range of clients and the type of strategic work we do continues to reassure me it was the right decision.

How would you compare working and living in London to working and living in Edinburgh?

London is an incredible place to live and work, but working at CSP in Edinburgh has provided a balance that previously felt unachievable. There are still all the benefits of working for a top-tier agency in one of the world’s best capital cities, but far fewer of the downsides.

There’s no doubt Edinburgh is a smaller ‘pond’ than London’s infinity pool, which has pros and cons, but I think the ‘pros’ win out in terms of being able to get to know the political, business and journalist communities.

Edinburgh isn’t the cheapest place to live, but it’s still night-and-day compared to London. I’m lucky enough to be able to drop my son at nursery, walk to work and still be at my desk in time to prep for the day ahead. Short of winning the lottery, that would have been inconceivable down south, and is a long way from being crammed into armpits on the Northern Line.

What’s a typical day in the life for you at CSP?

The cliché is true, every day is different. If there was a typical day, I’d get bored very quickly.

Outside of work, what keeps you busy?

Parenting. I also do my best to chase a ball around a 5-a-side pitch at least once a week, and get onto the snow when I can.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into PR & Communications?

Be curious and immerse yourself in the media in all its forms – as often as you can. Also be brave, I don’t think I would have got my first full-time agency job unless I’d taken a deep breath and asked for it.

Interested in joining Charlotte Street Partners? Keep an eye on our careers page for any upcoming vacancies.