If at first you fail…
Over the course of the last year I have sung this to my poor pets – louder than is fair to their heightened sense of hearing – several times as I wander to my kitchen in search of snacks.
Anyway, why am I telling you this? It kinda became my way of lifting my spirits between Zooms and motivated me. And maybe it rubbed off. Because whilst I couldn’t physically go anywhere, I decided I would do something to focus on myself in this weird year. So, I entered the WACL talent awards. And I only went and bloody won!
This award recognises me as a future leader, grants me with a bursary for a training course to better myself and connects me with hundreds of phenomenal females looking to do great things now and in the future.
So how did I win this award? By Failing.
I entered the award the previous year and did not even make the cut for interview. I was doing well at the time, I had not long been promoted to Associate Creative Director, was making waves in the agency for various pieces of work and felt confident my application was a solid one. But it wasn’t and so I failed.
It’s not nice to fail. But it is important. It’s how we as a human race work, right? You fall – you cut your knee – you learn to be more careful next time or wear knee-pads. On reflection my first application was nowhere near as strong as my second, I achieved much more and grew as a person in the year between, and I wanted it more – so I tried harder.
Second time round my application did the trick and I got invited to be interviewed by some incredible women; Judith Salinson, Lyndy Payne, Natasha Murray, Nicki Hare and Nishma Robb. I had twenty minutes with them, 10 to do a presentation about myself on why I was a worthy winner and 10 to answer questions.
For my presentation I shared the values I uphold, which I believe have helped me succeed and I hope will make me be a great future leader. One of these values was simply ‘don’t be scary’. Whenever I see successful women I am amazed by them, but I never see their failures just their brilliance and intimidating success. Whereas in myself I spend too much time focusing on my so-called ‘failures’ (it’s even in this blog title!). I do this as I want other women to realise that being a leader is an option, you don’t have to be perfect, superwoman or terrifying. You can cry, mess-up, not understand and even be nice!!
I am a 38 year old woman from social housing who is the creative director in the B2B specialism at Ogilvy. That is quite an achievement. If you told me that 20, 5 or even one year ago I would have laughed in your face and ran a mile at the thought.
But now I am here, albeit a little shakily sometimes, I can see what value I bring. I have bundles of empathy – helping me understand clients, colleagues and feeling out great work. I am determined and ambitious which helps me lead people and push for better. I am passionate about what I do which filters up and down. I try to be brave by speaking out, connecting with people and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I am realistic but optimistic which builds credible creative solutions. I am a mother proving you can have children and a career. I am emotional, showing I am a human and not a machine. I can be an idiot who doesn’t always get it right – but I am cool with that (well eventually). I am approachable to everyone, anytime – or as close to it as I can be.
My point is I am trying to be the things I have always wanted to see in leaders. And I will continue to build on that as I learn. Winning aside, all the things I have learnt about myself through this process have been genuinely helpful – never before would I have been able to conceive the previous paragraph of attributes so easily, I have WACL to thank for that.
I also have a long list of people to thank that helped me apply, listened to me rehearse and rooted for me – Thanks you lot!
If you want to see my presentation to help with your future applications (or simply for a laugh), here is a link to a recording I took of myself rehearsing. And if I can encourage, support or help anyone (male or female) in their careers in any way – it would be my absolute pleasure.
By Clare Russell, B2B Creative Director