This week’s interviewee is Amy Charlotte Kean. Amy is the global head of innovation and creativity for a media agency, poet, and author of the number 1 bestseller The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks.
1. Biggest Mistake of Your Career
Ooooh, it’s a good one. I was working in an agency seven years ago when I had one of those ‘life is better than this’ epiphanies. I quit and booked a three-month trip to Kenya to volunteer in a school. To be honest, that’s my first regret. A lot of people (rightly) say: if you care about children in Africa that much, send them your airfare. The volunteer industry is problematic, to say the least.
But that’s not my biggest regret. I was convinced to go back to the agency I’d just quit with a one-off money handshake and promotion from my boss as a “thank you” for my “loyalty”. Whatever I wanted, she said. She just wanted me back. So, I did the weak thing and went back. That was a bad decision.
My boss (who’d begged me to return) gave my role to someone else while I was in Kenya (LOL): a posh guy in his late forties who’d never worked in an agency before. So, upon my return, I was dealt some weird job-share situation, and after only three months away was jostling for a position I’d been promised as a bargaining tool. A spectacular breach of contract.
I guess you could say I ‘innovated’ my way out of it. Created new projects and ways to make money, built my contact base, and proved myself all over again. But it’s a shame: I had to work harder, longer hours, take on more clients, stressing myself out to the point of sickness.
This situation taught me everything I need to know about imposter syndrome, in that it’s not real. Feelings of ‘not belonging’ are often forced upon us; whether it’s significant incidents or everyday microaggressions; verbal chips and dents to your confidence – a joke here, a snipe there – they tapdance into your subconscious and stay there, growing and mutating until one day you have an all-singing, all-dancing stage show of insecurity up in there. We’re all a product of the things we’ve heard and the way we’ve been treated. This supposed imposter syndrome isn’t a result of your fragile brain, it’s the structural toxicity of many managers and work environments.
The way women are portrayed in most creative mediums is wanky bollocks. In ads, fiction, mainstream TV, and film, there are a handful of atypical women (let’s call it the Fleabag Effect), and all the rest are clichés and stereotypes. Women are written pretty and boring apart from the scatty, boozy Bridget Jones alternative.
I want more funny women in ads and no more ‘empowerment.’ I want unconventional-looking women on TV as love interests. Even Wonder Woman – a film everyone seemed to love – got attention for her looks first and her massive lasso second. I want imperfect prime-time female TV presenters with brilliant big asses and potty mouths. When you’re a woman, being yourself and weird and different shouldn’t be an act of rebellion. But it will be until entertainment changes.
3. Useful Advice
Shut up and make stuff. Produce things. There are so many opinions in the air that only the loudest and most entitled get heard, even now. So make stuff. Let your work do the talking, and then talk about your work.
Lots of people in our industry write B2B books… how to disrupt or engage or fail, but my view is if you want to prove you know consumers, create a consumer product. My bestselling book, The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks was my way of showing I understand women and I know what sells.
I also just launched DICE (diversity and inclusion at conferences and events) with some industry peers because I was bored of calling out all-male-panels at conferences in 20bloody20. So we made a self-regulatory charter and certification process that shows events organizers how it’s done and celebrates those doing a great job. Diversity is discussed too weakly by the ad industry for my liking, with not enough action, so we took action.
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