Category Archives: Conversation

Too Punchy apparently…

I originally wrote this for a university blog who asked for some tips for their students on breaking in and succeeding in the advertising industry. Apparently this candid account of my journey so far is too punchy, they asked me to ‘tame it down’, I said NO! I have just the audience who might appreciate this as it is. So I’m publishing it here.

It’s longer than my normal posts, so grab a brew, take five and I hope you find some of this useful…

My Seven Tips for Survival

My job didn’t exist when I was at uni, it barely existed five years ago. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘One day I shall be a Transformation Strategist, or a Creative Technologist’. The reason I studied Art & Design at college is because I liked my teacher who taught design at school and I wanted to create beautiful things.

When I went on to university, the degree was titled ‘Graphic Design and New Media’; my first lesson was on search engines, an introduction to Google, my degree introduced me to Flash, Quark, InDesign and Freehand and on the day I graduated all of those skills were already out of date.

The reason I’m telling you this is that my first tip for stepping into our industry is to understand that it moves and evolves at breakneck speed, there’s a new start up every two minutes and a new technology every one. You have to be on your game every second to stay ahead.

What I did learn during my studies was that design and creativity is a fluid process; the principles of craft, attention to perfection (not just detail) and experimenting with how far you could push the boundaries would always deliver a result. Following graduation I found that print quickly bored me, so I taught myself to code and started to design interfaces, basic brand websites back then, and got excited. Code seemed to not only bend the rules but break them entirely, what you could achieve with dots per pixel rather than dots per inch seemed to know no boundaries, the only limitations were those of my mind. This brings me to my second tip, always push the boundaries and seek terrain unexplored.

Having realised this I quickly sought out the best agency in my area to learn how to do just that, I lived in Leeds at the time. I waited for a vaguely relevant job to come up, then when it did, I hounded them to employ me. I got the job, my first proper footing on the ladder (this was about two years after I graduated), that first foot is the hardest but most important one you’ll ever take.

The job was as an Account Executive, I didn’t exactly love booking rooms and making the tea, but I was surrounded by clever, fun people and quickly identified who I wanted my mentor to be, the smartest most rock ’n’ roll guy in the building who also happened to be leading the digital transformation for the whole agency. I stuck to him like glue for the following four years and he helped me become a savvy client facing strategist, adept in the rapidly changing world of digital. Tip three, surround yourself with the people you aspire to be and don’t be afraid to ask them to mentor you.

When it was time to move on life took me to London. I got a job at one of the leading UK agencies where I learnt how to manage big platform projects and start up enterprise solutions. I worked 12-18 hour days, every day to cram 3 years of progress into 18 months. It paid off, one of the top agencies in the world head hunted me into their team.

From then it was about jumping in with everything I had and pivoting my way through the most breakneck world I had ever experienced. I said yes to everything, then worried about how afterwards. I pushed myself to be the best at everything I took on, failure was not a situation I would accept. Tip four, do whatever it takes, if you don’t someone else will.

The hard work paid off when six months into the job I got a real chance to prove my abilities, arguably the turning point that made my career. Following leading a successful series of workshops I was asked to move to Japan and run the resulting global project for a major client. I had one week to pack up my life, lock up my flat and get on a plane, I didn’t even have an address to go to, it all happened so quickly my living arrangements were being organised whilst I was on the 13 hour flight to Narita.

48 hours later I found myself in an alien environment; I was half the age of the people around me, western, female and not able to speak the language. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was amongst an incredibly intelligent bunch of people who knew this organisation inside out. Japan is a culture that lends to following a career path within the same company for the span of an entire career, these guys had started on the factory floor and worked their way to the top, then here I was to lead them through a massive change program. I swallowed the nerves, rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in. Tip five; if you’re not shi*tting yourself slightly, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.

Over the next six months I had to adapt daily to navigate many challenges. I started to build a strong team around me and the agency team back in London were nothing short of amazing. We spoke every day, we tackled problems together, when I got stuck they were there, when they couldn’t tell what was happening where I was, I brought them in, it was fluid, with many highs and lows but collectively we succeeded by working tightly together. Tip six; you are only as good as the team around you.

Since starting my career I’ve been a designer, a coder, a planner, a strategist, a client lead and half of a creative team. I’ve built teams, projects and many, many beautiful, useful things. I’ve changed minds and lives, kickstarted businesses, led huge programs, mentored, managed and broken every rule in the book. Most of all I’ve taken risks. Tip seven; don’t be afraid to take risks, it’s how we improve ourselves.

