By Sofiya Mahdi, Senior PR & Communications Execuitve at Ogilvy UK
The untapped treasures you find, historical and cultural, while mudlarking near the Thames. Cycling across a continent against all odds. Equating losing your creative partner to having citrus juice squirted into your eyes. Finding a new start after prison. Becoming the founder of a technology company… with no tech experience whatsoever. These are just some of the stories shared at WPP Stella’s third Stella Ignite session hosted at Google UK. Transcending both agencies and seniority levels, speakers from a whole host of WPP agencies took to the stage for their three and a half minute presentations on what growth meant to them.
Perhaps the most striking lesson taken away from the evening was the reaffirmation that growth is not linear: there isn’t one single path to success and the destination looks different to everyone.
As it is sometimes said, “My path is not your path or his/her path, and that is okay.” In a world where everyone is seemingly clamoring for the top job or the bigger house or the nicer holiday – listening to unique takes on growth provided a refreshing detour from the rat race.
So, while there may not be a silver bullet to growth, there are certainly broader life lessons to keep in mind from just some of the stories told:
1. Avoid echo chambers: professionally and personally
One of the best ways to find growth? Stray away from the comfortable and pursue true diversity. A number of speakers explained that growth to them was breaking out of their comfort zone: be it embarking as a lone creative, encouraging a savvy but inexperience agency executive to lead an account that resonates with them or allowing non-leadership team employees to sit in on board meetings and relay what they learned. “Comfort is compromise”: don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the unknown and challenge your point of view by surrounding yourself with differing ones. Our own Chief Production Officer Clare Donald and Junior Producer Amber Muggleton took to the Ignite stage to talk about enabling women who have formerly been in prison get into the workforce again through charity Working Chance. Proving that tearing down preconceived notions of who someone is or what they could bring to the table are powerful ways to attain growth.
2. Strike down the fear of failure
Some of the most emotive talks from the evening delved into overcoming a fear of failure. One speaker shared how when she fell pregnant at 18, couldn’t go to university and worked at a fast food chain, she never dreamed she would get an apprenticeship with an agency – she ended up being accepted to the graduate programme and succeeding. Another spoke on abandoning Wall Street and the pretense of a ‘work personality’ to pursue authentic growth. One shared her fear coming out to her grandparents. Someone even explained how despite having surgery and having to sleep outside to make up time, she was determined to cycle 4,000 miles across Europe! We often forget – many times our own doubts are the biggest barrier to going beyond expectations with our abilities. A more humorous take on embracing your own strength came from a digital analysis of the self-help book industry. When men’s books are searched, the term ‘success’ is much higher than with women. It’s time we ‘break the algorithm’ and change the conversation around how we help ourselves.
3. Never view the world under just one lens
Growth isn’t always about the big picture. One speaker decided to write down one thing she was grateful for every day, while working for a political party in South Africa, and what she realised was changing her perspective on her experience empowered her to appreciate small positives she would have easily overlooked. Another created an unexpected correlation between how famous designers, artists and architects experienced massive career growth…much later in life when they were physically shrinking! Ogilvy Noor Vice President Shelina Janmohamed talked conscience, creativity and commercial potential of the often-forgotten Muslim audience, proving that when brands and communities broaden their horizons they can create impactful connections and attain meaningful growth.
Regardless of your experience, your aspirations or your own personal definition of growth, never forget to take those moments to step back and appreciate the process. Perhaps the best part of the evening was the reassurance that growth can be found in the most unexpected places, and the speakers who shared their resilience against adversity, daring to be different such a kaleidoscope of experiences to the table inspired many to view their own growth in a refreshing way.
WPP Stella is a network-wide senior leadership and networking group for WPP women in the UK.