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The 3% Conference: Leading Every Step of the Way

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3% Conference Session recap by Nancy McGregor

The phrase that seemed to come up most frequently in this breakout panel was this, “Take the opportunity.”

The many shades of meaning in the phrase turned out to be the nexus of the discussion. From being ready to step up when you see a need or recognizing the next steps in your creative life, taking the opportunity was key for the members of the panel.

In fact, a quiet illustration set the tone at the outset. When the scheduled moderator was called away, panelist Juliana Lukasik, commercial director and owner of @Large Films, immediately stepped up and took over as moderator for the group.

Brynn Bardacke, global group creative director at the Coca-Cola Company, led the panel discussion with three pieces of advice:

  • Take every opportunity that comes your way. It may be learning a new skill or doing the thing no one else wants to do.
  • Make sure you actively represent your work.
  • Always be accountable, own your own mistakes and don’t blame others when things go wrong.

Erica Hoholick, global managing director of Ogilvy & Mather London, agreed with Brynn and added these:

  • Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Jump into the scary opportunities without fear.
  • Manage your career. Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Build your team to complement those factors in yourself. Ownership of who you are means you’re always 100% accountable.

Kate Ertmann, owner and president of Animation Dynamics, added strength to the idea of reaching for fearless experiences. “When I was younger, I didn’t always see the risks and sometimes not knowing was better,” she said. “Trust your gut, but first know your gut. There’s a difference between an insecure fear and a real warning.”

Juliana reminded us of the importance of pragmatic opportunities. “I had a chance to buy my business or find another job because the owner decided to sell,” she told us. “I took the opportunity to buy but didn’t have experience with balance sheets and the day-to-day running of a business, so I took business courses.” Don’t be afraid to learn what you lack, even on the fly; it’ll give you another skill set to help you see your opportunities.

The panel shared many “how to” ideas that worked in their own paths to leadership.

One difference Kate had noticed in her own work was the difference in communication among a female creative team. At meetings she stipulated that her team must contribute and sign off on a plan before the meeting could end. Not allowing anyone to give just a nod or a “whatever” increased their commitment.

The panelists also noted that women can be more collaborative, and team building with women appears to be more seamless.

Erica talked about Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and described how important it was to build a team who could help put real people (instead of professional models) at ease on the set. While men had roles to play in the campaign, the women on the creative team were vital to the comfort of the real women.

Kate and Juliana discussed technology as a means of reaching for opportunity that wasn’t as easy to acquire 20 years ago. Today, women have the opportunity to teach themselves new skill sets in software or equipment due in part to rapidly evolving technologies and support concepts like lynda.com and kickstarted.com.

A theme running through the entire 3% Conference was mentoring, and Juliana underscored that need. Realizing that if “women can’t see it, they can’t be it,” she began taking part in a job shadowing program in which student creatives spend time observing her at work, which helps them foster their own visions. She issued a challenge to form similar job shadowing initiatives.

The panelists also touched on a more twisty part of a professional life that often keeps women up at night: interviewing and negotiating. Their advice was clear.

  • Always keep a current list of your accomplishments and memorize it. Be able to articulate it, because people aren’t mind readers.
  • Say what you can do, not what you have done. Being a “can do” person means looking forward and knowing with confidence you can do a job even if you haven’t done that exact one. For example, men often define themselves by saying, “I’m an artist,” while women are more likely to say, “I did a lot of art in my last job.”
  • Know the value of the job you do in the marketplace. Know, too, when your own “stock” is high, for instance, when you’ve had a win, made a major contribution or accomplished a hard task.
  • Always be looking for the next job. Always be interviewing. It keeps you aware of your own value even if you don’t want the offer. It also keeps you current.
  • At the negotiation table, don’t back down. Put it on the table and be ready to walk away. Often, new opportunity will come your way in the future from the same source you walked away from. You earn respect when you don’t cave.
  • Attitude is key. Be nice, not accusatory. Remain transparent and accountable.
  • Remember that while having a huge skill set is great for the team, if you’re an egocentric jerk, you take more from the team than you bring. And then, you aren’t worth the price of your skill set.
  • Ask to be mentored. Go outside your space and your comfort zone to find a mentor.

These women gave the audience much more than a list of advice: they demonstrated an idea. In all the world, there are really only two things to spend: money or time. Of the two, time is the most precious.

As we exited the breakout session, we each received a thumb drive. On it was a list of reading material these women personally recommend, articles and books that had delivered serious value to them.

The gift of knowledge is always empowering. The time to gather it up and hand it out freely to questing minds is outstanding. They didn’t have to do that. In that simple act, and with nothing more than a tiny thumb drive, firmly stands the feminist idea of Dead-Eye David taking aim at Goliath.

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On October 21, 2013
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