On March 8th, groups across the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day, a day which has been proudly pencilled in our calendars at Creative Pod, too! Now in well over its 100th year, International Women’s Day is chance for the world to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide, and is a cause which continues to rallying for gender parity. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’, which encourages men and women alike across the globe to adopt the ‘balanced hand’ position (as proudly demonstrated by our Head of Marketing, Sarah, above!).
In celebration of the day, we decided to sit down for a chat with our Head of Marketing, Sarah Ackland. Joining Creative Pod in 2017 as a Senior Marketing Executive, she quickly took the marketing and design department by storm before becoming the Head of Department in a little under a year. Now, at the age of 29, she manages the entire department and its (fast growing!) team of six marketers and designers.
Take a read below to find out how she got to where she is now, plus a few pearls of wisdom she’s learnt along the way!
What’s one thing you’ve learnt along the way about leadership, that you would share with others?
Treat others as you would want to be treated. This can be tough as sometimes you’ve got to be firm to be fair. But I try and think, if someone was going to have this conversation with me (especially if it’s a difficult one) how would I want someone to tell me. I learnt this from my husband, who I am very thankful lets me talk through the madness of my day with him!
And spell check everything!
What are some traits you think you need to possess to be a great leader?
1) Empathy. Some people may think this a soft skill, but I think it’s an essential quality if you’re leading a team and working in a client focused environment.
2) Critical thinking / thinking ahead - Understanding all of the variables and the short and long term outcomes of a decision, is something I think is really important.
3) Patience, which as they say, is a virtue, but it’s so important to be patient and give people the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts or even concerns and make them feel valued.
What advice would you give to young women starting out in their career, who want to succeed in the workplace?
Learn everything. Sign up to every course and stay up to date with all the current and emerging trends in your field. It’s so easy when you’re busy, to allow this to get put to the bottom of your list, but it’s so important to a) develop your skills, to b) continually add value to your employer, and to c) future proof yourself.
What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced so far in your career, that perhaps your male counterparts wouldn’t have faced?
That’s a tough one! I have found that in some environments or situations, some do just want to hear it from a male perspective. That’s not to say my male counterparts don’t experience the same issues, as I have seen it first hand, that in certain situations, they respond better to a female point of view. I think it’s about building trust and having the confidence in your knowledge, that you can deliver the news or handle the situation, as good as any male or female. I’ve just learnt that you need to be receptive of this and tailor your approach to suit the situation.
Another, was several years ago, I remember being once told by a manager (after discussing some issues I was having on a project) “Don’t be a victim!”. I was outraged a the time. Looking back, I wish I had told him where to go, however, it taught me (rather harshly) to never go to someone with just a problem and to always go in with a solution.
What’s been your biggest success in your career/at Creative Pod?
I’m a really process driven person, as I think it helps both the team and clients know where they’re at and what they need to be working on. When I started at Creative Pod, I found there were lots of opportunities to put some of these into place. Throughout 2018, Matt (our CEO) and I worked hard to implement these across the agency and it’s really helped to move projects through from brief to implementation, in a smoother fashion. As a result, we’ve been able to take on more clients and grow as a business, meaning we can grow and expand the team. I still get a buzz when I see a positive news story about Creative Pod in the press and it’s been great to see how much we’ve developed in 18 months.
How do you manage your work/life balance while being the Head of Marketing at Creative Pod?
If I’m being honest, I’m still learning! :-P Part of working at any agency, is putting in the hours where required to meet a deadline for a client. I always try and plan my weeks on the previous Friday, so that I know where I’m at and I can leave for the weekend on a Friday, knowing what I have going on. I get a real buzz out of it, which always helps!
On the personal side, I recently ran the Brighton Half Marathon for Parkinsons UK, which was a massive achievement for me, as I wasn’t really a runner before hand. However, even though I had to drag myself out a few times on a cold and windy day, I found it really helped me switch off and I started to love the high I got, after coming back from a long run.
What do you think businesses can do to attract and retain female employees in your industry?
I think it goes without saying, for both sexes really, that good salary positions and excellent benefits are the best way to attract employees. We’re very lucky at Creative Pod that we get the benefit of flexi-time, so you can work your working day around your schedule and vice versa. I’m aware in some businesses this just isn’t doable, but it goes a long way for both men and women in helping with work-life balance.
Do you have a female role model who motivates you?
Not as such, but I recently read Michelle Obama’s autobiography and after reading it, I think she is awesome!
What’s a quote that you live by?
There’s actually two, I’ll try and explain them below!
1) “Never (ever!) let someone dull your sparkle!”
2) “There's nowt so queer as folk”
I realise, these sound totally different, but bare with me!
The first to me, means that you should always true to your roots and always stay confident in your abilities. It’s far easier said than done, but as women (myself included) we have a terrible habit of doubting ourselves. It’s important to remember, that you’re there for a reason and you’re skills and abilities have been chosen for a reason.
Another is one that comes from my Northern roots (and links to the above loosely), which translates (to me anyway) that you can never predict fully how people are going to react and despite your best efforts, you can never please everyone. It’s important to stay true to your roots and stay confident in yourself and your abilities.
What is the most fulfilling part of your role?
No day is ever the same at Creative Pod, and I absolutely love it.
I love being able to take on big projects and work with the team and the client to shape the project. I am naturally a do-er and I am thankful my role provides a huge amount of variety, which suits my personality. My favourite part of my role stems across marketing and design, which is seeing a project turn into reality. Whether this be a marketing campaign, a website project or a rebrand. I love taking it from the initial briefing, to the planning and design, right the way through to implementation. I love knowing at the end of a project that we’ve met the brief, we’ve made our objectives and most importantly made the client happy.
If you fancy speaking to Sarah and her team about your marketing or design project, then get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to follow us on on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for all the latest news!