International Women’s Day at Home

Today is International Women’s Day; a day which brings women together all across the world, and celebrates their social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

Here at Home, we’re lucky enough to have a whole bunch of strong and successful women who do amazing things for the agency, so we thought, why not chat to them and unearth their biggest achievements, their inspirational icons, and find out the best advice they’ve been given to-date – and we just might learn a thing or two along the way.

First up, what’s the most fulfilling part of your job?

Bianca Couzens (Head of Artwork):
For me, it’s got to be high-end retouching.
Sarah Wareham (Planning Director): Being a pair of fresh eyes on a challenge and spotting something that other people may have overlooked, or thought was uninteresting, is really fulfilling to me, especially when it goes on to become the centre of a campaign!
I also have the privilege to work with an amazing team, and I really love hearing how they’ve approached projects in a different way or seeing what they are producing.
Sarah Grace (Head of Group HR and Operations): I love receiving an email where a Homie simply says thanks for something I’ve implemented at work because it’s made their life easier or brightened their day. When people ask what I do, I joke that I am the mum of Home. I like to look after people, and that’s what drives me.

Tell us about a time when you were courageous at work, or a time you wish you had been more courageous.

When our Head of Department left, I was the longest standing member of the team, so I needed to take extra responsibility. Stepping up took courage (and was stressful at times!), but it paid off, as the following year I was offered the position full-time!
Sarah W: Sometimes what we’re being asked to do by a client isn’t necessarily the right thing, and challenging that takes a lot of courage.
In a pitch a little while ago we outlined our thinking and the potential for the brand, but said we weren’t going to present what they had originally asked for. It was nerve wracking and could have really backfired, but the client loved that we were being brave and honest with them, and chose us to do the work.
Sarah G: Wrestling an escapee sheep into the ladies with a fellow Homie whilst we waited for the farmer to come and pick it up…

What’s the best bit of career advice you’ve received?

Sarah G:
Write a ‘not to do’ list. This is good, both in business and in life, to set boundaries and keep you focused. It’s so easy to get dragged into things that are none of your concern, or into doing things for people rather than showing them how.
Bianca: To continually strive to learn more. Every experience is a lesson and everyone you meet knows something you don’t.
Sarah W: Attach yourself to the income because then people can see the difference you’re making.
Seriously, I think something a lot of women find challenging is being more commercially or financially minded, for example understanding when you are adding cost to a project but no incremental value. It sometimes feels more natural to make an emotional argument, but everyone has a different way of processing information, so it’s useful to bring a commercial side to a debate too.

What one piece of advice would you give?

Sarah W: To not be pressured into making a decision or giving an opinion on something quickly. Don’t be afraid to say ‘give me a minute’ and collect your thoughts so you can properly work out what you want to say before you just start speaking.
Sarah G: If you want something, ask for it. The worst thing they can say is no. Also, there is no such thing as a stupid question! If there is, I have probably asked them all.
Bianca: Acknowledging mistakes and never blaming others for theirs. It’s human nature to make mistakes in work and in life, but putting your energy into resolving them and working as a team is a far more valuable use of time than dwelling on what’s happened.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Sarah W: Getting to where I have. I set myself a goal when I first started work that I wanted to become a board director by the time I was 30. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunities to achieve that – but it has taken hard work, long hours, difficult challenges, and there’s still so much to learn.
Sarah G: For me, it was the year 2016. I started the year saying we would move to a new house, renovate it, get pregnant again (no mean feat as both my boys are fertility babies), and I would undertake my CIPD Diploma, all while continuing to work full time, and having a 4-year-old!
People said I was mad, and that the stress would be no good for me, however I am formidable when I set my mind to something and I HATE failing, so, everything that year got ticked off!
Bianca: Reaching the position I am in before the age of 30. This is not something I ever predicted. What’s next…?

Relationships are important. How do you go about building your network?

By being honest, supportive, helpful, and interested to learn more.
Sarah W: Listening is definitely key. I’m not that good at networking events, but I have built up relationships over time by listening to people that I respect and finding other people that have common interests.
In my first ever role both my line managers were on maternity leave, so I was on my own a lot. There’s a brilliant online community out there though, and that helped me find websites, books, blogs, and people that I could talk to about getting better at my job. I’ve made some brilliant friends that way as well.
Sarah G: I’m part of a Vistage group and we meet every month. I owe a lot to the group as they have helped me develop my softer skills when it comes to things like leadership, management, and coaching.
I also attend as many seminars as I can, and make sure to get involved and speak to people when I’m there, as there’s no point just standing in the corner!

Who’s your biggest female influence or icon and why?

Sarah G:
For me it was my Gran. She always worked incredibly hard, working multiple jobs at the same time, even with a young family. She lived through the loss of my Grandad, her very young Son and my Aunty too. Where many people would have crumbled she was the glue that held it all together.
She was an amazingly kind and wise woman who just kept fighting, and she certainly left an impression on me despite passing away when I was 17. She was even the reason why I went to university.
Sarah W: I’ve always loved the story of Ada Lovelace. She was living in Victorian times, and was the daughter of Lord Byron the poet. Her life could have been completely ruled by traditional gender roles, but through education, passion and hard work, she found a way to do something that she loved – even though it was frowned upon. She had vision and helped to change the world by seeing that computers could be used more widely than just as calculators.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Bianca: I’m fortunate enough to live close to work, and have the luxury to walk, run or cycle home, to the gym, or to the pub to meet friends and family. This is time which I would have previously spent grumpily sat in traffic. If I’m having a particularly full-on day, I tend to take a walk around the park over lunch – the fresh air does me the world of good.
Sarah W: I know that I have problems with letting things go, so I find writing a to-do list at the end of the day really clears my mind and means that I can switch off overnight safe in the knowledge that I’ll still remember all the details in the morning.
It also gives me a chance to re-evaluate whether something is on that list because it needs to be, or whether it’s something that I could delegate or put a stop to. When that’s done, I can relax and focus on the life side of things!
Sarah G: I really try to protect my weekends to spend time with my family. We always aim to have something fun planned for one of the days, whether that’s going bowling, climbing, or to the seaside. I also ensure we always sit down to eat together in the evening as I think it’s an important family ritual.

What do you do in your spare time/ to unwind? Do you have any hobbies or other projects you’re involved in?

Sarah G:
Again, I love spending time with my family, they make me laugh every day. I also recently started running, which given I couldn’t run more than 100m at school is something I never thought I would actually enjoy! I also love baking and cook most evenings. It’s time for us all to sit down together and chat about the day (although my youngest son can’t input much yet!).
Bianca: I unwind with regular yoga or gym sessions, by chatting over a cuppa with friends, a few Thursday night drinks, lighting a fire on a cold miserable evening, long dog walks, and weekend visits exploring National Trust sites.
Sarah W: I love being creative, but since taking on more responsibility and leading a team at work I’ve had less time for it, so I’m changing this by learning to be a silversmith! I’m also renovating a Victorian house at the moment, which is brilliant fun, but hard work!

What’s the one piece of advice that you’ve always lived by? Tweet us @homeagencyuk.