Tell us a little bit about your leadership journey
Change has been the consistent theme throughout my career. Every move I’ve made involved a shift – from boutique-sized agencies to large, networked ones; transitioning between new business endeavours and overseeing retained accounts; from TV to experiential. In the main, it’s paid off.
I became a Creative Director relatively young. I was 30 and had just moved to Australia feeling the need for a new challenge and somewhat disenchanted with London. Uprooting my life and starting afresh on the other side of the world with little real research or contacts was a leap of faith, but I found securing a Creative Director role relatively straightforward, likely because, at that time, London was the advertising Mecca, and I was going in the opposite direction of local Aussie talent.
This month, I passed my four-year anniversary at We Are Collider, a milestone that stands as my longest-tenured role. I’m hoping an engraved gold carriage clock is on its way…
I’ve stayed because it’s always provided me with variety. No two weeks are the same and with the unpredictability of Covid and lockdowns thrown in, it’s kept me engaged and on my toes. I joined a team of over 45 individuals, witnessed a shrinkage to 8 during lockdown, and have since been part of the gradual rebuilding process. We now stand at a comfortable roster of 20+ full-time staff members, complemented by a reliable pool of go-to specialist freelancers.
And the change continues with an exciting creative new chapter on the horizon, promising to be another noteworthy point in our agency’s narrative. No spoilers just yet…
What have been the main landmarks on your career journey to date?
The job that had the most profound impact on my career was my very first one.
I went to the LCP London College of Printing, now given a glow-up as the London School of Communications, where I did a 4-year degree with a sandwich year. The real game-changer happened in my third year when I embarked on a work placement at a marketing/advertising agency – a discipline I hadn’t really considered or knew much about. But after starting, the light bulb went on. And I thought…. this is for me. Sod design. This isn’t noodling over whether I should have 3 or 3.5 point type and kerning letters.
It was fast-moving, it was dynamic. It was a wonderful rich, creative smorgasbord: shooting cars, working with prop makers, casting models, great characters… lost afternoons in pubs… bad behaviour…(sigh).
So, after leaving college I landed a job in a similar marketing advertising agency – I should say that back in Victorian times, getting a job wasn’t the arduous task it is today. Here, I landed on my feet when I found myself with not one but two Creative Directors, Danny Claridge and Nick Presley. One was older, and one was younger, each with distinctly different working styles that complemented each other seamlessly.
Their mentorship was invaluable, shaping my early professional journey in ways I still appreciate. What stood out to me was the generosity of their guidance, particularly considering it was my first foray into the working world. The amount of time they invested in me provided a significant boost to my confidence and laid a solid foundation for my career.
They curated a very nurturing, fun, but hard-working, midnight oil-burning environment, leaning on positive reinforcement. A space that encouraged growth and collaboration.
This first experience hugely influenced the way I’ve run creative departments. I’ve aimed to emulate that supportive atmosphere, recognizing the importance of constructive criticism while emphasising positive encouragement. For me, it has always been about extracting the best from individuals through inspiration rather than instilling fear or fostering competition. More carrot than stick.
Another significant milestone for me was freelancing.
I genuinely believe that everyone should take a deep breath and explore freelance work at some point in their lives (probably wouldn’t advise it at this precise point though…). For me, it was an ideal fit as a new mum, navigating the juggernaut of parenthood and the utter exhaustion, but craving the stimulation of work in digestible slugs of time. Bringing with it unique challenges of deciding which fridge at a new agency to store pumped breast milk in.
Freelancing is a crash course in flexibility and adaptability. It teaches you to hit the ground running, seamlessly integrate into different teams, and quickly find synergy with diverse personalities. It demands productivity while allowing you to rise above office politics. Importantly, it instilled in me a sense of confidence and appreciation of my skills.
I’m curious, though some call it nosy. So, getting paid to enter various agencies, observing their structure, meeting people, the accounts they work on, and witnessing different work styles became a fantastic learning experience.
It opened my eyes to diverse methods of working, playing into my magpie habits. I’ve collected bits from here and there, reassembling them into my own way of working. And is very much an ongoing process.
How has WAC championed and supported you as a female leader?
I believe WAC champion and support all people, no matter the individual’s level or gender.
I’ve witnessed first-hand their unwavering support for junior staff members, their understanding and assistance for those navigating mental health challenges, and their genuine compassion for individuals dealing with personal issues. It’s a place where everyone, regardless of their background, feels supported.
But they also feel empowered. If somebody approaches Tracy or Anton (MD & CEO) with a promising idea or initiative, they are ready to invest money, time, and resources behind it, to bring it to life. So, it’s not about singling out a female leader; everyone has the potential to take/step into the spotlight.
Which woman has inspired you the most and why?
“Inspired” might be overkill, but I’d definitely say I admire Vicki Maguire, the CCO at Havas.
I’ve got a bit of a girl crush on her if I’m honest, I’ve never met her or even worked with her, but in everything I watch or read she just comes across as very human, someone you’d like to go for a beer with. Down-to earth and unapologetically honest. With liberal sprinklings of swear words.
Last week, she appointed a new Creative Partner and the article read ‘Vicki Maguire has tasked her with starting fires, causing trouble and making a dent in culture’ Love her spirit.
But importantly, she is and has been responsible for some damn-fine creative (Asda’s Elf Xmas ad from 2022) and work that has genuinely saved lives (Vinnie Jones’ Stayin Alive CPR 2012). Not many creatives can claim that.
As someone my own age, I’ve been following her career for a while and watch every step with admiration, especially her launch of the Creative Circle Foundation trying to get the industry up to speed with diversity and inclusion. Ever more crushing…
How important is it to you to be a role model to women in the industry?
I genuinely hope that as the industry progresses, we won’t need to frame questions like, ‘As a woman in the industry.’ Ideally, in 10 years, you’ll be interviewing someone like Mike, our 20-year-old junior who joined us last year, about his thoughts as an inspiring CD. You might ask him about role models, and he’d casually mention, ‘In my first job, there was this incredible CD named Tash. She was so generous with her time and taught me everything…’
I hope the focus shifts from gender-specific inquiries to recognising talent and mentorship without any qualifiers.
So yes, I would like to be seen as a role model, a good leader. Somebody that’s generous with time, who shows that there’s a correlation between hard work and success. What you put in, you get out.