Why our industry?
My journey in the Media and Advertising industry started ten years ago when I stumbled across a receptionist role – otherwise known at the ‘Front of House Director’. I was a newly divorced mother of two who had just relocated to Auckland. The first thing I noticed heading into my interview was the gloriously large glass doors and that this was a place filled with gorgeous young white people with perfect hair who clearly spent the majority of their salaries on expensive designer clothing. The average age was circa 25. Being a Māori woman of 36 years of age at the time, I felt slightly out of place; equal parts terrified, intrigued, and excited.
I had an interview with the CEO, CFO, Head of PR and Head of Activations, (which I thought was a pretty heavy-handed approach given the role). Low and behold I received a call that evening that I had got the job, even though I managed to accidentally drop the ‘C’ bomb in my interview while trying to poorly articulate ‘customer interfacing’. Yes, totally mortifying!
…. And so it begun.
Ten years on and eight different roles later (still in the same business); I reflect on how our agency has evolved and the talent we now have in our business. We have moved away from the cookie cutter approach to ONLY hiring perfect, young, good-looking humans in designer clothing, to in more recent years marketing our industry across broader socio-economic groups, communities, kura tuarua, and institutions that support us in hiring more diverse and underrepresented talent.
This was a deliberate, and purposeful progression towards building a more diverse and balanced organization that reflects the world we live in. Our clients (and their customers) want to partner with an organization that understands it needs to work in a way that is different and better. We were quick to learn that our collective strength lies in difference and difference comes from diverse perspectives, the celebration of contrast, in an environment where everyone is encouraged to be their most authentic self.
Our kaupapa has also changed in our industry, as we acknowledge our people want to be part of something bigger than themselves, to make meaningful progress and to be a force for good in the world. And it’s with this spirit that we have been on the path of creating just that. We applied a Te Ao Māori approach and lens to our business. The Māori world view acknowledges the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all living and non-living things. This is a holistic approach, seeking to understand the total system (Physical, Psychological, Spiritual and Community Wellbeing), not just parts of it.
We also hire for ‘culture add, not culture fit’. Diversity across all categories — including gender, physicality, religion, age, ethnicity, sexuality, neurodiversity, and social status — this has been critical to establishing and maintaining a positive, creative and high performing work environment.
A sustainable business is not just about being profitable, having a solid portfolio of clients, plentiful learning programs and performance and development frameworks, systems and processes. It’s also about culture. Culture, in modern day terms is ‘the art and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’. In my own words, culture is the sum of the total parts of cultivated behaviours, attitudes, and values.
It has been instrumental that our leaders at the helm believe in and drive the diversity agenda. Truly embracing and understanding the value of diverse perspectives and honouring this consistently so we are not just paying lip service.
But change does not happen overnight and it’s not easy. It is a slow and steady progression, bringing everyone along the journey while continuously fine tuning. Checking ourselves, seeking advice, nurturing our talent, following our gut, and doing the right thing.
We are very much still on that journey, but month by month; year on year I see significant progress. And importantly I now see faces in all different shapes, colours, sizes and ages. I hear ideas, and witness creativity that surpasses what I thought could be possible and our culture is richer because of this.
And this is just the beginning….
Reflecting on my time in the industry and being afforded the chance to be available to my children when they were young (who are now grown into fine young adults of 18 and 20); I feel deeply passionate about giving our people the autonomy to balance their family needs, honour their culture or religion and be their unique self.
I have learned an enormous amount, have been provided the opportunity to thrive, learn and most importantly to be the best version of myself. I now proudly sit within the Executive Team that has obtained and worked hard to achieve a balanced gender spilt with a range of different backgrounds. Often when I look around the boardroom, I beam with pride to see what we all bring to the table.
In summary working in this industry has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Sometimes I have just had to make it up and learn as I go. Has it all been smooth sailing? No, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
I would like to thank and pay homage to my incredibly talented team that have worked so hard to make my job easier and make me look good. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective.
I also want to acknowledge our leader and CEO, Rob Harvey. It’s an absolute privilege to work alongside you. I want to thank you for backing me even though I wasn’t the traditional ‘on paper’ candidate for each role I stepped in to. You’ve challenged me, pushed me to do better and taught me so much. But more than this…. You believed in me.
Whakawhetai ki a koe. He waka eke noa.