I’ve been helping my friends Rifa and Sharma organize She Says women’s networking events in Brighton for some time now: they’re always very well attended and packed full of people who do interesting digital jobs around the city.
The audience at the She Says Brighton September networking event. Photo shared under Creative Commons licence by Katariina Järvinen, www.lighttrick.co.uk
At the latest event, part of Brighton Digital Festival, we heard three women discuss their career trajectories and the key lessons they’d learned along the way.
Viviana Doctorovich (@vivdoc) now works at Clearleft, but looking at a chart depicting the incredible range of jobs she’d had, she exclaimed “This looks more like a career cardiogram than a career path!”
Displaying the information in a pie chart, she estimated she’d spent 60% of her working life in either “crappy” or “very crappy” jobs – yet in her own words, “what better training in how to handle clients than being a waitress?”
Viviana Doctorovich speaking. Photo shared under Creative Commons licence by Katariina Järvinen, www.lighttrick.co.uk
However, as she told her story and visualized each job as a point on a treasure map, she interpreted the journey as more of a career hunt, at each stage eliminating the aspects she didn’t want to do in future, and pursuing the areas that interested her most: “At this admin job, I was so bored I ended up creating databases to make my job more exciting”.
This really struck a chord with me. When I was first thinking about jobs, and even when I graduated, I had no idea that roles like my current one even existed. Who knows what sorts of technical jobs will be available in future? All we can do is keep learning and adapting.
Emily Scoggins speaking. Photo shared under Creative Commons licence by Katariina Järvinen, www.lighttrick.co.uk
Emily Scoggins (@emilyrocks) works in advertising and branding, a notoriously competitive field – she described the anguish of being up against 700 other applications for an agency job. Her top tips, all based on her own experiences which she can now look back on and laugh at:
1) Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself – e.g. cut up a plate of fruit at a different angle for a spoilt client.
2) Respect creative work – don’t trample other people’s ideas. They could blossom into something exciting – as with improv comedy, respond “Yes, and…”
3) Be clear and specific – particularly when writing creative briefs.
4) Hack your work life till it works for you – find ways around problems.
5) Really know every aspect of your company and its business inside out – one day, even the smallest piece of info could be a spark to a creative flame.
6) Play nicely: leave egos at the door and collaborate.
7) Have a life: don’t work late all the time, as other stuff is incredibly important. Nobody on their deathbed says they wish they’d spent more time at work, but many regret not taking time to smell the daisies and enjoy time with their family and friends. Having a wide range of life experiences also gives you more frames of reference to look at an issue or challenge with, enabling you to contextualise.
8) Fall in love with something – and fall deeply! Passion, and depth of experience, are equally important. By way of example, Emily loves live music and has seen 181 bands already this year.
Urmee Khan (@urmeek) is a freelance writer, but described her journey into investigative journalism. Stories she reported included terror stories, paedophiles, loan sharks, conmen and drug traffickers, and investigating Beeston following the 7/7 bombings. The crowd listened in shocked silence as she spoke, and exhaled with relief as she reiterated her determination not to get pigeonholed into a beat she was no longer comfortable with.
She moved to a local paper to develop a new set of skills, where she ended up challenging perceptions: “Nobody believed that this Asian woman could be from the Gloucestershire local paper!”
Urmee Khan speaking. Photo shared under Creative Commons licence by Katariina Järvinen, www.lighttrick.co.uk
Her takeaway from the experience: “A nose for news and a contacts book will get you through any career change.”
Urmee has also seen the rise of social networking and blogging, now vital tools in every journalist’s arsenal although at the time many older journalists were slow to see the value of services such as Twitter. She explained how the sudden access to social media platforms has enabled millions of people in the middle of unfolding situations to have a voice, and how this has, for example, enabled news organizations such as Al-Jazeera to over the Arab Spring.
She cited a quote from Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim on citizen journalism: “If you want to liberate [a people], give them the internet.”
To find out more about She Says Brighton, join the group on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter at @She SaysBrighton.