Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone

Patricia, the ESOMAR UK rep, approached me with the idea, one drizzly summer day, of an event celebrating the successful careers of formidable women in our industry. Almost apologetically, she explained it grew from a selfish desire to understand how to create such a successful career, with all the pitfalls that come from being a woman in business. The event itself, as well as Patricia and her approach to shaping a wonderful, inclusive and earnest event for all of us in the industry, was anything but selfish!

With one of the largest agencies in the industry, Kantar, kindly offering us their space and hospitality, we also had representation across ESOMAR, WIRe and the MRS. Amy Cashman, joint-CEO of Kantar welcomed us to the venue, and Jane Frost, CEO of MRS issued a poetic professional and personal call to action, and stressing the importance of why change had to happen now, you couldn’t help but feel like something had shifted in the world. As we start to wrap up this quarter, and 2020 is on the horizon, it was like we had all come to a collective understanding that change needed accelerating, and a fusing of our desires and strength to make it happen. The sparky atmosphere in the room reminded me of a line in my second favourite* Maya Angelou poem:

Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

The speakers were Dr Pamela Walker, Global Head of Health from Kin + Carta, Monique Drummond, Founder of Relish and Begonia Fafian, K&I Director from Coca Cola. And from these charismatic and indomitable titans of our industry came engrossing and equally funny and poignant stories of how they shaped their careers. Trying to retell the tales of the evening would do them a disservice, so I shall (perhaps, unadvisedly) boil it down to three core themes:

Deal with the unknown

It’s always good to have a plan. You need goals, timelines, progression to understand where you’re going in your journey, but there’s always going to be unforeseen events and barriers in your way. These may cause you to rethink, reconfigure and reshape, but they should never cause you to give up. This was summed up nicely in one piece of advice from Monique:

Adapt, be brave, change course

Especially once those unforeseen events happen, life is all about how you adapt and reformulate your plan to keep moving. The only failure is the failure to do anything, and plenty of careers were forged based around reshaping Plan A right through to Plan Z. Don’t be afraid to move on from something that isn’t challenging you or helping you get to where you want to be.

Surround yourself with good people

And finally, knowing when to change course can be daunting. It can cause self-doubt. Perhaps even fear. This is when it’s more important than ever to surround yourself with good people. Now those are people who create good in your lives. Those are the people who support, lift up, challenge you and correct you when you’re wrong. They help you see your potential, push you forward when you need extra strength and hold you steady when you could make a poor choice. Those are the people who will share your journey with you.

The event awakened a sense of sisterhood and a realisation that we are greater as one, shaping a collaborative and refreshingly honest evening.

But, as we’ve learnt, it’s not about I, it’s about we, and here are some voices from other fantastic women in the industry who summed up their take away from the night:

Becca: Don’t be afraid of Plan B when Plan A doesn’t fall into place

Hannah: Push yourself, but enjoy yourself at the same time, and don’t worry if things don’t go to plan. Life has a way of working out and we should not be deterred by set-backs that get in our way.

Amy: Sometimes when things become too much and get too stressful, simply focus on what you have to do today and nothing else, like a cow, you are chewing grass today and you will be chewing grass tomorrow, but focus on the right here right now and enjoy yourself!

Brontë: Take life at your own pace but do not forget to look after yourself and enjoy the little things. You never know what adventure is waiting for you!


*It’ll be a surprise to no-one to hear my favourite Maya Angelou poem is Phenomenal Woman