My friend and colleague Mark Hanson died this week. I knew he was good at his job and I knew that he moved in political circles but I never realised how much his work had inspired so many other people in my industry including some of the most senior people within the Labour party.
But that was Mark. He never told you anything about himself.
I first met Mark when I came for my second job interview at Wolfstar. It’s safe to say that I’ve never endured an interview quite like it.
I had already met the company’s directors Stuart and Tim and they had left me in little doubt that as long as I passed some “quite tough” tests on my return I was the man for the job. I would also have to briefly chat to deputy director Mark Hanson, just to make sure that he liked me.
Nervously confident I came to the second interview. I knew that if I could hold everything together the job was mine.
Then Mark happened.
Just seconds into my test he unassumingly strode into the meeting room (I’m not sure if you can assumingly stride anyway but that’s what Mark seemed to do). He began my character assassination.
Mark: “Do you mind if I chat to you for a minute Chris?”
Me: “No, not at all” I said breaking off from the strategy document I was rapidly trying to get my head around.
“How are you doing? Is everything good with you?”
Mark: “Erm….yeah. < long pause > So, tell me about you.”
Cue my long ramble about all the amazing coverage I’d generated for my clients and all the awards and plaudits I’d received in my career.
Mark: “OK. < long pause > Can’t say I’ve heard about any of those things.”
1-0 Mark. Sh*t he knows I’m not good enough.
Mark: “You’re a family man, yeah?”
Me: “I am. I’ve got a little girl. Part of the reason I want to work here is that I want to push my career so that I can give her the best I can.”
Mark: “Right… are you sure you’re prepared to sacrifice your life for this company. Work long hours. Put your family on hold. Looking at your CV you’ve wasted a lot of time at your last place. Are you sure you’re really up to it. Are you sure you have thought this through?”
2-0 Mark. It was like he could see into my personal insecurities. I could barely hold everything together for the rest of the interview. It was the toughest I’ve ever had. God knows how I passed.
I told him as much when I started working here. He seemed surprise and laughed it off but I knew he knew what he’d made me feel. Mark always knew. You could never pull the wool over his eyes.
He’d tell me later that, in the interview, he didn’t think I was good enough but that I’d proved to him wrong in my first few weeks. He told me to be proud of myself and that I was good enough to go to any agency I wanted to go to.
I’d only managed to be good enough in those first few weeks because Mark had taken me under his wing from day one. We worked together closely on several pitches and I had a lot of one-to-one time with him.
Given more time I feel like we would have become good friends. He was the type of person you want to know throughout your career. One of those that you turn to for advice or a nudge in the right direction.
The first few weeks were a real rollercoaster here and Mark took the time out to put me all my worries at ease. I always tried to return the favour and ask him if everything was OK at his end but he always just sighed “…yeeaaahh.”
Nothing else. He never let you in.
I wish I’d have known what he was thinking so that I could have told him not to worry about anything and that everything would be alright. How can things not be alright for someone so genuinely talented, modest and caring? Jesus Mark.
All I can say is that he was a seriously good guy. I don’t feel like I really knew him but I feel like he knew me. And that’s what made him special.
He was always about other people. Never about himself. And I think that might be why we’ve lost him.
Shit Mark. I’ll miss you mate.
Rest in peace.