Kurt McGuiness

Master of Journalism and Communication
Alumni

Degree: Master of Journalism and Communication
Year of graduation: 2011
Current organisation: Volkswagen Group Australia 
Title: PR and Brand Experience Manager

1. What attracted you to studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW? 

I had completed an undergraduate degree previously and had already been working in the media for several years. I noticed how fragmented the industry was becoming (and continues to be), and I wanted to complete a Master’s degree that would give me a more rounded skill and experience set. UNSW offered a degree that covered all the key areas of modern media, taught by active industry practitioners – not only did I learn first-hand from the frontlines, I also made some great industry contacts. 

2. Did you always have a clear idea of what you wanted to do after completing your degree

Yes and no. I have always wanted to work in the media, but wasn’t attached to any one aspect of it. At the time of my studies, I was working as a journalist at popular car magazine, Top Gear (pulling up to classes in cars worth more than the apartment I was living in was interesting), but have since moved into corporate communications for global carmaker, Volkswagen Group. 

3. How did your time at UNSW help shape who you are today?

I think undertaking any formal training or education can be extremely influential to a person’s career trajectory and life path; and I’m no different. Studying at UNSW gave me a greater understanding of the complexities of the media industry; giving me confidence in my ability and enabling me to think and act bi-modally – not tied to one media stream and able to communicate across a range of channels. I joke that completing my Master’s at UNSW allowed me to “see the Matrix”…  

4. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help you develop transferable skills?

My current job at Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) is a perfect example of the need to have transferable skills to do my job – I am a company spokesperson, copywriter, crisis management expert, event producer and TV host all in one week! Studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW gave me the ability to wear all of those hats. 

5. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help form your view on the world and the contemporary issues we face today?

I’m still a big believer in the role of the fourth estate in democratic society, and while the way we consume and interact with news has changed over the years, the fundamentals of responsible media remain the same. In the era of fake news and faceless social media misinformation, there is a greater need now more than ever for trained journalists and media practitioners to keep society informed. I formed that view while learning from the editors, chief-of-staffs and reporters who taught my classes at UNSW.

6. How did UNSW Arts & Social Sciences help prepare you for the workforce throughout your degree?

I did my Master’s after work at night, so I was already working and would have been considered (much to my chagrin) a mature age student. Having said that, the skills and practises I learnt during my degree I still use today almost a decade on.

7. How did you get your foot in the door as a graduate, following the completion of your degree? 

As I said, I was already working, but in order to get that far in the media, I had to hustle. On top of building a portfolio of work that I could show to editors when asking for a job, I did once pretend to be a courier in order to get access to a building to hand-deliver my CV and work samples to an editor – quite literally a foot in the door!

8. What advice would you give to someone considering studying Arts at UNSW?

Do it! And don’t waste a moment. Throw yourself in the deep end, try everything and above all – make those contacts. A good journalist is only as good as their sources, and the world will always need good journalists. 

9. What is your most memorable experience from your time at UNSW?

A simulated crisis communications exercise in which I had to field tough questions from the media during a press conference, played by my classmates. Little did I realise at the time, but I would be doing that very thing for real in the years to come! That was one lesson I’m glad I learned!

10. Why do you Love What You Do?

Every day working in the media is different, and it continues to fascinate me how we as a society communicate and share stories with each other. While I do miss being a ‘traditional journalist’ writing for a living, I do love the variety of work I get to do in the corporate sector. Being a car guy who gets to work IN his hobby, rather than just on it, I consider myself extremely lucky. Working for Volkswagen, I’ve travelled all over the world, had proper, money-can’t buy adventures with work and met some incredible people along the way – I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t have done such an industry-attuned degree that prepared me for life in the modern media.