English and American Literature BA (Hons)
I wouldn't be the person I am today, or have my career, without Kent.
What are the main challenges of your current role?
Before I joined, Yahoo! Finance UK was an aggregated platform. It worked with a lot of partners and featured data on things like currency and stocks. It was very popular around the world but a bit of a ghost ship when it came to content.
My task has been to build it into a brand that people love and want to read. I’ve built a brand-new newsroom. We produce premium and original journalism across articles, audio and video.
I’d categorise the challenges in three stages.
First of all, whenever you pioneer something, the biggest challenge is to make sure that everyone believes in your vision. You need to bring them along on the journey.
Second, any time you create something from scratch, you have to have a well-thought-out strategy. You also need the means to do it.
The third challenge applies across the media industry. This is the age of digital journalism and we’re competing in a saturated environment. You need to find that sweet spot by creating your own voice. You need to do valuable, original journalism that doesn’t descend into chasing clicks or sales-led initiatives.
How did you go about building your new team?
When you build a team it’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. I want my teams to be as diverse as possible in backgrounds, personalities, experience and expertise.
From that wider understanding of what the organisation needs, I can then drill down into the roles and individuals that are needed.
It’s not just about leveraging my network of people across the industry, but looking for new talent in different ways.
That might not be the most traditional route, such as putting out a job ad. I seek lots of different ways to find new talent, new voices, and give them an opportunity to grow.
What are the highlights of your job?
I love being in a leadership role that makes an impact across the whole business. As head of brand, I bring everything together across editorial, sales, marketing, PR, tech and product. I enjoy solving problems and bringing it all together, making it work.
Heads of brand don’t usually come from an editorial background. Along with my strong editorial skill set, I’ve developed over the years lots of different skills that allow me to do this role.
Have you always wanted to be a head of brand?
My goals have evolved. I wanted to be a war correspondent. But I ended up getting an opportunity in finance journalism and I enjoyed it, while also having lots of other passions I wanted to pursue, such as politics, tech and music.
From there I moved into being an editor and leading a team of journalists. I loved being an editor, building newsrooms from scratch, solving problems and making everything happen.
I felt I’d make more of an impact as an editor rather than a writer or correspondent. I might not be the person who wins a Pulitzer prize, but I will build a team of people who will all be Pulitzer prize winners.
The next career evolution for me happened when I moved to my current role. I’m now a company leader rather than being purely editorial.
Where do you get your ideas from?
When it comes to creative, original ideas you should pursue what you’re passionate about. That’s true whether you’re writing about finance, lifestyle, politics, tech or something else.
For instance, we produced the It’s a Jungle Out There series of podcasts because I’m passionate about the world of work. We spend more time at work than with our loved ones. So the workplace should be as good a place as possible and somewhere you feel happy, safe and included.
One of my big passions is to unpack the workplace dynamic. The more I delved into it, the more I realised that the animal kingdom relates to workplace psychology.
Is it important for journalists to have a wide range of interests, like you do?
When it comes to young journalists, it’s great to have a dream. I always wanted to be a war correspondent and thought that politics was the be-all and end-all.
That’s fine, but it’s also important to be open to other opportunities. Yahoo! Finance UK is more focused on finance, business and politics, but I’ve grown other sections as well.
That’s how I’ve lived my life and developed my career.
In what ways have your experiences at Kent helped you in your career?
My experience at Kent was everything I could have wished for. The professors in my School were incredible people. I will always cherish how they broke me out of my comfort zone into creative and analytical thought. In all my modules, I learned the ability to absorb a lot of information, and break it down in an analytical way. Having to read lots of books and write a lot of essays set me up to be a writer.
One of the loveliest things at Kent was more on a personal level. At school, most of my teachers were pretty awful to me. But at Kent, the academics always had time for me, listened to me, and helped to develop me. Now I’m a manager, I help develop and support people in the same way. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or have my career, without Kent.
I wrote for the student magazine, which at the time was called Kred, mainly about politics and music. I also worked for BBC Kent, writing for them every day, about topics such as protests and domestic affairs. I helped launch new parts of the website and that was hugely rewarding.
What advice would you give to students who want to be journalists?
I’ll be blunt. Journalism is hard to get into and a degree is not enough. You need to maximise your exposure while you’re at university.
The great thing is that now, in the digital world, anyone is able to get out there. That does make it harder when it comes to standing out. Volunteer, pitch stories, write for anywhere. Network and meet as many people as possible because you never know where it’ll lead. Starting off, it’s all about the hustle.
Don’t feel sheepish to email or call people and see if there’s an opportunity. Even if it’s reaching out to a local magazine, see if you can get an article there. Do your own website and fill it with things that interest you. Build your own brand.
You also have to have a thick skin. The attitude and culture of the media is changing, but the pressure is huge. You’ll hear more criticism than positivity in the early stages of your career.
It can be a lot harder if you’re a woman, or a woman of colour, or someone from minority backgrounds, coming into the industry. You will get knock-backs, but you have to roll with the punches. Build yourself up, believe in yourself. It’s not about the falling down, it’s about getting back up again. Be passionate and care about what you do, that carries you a very long way.
It’s really important to keep connecting. I’ve never been given any favours, or moved in the right circles. I didn’t fit the mould to get into a lot of places that I wanted to. I’m a woman, I look and dress how I like, I have bright red hair. I didn’t come from the exact school background that dominates a lot of media, I’m not an old white man. The system can be stacked against you.
I know that there are a lot of talented students who, within the first few years after university, give up on their dream of becoming a journalist because the right doors haven’t opened up for them. That’s such a waste. Not just for them but for the media organisations that could benefit from their incredible talent.
The battle to exist as your authentic self doesn’t end. I may be the head of a brand, speak at big events, love what I do and have an amazing team. But sometimes when I go to events I still get people asking me whose PA I am, or if I’m a student. There’s an automatic bias that I still have to work against.
If we see more diversity in leadership teams, whether that’s race, gender or sexual orientation, then a more diverse base of people will aspire to leadership. They won’t feel they have to fit a mould, or comply with what the system wants.
You need to always be your authentic self. If you’re true to yourself, you’ll be happier within yourself and your career will develop in a much better way.