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“He Reached Down As If To Give Me A Hug But Reached A Little Too Far…”

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I don’t know about you but I’ve been told a lot throughout my career not to burn any bridges. Perfectly sound advice. In theory.
When moving on from a job, leave on good terms – no matter what. The world is small and you never know whose path you might cross again down the line.

 

I agree with this, in principle. The industry is small. The world is small. It was then anyway – pre the real proliferation of digital.

But in hindsight, I wonder if this advice was specifically dished out to girls when starting out in their careers, thus compounded throughout. When boys entered into the wonderful world of work were they, even subliminally, told to be submissive or did their parents and teachers deliver more cutthroat words of wisdom?

 

I’d clocked up two years of robust #MeToo content and was trying my level best to leave without ‘burning any bridges’

 

This is going to sound a little contrarian but my career only began the day I set my first bridge alight.

I was in my mid-twenties. Career is probably the wrong term too, more like an entrepreneurial journey. And my burning bridge moment was absolutely spectacular. Do you remember the scene in Bridget Jones where she waddles into Hugh Grant’s glass office, delivers her bit, then there’s applause and Aretha Franklin?

Yes, well, unfortunately, it was nothing like that and no Aretha, but spectacular none the less. The office was glass and the subject matter was serious. I’d clocked up two years of robust #MeToo content and was trying my level best to leave without ‘burning any bridges’.

I was leaving specifically because of inequality and sexual misconduct. I didn’t dare tell my boss, the perpetrator, as I wanted to protect him. We did get on, after all, that’s the weird thing – loads of banter. I told him that I was leaving to travel. The reality was that I had no other job to go to and no savings but even that prospect was better than the daily grind.

 

He stood behind me and reached down as if to give me a hug but reached a little too far. I hit his hands away and told him not to touch me

 

It was during my final month’s notice that things got really bizarre and the misconduct significantly ramped up. But no matter what you can’t burn any bridges so heads down until you’re out. A month from hell but whatever you do, keep that bridge intact.

So it was my last day in the office. I’d made it. I’m head down, busy preparing my handover notes and in saunters the boss in question. After some morning grumbles, he stood behind me and reached down as if to give me a hug but reached a little too far. I hit his hands away and told him not to touch me. He called me into his office and I did not hold back. The bridge went up in flames. My bra remained intact.

Why am I telling you this story so many years forward and how does it relate to women in tech? Well, I now own my own Brighton-based digital marketing agency called The Converts. I’d moved to Brighton at the end of 2016 after ten hard years agencying in London. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been all #MeToo. In fact, it’s mostly been exceptional and ninety per cent of clients, bosses, peers and people have been incredible – but the bad eggs always get the airtime.

 

Creative is no longer a boys club shrouded in ideas, mystery and misogyny. Creative is now informed by data – not Don Draper.

 

However, #MeToo or not, the marketing agency structure is flawed and old-fashioned. It’s no secret that the face of technology is far from female and even less so in leadership positions. I no longer wanted to simply contribute but lead. I could never have done this within another existing agency structure. And so The Converts was born.

 

Breaking Down the ‘Boys Club’

The world is changing rapidly and technology is the catalyst. It’s a terrifying and exhilarating time but the digital revolution has levelled the playing field for men and women, especially within agencies. In 2016, when I was working as a digital marketing strategist I read that only 3% of creative directors in ad agencies are women. That hit a nerve. But change was afoot and not only could I see it but I was a part of it, unbeknownst to myself.

Creative is no longer a boys club shrouded in ideas, mystery and misogyny. Creative is now informed by data – not Don Draper.

Those who keep up will get ahead and stay ahead by a landslide – regardless of your gender. We no longer need to slot into old corporate structures, clambering up ladders under lecherous bosses. We can create our very own businesses where the best people thrive in an environment where women and men lead equally. And only the best work wins.

 

About the Author

Emily Ryan The Converts

Emily is the MD of the Brighton-based digital marketing agency, The Converts. A digital strategist by trade, she gets under the skin and into the shoes of her clients, to work out how best to use the web to convert good business relationships into great ones. Put simply, she works closely with SMEs to build their brands online – her obsession with storytelling helps with this.

www.theconverts.co.uk

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