Focus on your own light
Ellis’ workshop was followed by a panel discussion chaired by BITE’s Managing Editor Nicky Kemp to delve into how individuals and organisations can thrive and build their strength in the workplace. Grace Kaye, Chief Strategy Officer at Brainlabs, shared how she entirely switched roles to better suit her strengths.
Ali Alvaraz, Head of Creative at Just So, spoke about the traumatic head injury she suffered that left her having to learn how to do everything again from scratch. Her own career story, which spanned agencies including The Brooklyn Brothers, before freelancing, followed by leading the creative charge at Just So, underlines how the most interesting and fulfilling careers are rarely linear. Her grounded advice to the audience of “go with the good” underlines the importance of prioritising personal relationships, culture and people when making career decisions.
Matt Cook, Brand & People Lead at Gravity Road, explained the importance of identifying “your unique way of seeing the world.” He spoke about the fear that many creative agencies have of structure, that “it might take us away from our magic.” However, he argued that the industry must look at structure as it “needs to look at how workplaces are structured so that they support everyone,” from returners to people who work part time or who are experiencing mental health issues.
Jo Hagger, Global Marketing Capabilities Director at Unilever spoke passionately about the impact of the marketing industry’s ‘always on’ working ecosystem. She shared her belief that “everyone is complicit in this entirely fake way of working.” She believes that there is undue pressure piled on agencies that need not be there. Speaking eloquently on the importance of flexible working, she shared how she has frequently defended her decision to leave work at certain times and work certain days. She pointed to the fact that employees should take up companies flexible working policies without apology.
Amazing If’s Ellis also touched on the often-ignored issue of the power of being an introvert, sharing how she sees being an introvert as one of her strengths. She believes that people assume only extroverts should be leaders, when in reality, extroverted leaders just happen to be the ones we hear about most.
The event underlined the necessity for both workplaces and individuals to step up to the possibilities afforded by The Squiggly Career. For Ellis this workplace revolution has to come not just from business leaders but must be lived and breathed by middle management. She cited Moneysupermarket.com as an example of a business doing just that; allowing people to “work your way.” Her hope is that the “companies that thrive and do the best will attract the best people.”