Arts Grad: Suzanne Miller
Course: MSc, Museum Studies (Graduated 2012)
Current Job: Nation Manager – Scotland, Help Musicians UK
Suzanne Miller is good at making friends.
These days, her network spans across the country as Nation Manager – Scotland for Help Musicians UK, the leading charity supporting British musicians through set-backs and towards their goals. Born in Scotland to an entrepreneur father and artist mother, Suzanne moved to the US at a young age when her father was head-hunted. To accommodate his employment, her early years were spent moving around America’s east coast where she trained herself to move beyond natural shyness.
“When you’re a kid, you want to run around and play with other kids. Moving around a lot meant I had to get used to making new friends every few years. That is a good thing in business. How to gear yourself up walk into a room of strangers. Not in a fake way, but to be able to speak to other people and make connections. It’s okay to be nervous – authenticity is what counts.”
However, Suzanne still struggled to find a sense of belonging during her school years.
“I was later diagnosed with ADHD. It was good to know. Anyone who suffers from the feeling of being different, you think it’s just you. There’s a lot of shame and guilt that comes with that. [The diagnosis] helped with knowing, it’s okay not to be okay, it’s okay to be weird. It’s a huge reason why people gravitate towards the arts where it’s ok to be weird… A lot of creative types are diagnosed with having so-called learning disabilities. [The creative} brain, the neurochemistry, can make the creative career seem like a better option.”
The College of Arts
Her creative spirit led her to study at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
“[Before], I never really felt like I fit in. It was the first time I found my tribe, somewhere I could be where people had similar interests.”
After completing her undergraduate, Suzanne wasn’t sure what to do for work. She remained flexible and open to opportunity – moving to Colorado, working odd jobs, and eventually going to a recruitment agency who hired her as in-house staff. Suzanne climbed the company ladder, being promoted up to National Sales Trainer, having discovered her creative skills proved vital in the world of recruitment and sales.
Despite professional success, Suzanne prioritized her personal commitments. When her father’s health issues compelled her parents to retire back in Scotland, Suzanne decided to join them.
“It was originally supposed to be a sabbatical… I’d always fantasized about moving back to Scotland, like maybe this is where I belong. It must be, because I’m still here.”
Back on native soil, Suzanne worked a series of corporate jobs. She was continually promoted, but never found that sense of belonging.
“On paper, [the jobs] were everything I wanted, but I was miserable. I didn’t relate to a career focus that was all about money. “
Ultimately, company cuts led to Suzanne’s redundancy. This apparent setback allowed Suzanne to reassess and reorient her professional path.
“Being made redundant was really tough, but as an MD the severance package was great and I was able to take my time looking for my career move… I decided to get back into the creative side of things, that’s where I felt most comfortable. I wrote to all the creative agencies and [one conversation with a CCA staff member] put it into my head that I should get a masters.”
Suzanne decided to pursue postgraduate Museum Studies at the University of Glasgow with a view to combine her commercial background with community-oriented arts engagement.
“Museums should be cultural and educational hubs for their local communities as well as tourist attractions. I wanted to bring my commercial experience and love of the arts to the sector and be a part of the evolution of museums from imposing, exclusive structures to the centre of, but might not have a modern view of how to run themselves or how to engage with the community so that people see themselves are represented in museums, rather than just having the ruling class on the walls.”
It was during Suzanne’s thesis that she became interested in ‘service design’.
“A lot of the research reveals a hesitation to use business engagement strategies within museums beyond the gift shop. Coming from a sales background, [service design] made total sense: in order to really engage an audience, be it an idea or a service, you need to co-create with the people who will use it. Find out what they need/want. “
Even before graduating in 2012, Suzanne found employment with a service design agency, the precursor to her next role in creative business development and engagement at the Cultural Enterprise Office (CEO). After nearly 4 years at CEO as Head of Engagement, Suzanne left in 2018 to join Help Musicians UK.
Help Musicians UK, is a 98-year-old independent charity supporting musicians and music creators, providing a lifetime of support when musicians need it most. At Help Musicians UK, Suzanne has found her niche, combining her academic and professional background with her passion for the arts.