Alumni Services

eMentor Profile | Tim Johns

BBC Radio 2 producer and eMentor Tim Johns talks about how he got into radio and gives some good advice on getting experience.

Name Tim Johns
Degree Course Geography
Year of Graduation 2007

Your time at the University

Tim Johns

Many people claim that the city where they went to university is one of the best - but anyone who’s studied at Edinburgh knows that for the biggest university in Scotland’s capital that really is true!

I studied for a Geography degree. An especially memorable part of the course was a field trip to Iceland - an incredible island, alive with tectonic activity and geographical case studies at every turn.

However, as well as the geography, I’ll confess that I actually spent more of my time involved in the student radio station, Fresh Air. I wanted to work in media and I fell in love with radio, and got so very involved in Fresh Air. I had an incredible group of friends and colleagues and had the time of my life getting experience in everything from presenting radio shows to running big events, and ultimately running a small radio station. A highlight was presenting a 24-hour radio show for charity in my final year, interviewing Ewan McGregor along the way.

I have incredible memories of the Edinburgh Festivals too. I got involved in festival radio and podcasting interviews with comedians. Being a resident of that city during August is incredible. When I wasn’t doing radio or geography, I worked serving coffee in Edinburgh’s ‘police box coffee bars’ and did some classy cheesy-DJing in venues such as the Cowgate’s Three Sisters.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

When I finished university I’d attained a lot of work experience in radio, including some freelance work for BBC Radio Scotland. At that time I was also part of a group of elected volunteers running the Student Radio Association. It was keeping me busy but quite quickly I was lucky to enough to bring all of this experience together to get a Trainee role with the BBC, working at Radio Lincolnshire, based in Lincoln.

From here I worked my way up. My extensive grounding in student radio allowed me to turn my hand to lots of roles, and through hard work and impressing a manager here and there I got a ‘permanent’ job as a Broadcast Assistant at Radio Lincolnshire. I moved on to BBC Radio Humberside as a Broadcast Journalist, in charge of producing their breakfast show, before returning to Lincoln as a journalist and ‘station sound producer’. I also cover-presented the Drivetime show frequently and spent a day a week presenting and producing the local BBC Introducing programme, all about new music.

BBC Radio 2 is also wonderful - the buzz of working on a show that is heard by seven million people a week is quite something.

Tim JohnsBBC Radio Producer

For a long time I’d had my eyes on news and current affairs at BBC Radio 2, and after getting some experience there I landed a job as one of the producers on the Jeremy Vine Show, which is where I currently work. The variety of my job in local radio was fantastic, and it is a great place to work. BBC Radio 2 is also wonderful - the buzz of working on a show that is heard by seven million people a week is quite something.

None of it would have been possible without my experience at the University of Edinburgh. Some people are surprised that I work in radio yet tell them I have a Geography degree - but those in current affairs at the BBC are rarely surprised - because they often have a similar story. In broadcasting, having a specialism, some form of academic background and a wide range of skills is vital.

Alumni wisdom

This applies more to some industries than others, but my main bit of advice would be to ‘Do It Yourself’.

Tim Johns

This applies more to some industries than others, but my main bit of advice would be to ‘Do It Yourself’. The internet, and the proliferation of technology, have changed a lot of things. If you want to work in radio, rather than just waiting for someone to give you a job, show you’ve got what it takes (or get the experience you need) by doing it yourself. Buy a cheap audio recorder. Teach yourself audio editing with free software online. Create a weekly podcast. Start your own online radio station. It’s all possible.

Want to work in film? Make videos wherever you go. Grow a brilliant YouTube channel. Think you’re a good writer? Start a blog. Write great articles. It doesn’t matter if only a few people read them - you’re getting experience, and showing potential employers that you’ve got what it takes, and puts you a step ahead of peers who aren’t doing that.

So whatever stage of your course you’re at, think about getting out there and creating something, producing something over and above your course, no matter how small it may seem at first.