Through the eyes of a mentor
Vickie Ridley | Mentor | Account Director
November 20, 2017
The design industry has a damning diversity problem. Government figures report that people working in the sector are 90 per cent white and nearly 60 per cent male.The problem is not confined to design. Research by the Sutton Trust shows that in journalism, just under 80 per cent of editors were educated at private or grammar schools, compared with the 88 per cent of the British public who attend comprehensive schools. BAME representation in the creative industries currently stands at 11 per cent, however experts state that given London’s ethnic make- up that figure should be closer to 17 per cent.
Our Founder, Isabel Farchy set up Creative Mentor Network to address the huge lack of access and diversity in the creative industries. The network pairs A Level students from London schools with mentors from creative businesses across the capital. Through hour-long meetings, which take place every week for 16 weeks, the network provides students with approachable role models who can field questions and provide support.
But what is it like to be a mentor? We spoke to Vickie Ridley, Account Director at creative agency Lucky Generals, to find out.
What first inspired you to get involved with Creative Mentor Network?
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by our Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Lucky Generals; she shared some information on the network and the amazing impact the mentoring scheme has had on previous participants, so I was really keen to be involved.
Although I had been to several talks and read a number of articles on the importance of inclusion within the creative industry, and the benefits of mentoring, I regrettably hadn’t actually taken action to play my part in either and so I was eager to give it my all.
What was your first meeting with your mentee like?
I’ll admit I was slightly nervous; I was really excited to meet Rasheka but I wasn’t sure I would be able to give her the guidance she would be looking for. However, I needn’t have worried, Rasheka came into the agency with bags of enthusiasm and energy making the experience extremely enjoyable from the very start. We got to know each other a little more and got on really well; Rasheka is very open, honest and driven which made it easy for us to determine what she wanted to gain from the programme and agree goals we’d work towards. She’s also hilarious, so our sessions were never dull!
Tell us about your role and how you introduced your mentee to what you do?
I’m an Account Director, working with brands such as Yorkshire Tea, Budweiser and Under Armour. It’s a really varied role which means no day is ever the same, but basically I work closely with the client, taking responsibility for the delivery of strong creative work that the client is happy with and will meet their business objectives. In some of our early sessions, Rasheka and I talked through many different roles within the industry, not just the roles within Lucky Generals itself. She then went away and researched the various roles, let me know which ones appealed to her the most, and we then got to work on sorting shadowing opportunities and intro meetings with people in the relevant positions. I think it can be really tricky to find out about all the many different jobs that are out there, so I think Rasheka found it really helpful to have first hand experience in a few different positions.
How did your sessions develop over the 16 weeks?
As the sessions continued, there was a clear change in the way we approached each meeting. Early on in the programme, I would always set the agenda and would talk a lot during the session itself as I was answering questions Rasheka had and sharing knowledge, and my own experience, of the industry. However as we moved through the 16 weeks, Rasheka would decide what we would chat about each week, and was the more vocal party in the meetings; I would ask her questions so she landed on the answers and plans of action herself. It was fantastic to see her confidence grow and for her to take charge in this way.
How do you think mentoring is helpful to creative agencies like Lucky Generals?
There are many ways that mentoring benefits Lucky Generals. The mentoring scheme has made me more motivated in my job. It reassured me that I’m working at a company that is actively playing a role in helping others and tackling key issues in the industry, as well as investing in their own employees’ development.
There are now a number of us at Lucky Generals who have been involved in mentoring at the agency; as we all share our experiences with each other and those around us, it has ensured the key topics that are so important for us all to be aware of as we progress through our careers are tabled and discussed often.
Although unlikely to be immediate, I think that in time, schemes such as the Creative Mentor Network’s will massively benefit creative agencies like Lucky Generals. The scheme looks to bring in mentees from diverse backgrounds and then provides guidance, role models, and access to a network, with the hope that it leads to broadened diversity in creative agencies. There is evidence that the most effective teams are made up of people from diverse backgrounds, and I have no doubt that agencies would benefit from having employees who can bring a range of different cultural experiences, varied points of view, outlooks and insights to the table, as this would likely lead to fresh, authentic ideas that would make the creative work more effective and impactful.
What did you get out of mentoring as an individual?
Rasheka is extremely inspiring. She is one of the most ambitious and determined people I have ever met and I genuinely feel that I got more out of our meetings than she did! It made me appreciate how fortunate I was to have people around me growing up that had been through similar experiences in applying for university and jobs, doing interviews, and starting new roles who I could turn to for guidance and support.
The monthly sessions with the other mentors were also beneficial in learning about different approaches such as setting goals, coaching, and giving feedback. The things I learnt were hugely helpful for my sessions with Rasheka but also in my day to day job when working within a team.
The most unexpected thing you learnt about your workplace through mentoring?
Although it wasn’t unexpected, I was thrilled by how willing several of my colleagues were to help out whether that was through taking the time to talk to Rasheka about their role and how they got into the industry, or using their own networks to get Rasheka future work experience opportunities.
It made me realise how fortunate I am to be working at a company where people genuinely care about others. It can be easy to be a sideline supporter of change and progress towards greater inclusion in the industry, but taking action is often trickier – especially when client deadlines and requests often become the priority – so it was fantastic that everyone I asked was willing to get involved.
Will you stay in touch with your mentee?
Rasheka and I are still in touch and hopefully will continue to be as I love hearing about what she is up to, and all her many successes! Although we don’t meet up as regularly, I think it is important to keep that line of communication open so she knows I am here if ever she needs anything or even if she just fancies a chat or a coffee.