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Finding Your Feet with the Financial Times

For this month’s masterclass, we were hosted by a crack team from the Financial Times, in their fabulous new offices in Bracken House

We were greeted by a wonderful FT panel consisting of Robin Kwong, Pricilla Baffour, Madhumita Murgia, Kay Josiah, Mariam Lolavar, chaired by Abbie Scott. To hear some of their words of wisdom, carry on reading…

Abbie Scott, Deputy Managing Editor, opened the panel by asking each member of the panel to tell us something about themselves that the audience wouldn’t be able to find through out their Twitter profile. It was a great way for us to connect with a panel that might, at first, seem to be symbols of faraway success but, in reality, are simply individuals who have had to go through the same struggles and strife of any creative’s career path. Abbie emphasised how important it was to collaborate and that whilst the panel worked in different areas of the business, they couldn’t work as silos and need to feed off each other.

Throughout the discussion, each panel member had one glowing piece of advice that stuck with usRobin Kwong, Head of Digital Delivery, spoke about workplace conflict, encouraging the audience to “have empathy; be able to see the perspective that others come from” – reminding us that each other’s humanity doesn’t disappear as we step through the office door. The workplace is a space of passion and using a fundamental skill such as empathy can improve teamwork and help you reach your collective goal. 

Priscilla Baffour, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, developed this point, emphasising the importance of workplace relations and creating a solid support network to rely on. Whether that be asking someone who you admire if they would like to go for a coffee, or giving back to your community through mentorships, Priscilla believes in the power of “building relationships across the business”.  You can never have too many mentors, so don’t be afraid to ask people for their advice. Priscilla spoke about family pressure to enter a ‘profession’ – a theme echoed by many of the other panellists – saying that “my dad just couldn’t fathom that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.” 

Kayode Josiah, Director of Commercial Development explained that his job was to “find new money and create new revenue streams – to create new advertising propositions; look at new formats and figure out how to commercialise them”. He prioritised the significance of your inner hustle over everything else, saying “hustle and get things done. Networking is important but for me, if you say you‘re going to do something, get it done”. Kay taught us about the significance of knowing yourself, what your goals are, and having that commitment and determination to make it happen.  Moving from his role in book publishing at Penguin Random House, to news publishing at the FT, led to a “terrifying” six months for Kay. Losing his networks left him feeling vulnerable, but he soon overcame that by talking to as many people as possible; advice that he still hands out to members of his own team.

 Mariam Lolavar, Senior Marketing Manager, appreciates that sometimes these goals can be terrifying and can make you feel like you’re “putting yourself in a vulnerable position”. However, she made the point that “when something scares you it is an opportunity to learn something new, so grab it!”. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is often where creativity and innovation are found so always make sure to shake up what you think you know.  She spoke about life at the FT, claiming that everyone there cares about their work and their colleagues, making it an ideal working environment.

 Madhumita Murgia, European Technology Correspondent, talked about how you can always turn your weaknesses into strengths. For example, if you are the newbie in the office, take that period of anonymity as a chance to “reach out to anyone”. Madhumita explained that “the first month of coffees led to so much interesting stuff. It led to me getting a column in the FT just from bouncing ideas around with an editor”.   

These invaluable nuggets of advice were followed by a  networking session where interns, alumni and experts enjoyed each others company and had a chance to pick each others brains on the future of the industry. It went so well that we had to be slowly ushered out of our room due to the never-evening buzz flowing through our conversations.

A huge thank you to the Financial Times for hosting us and to the panel for taking time out of their busy schedules to impart their wise words of wisdom.