The words of my mentor when I left that first job in Leeds still ring true today, ‘Why will Karen succeed? Quite simply, because she has no fear’.

So my advice to you as you start on your journey in a particularly exciting but turbulent industry, is ‘Just say yes, be brave and jump in’.

What’s the worst that can happen…

jumping-off-a-cliff.jpgimage found on https://developingourwings.wordpress.com/ – thank you

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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179

This week I was privileged enough to be counted amongst 12 other fantastic women as leaders of tomorrow in the IPA Women of Tomorrow awards

In the run up to this event and many others on March 8th, I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel about being a leading woman, and more recently a leading woman ‘in tech’ and I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone else who may be interested.

First and foremost I am both proud and humbled, it is exciting to be recognised as one of the women to watch ‘bursting full of brains, vision, inspiration and energy with a wealth of experience, results and high recommendations under their belts.’ Thank you Nicky Bullard, one of my judges and another amazing woman.

Whilst I am a feminist (it would be silly to not be on my own side having been a woman for a while now) I have to thank my other judge Dan Shute (who is a man) for calling out that one of the reasons I won was not because I’m shouting about my gender but because I’m cracking on with simply being the best person I can be, which is all I’ve ever done. 

I love being a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘anti man’. I also love being a leader, inspiring others to become leaders, working with clever people and working with techy stuff, because I love all these things I am good at it.

I encourage everyone to find something they love doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, black, white, young, old, privileged or not. I live my life on the mantra of ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it.’ Thanks Walt. I’m not saying we all get our fairytale ending if we skip through life singing, but live by this and a ton of hard work and very little can hold you back. 

I’m as much an advocate for equality as I am for not using circumstance as an excuse, together we will always achieve more. 

That said, sadly there are a dying breed of luddites out there still doubting equality, to them I’d like to point out that 179 is the sum of my bra size and my IQ, I’ll let you do the math.
  

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“Our business is infested with idiots who to try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

So said David Ogilvy.

This post is born of a conversation with a colleague asking what I thought the buzzwords for 2016 might be. I didn’t have an answer on the spot as I hadn’t heard any on my first day back (traveling around Morocco for the festive period is a good way to escape jargon btw). 

Then I heard this word three times this week so I guess it’s on the list… (drumroll)… MARCHITECTURE. 

Wyyyaaaatt? I hear you say. The first time I heard this I rolled my eyes, slid down my seat and promptly left the room. The second time yielded a similar result, the third… well I guess I had to make sure I could try and nip it in the bud sooner rather than later. 

So, ‘Marchitecture’. It’s apparently what happens when a marketing department and a technical department get together. In the decade or so I’ve been making techy, digi stuff for marketing this has just been ‘integration’ but hey, apparently we need a martech strat and a martech stack now.

Don’t get me wrong, marketing and technology should absolutely weave together and it’s not easy to compile an ecosystem that combines content and functionality with a robust framework in place. But why must we coin it so? It really doesn’t help the rep that we marketeers have to keep coming up with these terms.

My mild rant is affirmed by the hissy fit that autocorrect threw at me throughout the writing of this post. 

J-Jargon-cartoon2

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Does your Ad Add?

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s just pollution.

Brands broadcasting their message online; from TV ads whacked on YouTube to tiny irritating banner messages (that are frankly a bit like an annoying buzzy mosquito), have been the advertising stance for too long.

Before you ask, yes, I hate banners. (Oh c’mon, when did you last click on one??).

Give me a brand genuinely willing to listen to their consumer, rather than trying to out shout their competition in a vanity exercise, any day of the year.

It’s refreshing when you finally get to ‘engage’ with someone in their moment of need online and help address that ‘Oh Crap, I just need to cook something quick, scrummy, yet healthy for the kids’ moment, or the ‘Bugger, my skin is rivalling a prune this morning’ moment… or the ‘What the hell is twerking??’ moment (yep, I’m in Google’s annual report for this one).

Taking that first step to move beyond an arbitrary KPI that doesn’t prove a thing, to owning a moment that lasts beyond the search result is the single bravest decision any brand can make.

So as a brand, are you ready? Not sure? Then simply ask yourself; as an individual, if you were a brand, what would you want people to say about you if you weren’t around to broadcast yourself?

The power of impression influences the conversation. Conversation is a two way thing. Oh, and it often happens ‘offline’.

Add, don’t Ad.

Think consumer first.

A Cool Add

This is a cool Add

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