Name: Ruth Tyrie

Age: 28

Job title: Brand manager (and self-appointed head of happiness)

Company & location: Surreal, London Bridge

Education: Geography at the University of Edinburgh

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A fashion designer. If you saw what I wear now you’d never believe it. 

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? I tried doing something ‘relevant’ to my geography degree, but changed my mind after three months of doing flood risk assessments. I liked the idea of something tangible, so I applied for a few grad schemes thinking I’d hop straight into a marketing role at Coca-Cola or Unilever. A few rejections later and I’ve been working in startups ever since. Oh and I really love eating and drinking. 

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My job is to make stuff happen.

We’ll have a stupid idea for a cereal advert like ’why don’t we make a billboard out of cardboard boxes’ or ‘why don’t we launch a raunchy condom partnership for Valentine’s’ and then I have to figure out how we actually do it.

“Ask for help and stalk your career idol (on LinkedIn, not in real life)”

What does a typical day look like for you? I might start by getting up at an ungodly hour to go and hand out free cereal at a gym.

Then I’ll plan a topless photoshoot featuring my bosses in their pants to advertise some banana cereal (don’t ask), line up some influencers for our next top secret flavour launch, post some £10 notes that we’ve sold for £8 on Black Friday, and then to finish I’ll upload a picture of my cat to the company Instagram account and watch him outperform all our cereal content.

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job: I’ve got a history with protein brands (shout out to the legends at RX Bar and Misfits) so as soon as I heard about the concept of Surreal I was pretty hooked on the idea. I joined as employee number one so the idea of building something from scratch appealed to me a lot. 

There weren’t a tonne of stages (praise be) – a chat with some questions about my skillset and interests and then a task to prove what I’d put on paper.

One question I got asked that I now always ask in interviews is, ‘what’s another brand you’re loving at the moment?’ It gives you such a good insight into what drives someone and what they’ve picked up on other brands doing – you can steal that question for your next interview. 

What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company? I bet everyone says free food. It’s free food.

Second best is walking into a shop, seeing your product on shelf and even better, seeing them buy one. It’s hard to resist the urge to shout at them “I work there I hope you like it!” 

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? How hard it is to get a supermarket listing! If I had a pound for every person that asked me ’why don’t you just sell it in Waitrose?’ I’d have at least £17 and 12 of them would be from Dad. 

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Ask for help – stalk your career idol (on LinkedIn, not in real life) and ask how they got there. 99% of people will be happy to chat, or introduce you to someone else who can help. 

Stay interested – pay attention to new and small brands coming up – give them a try and support them. You never know when it could be a good conversation starter or the start of something more. 

And my number one thing – make sure you actually like whatever it is you’re selling. If you’ve always hated bananas you’re gonna struggle with 35 hours of your week being banana-related. 

What’s your ultimate career dream? It’s gotta be a TV ad. There’s nothing more legit than being on TV.

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