Like many growing up in a working-class family in London, the emphasis for my future wasn’t on achieving higher education accolades. Success for me was being able to support myself after leaving school, so off I went to join the working world with a drive to provide for myself rather than make an attempt at professional success.  

In the early years I juggled three jobs which set me on my path to living independently and being financially self-reliant by the time I was 18. Whilst I enjoyed working as a chef running two kitchens with seasonal menus, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

Fast-forward 21 years. Reflecting on my journey so far, I credit my entry into the advertising industry to two pivotal moments. 

The first was when I left the chef game in 2004 and managed to bag myself a job at a leading London creative agency booking transport for agency folks and their clients. I’ve always been organised and good with details, which served me well in that first job. I was driven and worked hard, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Head of Production and my next opportunity presented itself.  Before I knew it, I was happily working on her team in Business Affairs, but it wasn’t without its challenges. 

I was often self conscious of my Cockney twang and my less than organic entrance to the world of advertising - I felt my voice didn’t fit. Nevertheless, I put my energy into learning my craft, working hard, meeting people in the industry and being nice.   

Joining Extreme Reach in 2016 (formerly Adstream) was a turning point that put me on a path to a senior role in an industry that I love. Exposure to colleagues and clients from all walks of life and nearly every sector of business opened my mind to new ways of thinking and my confidence took flight. It was here that I truly learned the value of mentorship through the support and encouragement I received from managers, past and present.

As I think about my journey today, and inspired by my daughter and this fantastic new generation that will soon be entering the workforce, I am passionate about driving change in how candidates are evaluated in order to open the doors wide enough to ensure that workplaces are both diverse and inclusive. This, of all industries, should be accessible to everyone because creativity comes from everywhere. And for those early in their career journey, here are three things that I wish I’d known as I started on my path: 

  1. Don’t let insecurities discourage you. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, make sure you’re not standing in your own way and remain your authentic self at all times. Your path may be different and winding, but hard work pays off, success will follow, and one day that winding road will all make sense. 
  2. Mentorship is key. It’s powerful to have someone believe in you—and that person needn’t always be a professional advisor. It might be the lady in the shop you chat to regularly, who passes on nuggets of wisdom along the way. Be open to those conversations, which can lead to connections, which can inspire confidence.
  3. Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Small steps lead to bigger outcomes. Your job is to keep moving forward (though it may not always feel that way) and keep taking risks. Though I didn’t realise it at the time, my work as a chef was bringing me closer to the career I am thriving in today.