Vicky Bullen joined brand design agency Coley Porter Bell 20 years ago and worked her way up to the role of chief executive. Here she talks about her inspiration and work ethic, and the lessons she’s learnt along the way.
My greatest childhood inspirations were my parents. They gave me my work ethic, a real belief that the only way to succeed is to work hard. My parents were from a generation where they weren’t particularly effusive with praise so I was always looking to be just that little bit better.
I fundamentally believe that if you work hard you will do well. I won a scholarship to a private school when I was 11 and I was the first person in my family to go to university. My dad had wanted to go but his parents said that they couldn’t afford to send him, so I always had this sense that I had to make the most of it. I never think of myself as somebody who is naturally academic. I had to work really hard to do well, so again I think that really fuels my drive and determination.
My first job stood me in really good stead. It was advertised in the Daily Telegraph as a marketing job at a printing company but it was really an account executive role. I learnt the fundamentals of account management and client service. I also learnt something that has been incredibly useful to me in a career with a design business; the fundamentals of the print process. While it feels like a strange place to start, it was very, very useful and taught me both soft and hard skills.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I joined Coley Porter Bell as an account director and I was eventually made a board account director. I had a conversation with my boss and mentioned that my aspiration was to be on the board. I just naturally assumed that she knew – I never thought that conversation would result in her promoting me to the board. It was a really valuable lesson in terms of recognising that you have to tell people what you want.