Four creative professionals working for The Guardian across advertising and journalism shared their career journeys with the Creative Access community in a wide-ranging Masterclass chaired by Creative Access alumna Jacqueline Otagburuagu.
Adam Foley, Director of Advertising, UK, spoke about his journey from a small town in Devon to The Guardian, via a range of roles in food, magazine publishing, music advertising, and media agencies. As one of the first in his family to go to university, he spoke about his passion for the intellectual challenges of using the sum of his experiences to gain a competitive advantage in a very challenging and fast-moving advertising landscape. He cited the ability to speak truths, and “challenge lazy thinking” as one of the key qualities that has enabled him to succeed in his career. Speaking of the importance of diversity of thought and experiences in the advertising sector, he said:
“We’re in the business of communication and coming up with ideas. If we don’t come up with ideas that appeal to lots of different people, then we’ll fail. It’s not a ‘nice-to-have’; it’s absolutely mission-critical.”
Imogen Fox, Executive Editor, UK Advertising, shared her experience of attempting to break into the fashion industry with no connections. For her, this involved working for free for two years (whilst working on the side as a cleaner). Her own perseverance and resourcefulness opened up opportunities to work on fashion shoots, and eventually took her around the world. She arrived at The Guardian on their fashion desk, but has since found that her editorial experience is valued in the commercial arm of the business, where she now works with brands and their branded content. Speaking of moving from one area of expertise to another, she said:
“Be open-minded, be open to suggestions. Lots of jobs are founded in common sense. Lots of experience that you’ve had can relate to a different job. Apply skills you’ve learnt in one sector to another one. The thing we don’t ask enough is ‘but why is it like that?’ The questions you ask as an outsider are often the very best questions.”
Joseph Harker is a long-time friend of Creative Access, as a member of our Advisory Board. He has seen journalism in the country change since the 90s, but is still adamant that more change is needed, even in relatively liberal organisations like The Guardian. When he started in journalism, he noted that “there was no interest in bringing in outside voices”. Now, as The Guardian’s deputy opinions editor, he is responsible for bringing fresh, insightful voices on emerging or established issues to readers. When asked why opinion columns are needed, he explained:
“News happens, but how we interpret the news is what’s important. [Other voices] are important parts of how we form our opinions on what we’re told is news. For our own safety, but also for our general knowledge of the world and knowing what’s going on, it’s important we give voice to people from all different backgrounds.”
Our very own Creative Access alumna Jacqueline Otagburuagu led the discussions. She has worked at Guardian Labs for the last year as a multimedia producer. She brought her own energy and experiences to the conversation, allowing a wide range of topics to be explored. She shared her own journey from her days as a Creative Access intern at BBC History, and the employment and moral challenges she has faced as she has navigated a career across several creative sectors. Speaking of what’s driven her to where she is now, she spoke of her compulsion to explore the unknown:
“I chose a career path that allowed me to just be curious all the time. It’s why I’ve had such a varied career. I’ve done lots of things because I’m always curious. There’ll always be a thread. When you’re curious, and when you’re open – and I really like storytelling – I’ve been able to find that in every job I’ve done so far. Most jobs within the industry have a similar end point – telling a really good story really well.”
We are very grateful to Jacqueline, Adam, Imogen, and Joseph for sharing their experiences with us. If you are interested in a career in advertising or in journalism, don’t forget to check out our current opportunities. We also thank all those who attended and contributed to the discussion by asking questions to our panel.
You can watch the full Masterclass here.