10 years, some typos, a baby and a seat on the board.
This year marks my 10th anniversary at ilk. And how things have changed, both personally and professionally in that time.
I started at ilk as a shy creative account executive, straight out of university, busy doing things like missing typos, sending things to print and then explaining to bosses why they were having to pay for reprints!
So… if you’d have told me then that in nine years I’d be on the board, managing my own team (who pick up my typos for me) I’d never have believed you. But clearly, if you’re in a positive working environment, everything is possible, especially when social progress is embraced, rather than feared.
Even when I joined, there was never really a gender imbalance. Slightly more men than women, yes, but only slightly. Today, we are 72% women, and I’m bloody proud of that. We have talented, expert and strong female team members at ilk who help make the agency what it is today. And right across the business too – rather than just confined to the more traditionally ‘female’ services like PR & Social. Pretty much every area of our business, from our creative studio to account management and digital, is at least 50% female. The one area that isn’t – yet – is the board. But as the only female director of four, I’m hopefully paving the way for that too to change in the future.
In 2020, during the pandemic, I welcomed my beautiful little boy Parker. Being on maternity leave was, well, lonely. I remember shutting my laptop on the last day of work after having said bye to the team virtually and feeling totally lost. I was so excited (and scared) about the impending arrival but I was also “losing” who I had been for the past eight years. Work was a huge part of my life, I loved it and still do. The buzz of the team, the highs of winning pitches and getting results for clients and even the lows of client or pitch losses wondering how to learn and make things better for next time. I’m also not great with change and like to know and plan for everything – things that newborns tend to resist. I remember waking up the day after starting my leave, checking my emails on autopilot and, even though it’s kinda the deal, being shocked to see not one. It was really odd to realise my work work, for now, was done.
10 months of maternity leave flew past. During that time I invested in ilk and became part of the board. Pre Parker that would have been the most important thing in my life but, thanks to a combination of Covid, not being able to see each other to celebrate, and having a new baby, it was a slightly muted occasion. My husband and I managed a quick ‘cheers’ in between changing nappies… and then it was back to night feeds and CoCo Melon (if you don’t know, lucky you, genuinely!)
Soon enough, it was time to go back to work. Nerves were at an all-time high: like going back to school after the school holidays times a hundred. Not only did I now have the responsibility of a small human to think about, but all the responsibility of being a senior figure at work – neither of which allow much slack. But things had to give, I’m someone who likes to say yes to everything and I’ve learnt that simply isn’t possible. Your time is precious and even more so when you have less of it to share around.
We have a really supportive culture at ilk, but even so, it’s hard not to feel guilty when you’re emailing for the 5th time that month that either you or your little one is sick. People told me about the thriving nursery germ economy and associated consequences, but somehow I never took it seriously. Likewise, the dreaded mum guilt; working late, having to join a work call when you’re on your day off, getting a call from the nursery that he’s not settling. All the fun of the fair.
But – optimism klaxon! – it is possible. Set boundaries. Try not work late when you can and make sure you put the laptop away and stay off emails where possible. I love being at work; it’s still a huge part of who I am and I genuinely think it makes me a better mum. I want Parker to be proud of me and maybe one day even join the fold himself, working alongside all the amazing women I have the honour of sharing an office [/Google Meeting] with every day…