Life at Dept March 08, 2019
'I've never done it before, so I suppose I can do it'
Sometimes, especially when making a career for yourself, it can feel like it’s you against the world. However, no career comes without failure. Living up to your passions and fulfilling childhood dreams may take effort, but you’re never alone. That’s why we’ve asked a few female Depsters to share their experiences and advice. They’ve been working fiercely on their careers while simultaneously staying true to their nature. It made them grow into both the professional and person they are. So, let’s use this Women’s Day to learn from the ladies at Dept and their approach in conquering the world in their own way. After all, Pippi Longstocking tried to tell us all along that if you’ve never done it before, you have to trust in the fact you’re probably able to do it.
Hard work pays off
Work hard and you will end up right where you want to be is the general consensus among Dept women. “I was raised in a family of entrepreneurs and learned that nothing comes easily”, Jeanette (Client Service Director) explains. “Always push yourself to walk that extra mile, say what you think, believe in yourself and communicate openly and honestly. Step out of your comfort zone.”
And it’s exactly that facing your fears mentality that unites. Lara (Head of Editorial): “I never even thought about giving up or wasting too many negative thoughts on something that might not work. Instead, I let myself be pushed out of my comfort zone at every opportunity and simply did not accept a ‘we can’t do that’.”
Building a career is a bumpy ride, but with experience and determination, nothing is impossible. Hycinth (Programme Management Lead) learned while working in television: “It turned out to be a worthwhile school in learning how to work hard, pick up on discipline, teamwork and responsibility. And although I have sometimes experienced needing to work twice as hard because I am a woman (especially from a mixed background), it made me stronger, you learn from it. And in the end educating yourself is key, be it via experience, Ted Talk videos or training. You’re never done learning!” And Annika (Senior Designer) couldn’t agree more: “I am always dealing with different people and subjects, while constantly learning along the way.” Adding to that is Sinead (Head of Content): “Careers often don’t go in straight lines and it was my sister who influenced my subject choices. She introduced me to Technical Drawing instead of Home Economics. So, seize opportunities, make your own roles and be nice to people.”
Deal with your insecurities
Work hard, set your focus, and you’ll manage. Right? Well, not entirely. We all have our insecurities. There’s no shame in that. But by channelling them and turning them into a strength, is how you set yourself apart from the crowd. “We all have doubts and fears, and it can feel like ages before things are starting to take off. Fortunately, courage is contagious. We all feel the energy as soon as people around us dare to take the step, provide us with honest feedback and take responsibility”, says Marjan (Global Head of Marketing). “In that, I don’t believe men or women are naturally better in certain roles. I do believe that your own way is simply the only way to get there.”
Everybody can claim their rightful spot but in their own way. “Unlike popular belief, you really don’t need to have a drawn-out game plan just yet when starting your career. Begin with dedication and hard work, and in due time you’ll find out how that game plan is supposed to look”, Sarah (Operations Director) claims. “Rather than to jump into situations, I waited it out when I started working, finding my spot my way. Once I knew what careers really triggered me, I decided to work towards those concrete goals.”
It’s by trying to zoom in on your passion and strengths that can sometimes present you with difficult choices and uncertainties. “That’s why it is so important to determine concrete ambitions and think of a game plan as to how to best achieve those”, Martine (Strategy Director) explains. “Often both (young) women and men try to please everybody they work with. It feels like an issue of current times. But it’s okay to say no sometimes too. Dare to do it your own way and pursue your goals. This will make you more likely to achieve them.”
In this together
As mentioned, we all have insecurities but by helping a sister out can also be a learning opportunity for yourself. “My experience has always taught me to support others in their goals, as that will help further your own”, says Rose (UX Designer). Confirming the common idea that, luckily, finding your way in the professional field isn’t entirely up to you alone. A little help and guidance from others go a long way. Rebecca (Content Strategist): “It’s important in my career to resist being competitive and instead focus on learning from other women and the innovation that can be created through our collaboration.”
“It’s so important that we support each other, share our knowledge and experience, and give each other the confidence to chase our ambitions”, says Mellissa (Marketing Director), who also tells that the most powerful piece of advice she has ever gotten was that ‘there are enough seats at the table for all us women to succeed.’
In the end, we’re all here to grow in our careers and that’s something we do together. “Empower others, instead of criticising each other. It’s more satisfying than any competition will ever be and makes you develop as a professional faster”, Martine says.
Women in tech
When it comes to digital and technology, it is a predominantly male world. However, it’s up to you how you deal with this: you can accept it or even use it to your advantage. “This is in our favour”, Mairead (Head of Programme Management) refers to the dominantly male sector. “It’s a relatively new industry, so isn’t bogged down with tradition. The good thing is that it is always changing and open to change. It has to, to continue to innovate. I think that means that there are great opportunities for both women and men to pursue interesting careers on an equal basis.”
She continues: “My parents went to great lengths to find a school where my sisters and I could study maths, Physics and Technical Drawing. They instilled in us the understanding that there are no male and female specific career choices and that we should put ourselves forward for the careers we are interested in, even if there aren’t many women in there – yet.”
From Lady Gaga (‘It’s not about winning, but it’s about not giving up’) up until the Dalai Lama (‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito’), the role models of Dept ladies come in all shapes and sizes. With many people drawing inspiration from their parents – moms being an all-time favourite. However, Liza (Creative Director) skips a generation when sharing her story. “I am inspired by people that have a passion and drive for the work they do, regardless of sex, age and profession. But if I have to pick a woman that stood out for me, it was my grandmother. She was the first female professor in Biochemistry to teach in her university in the 1930s and was a single mom. I think it took a lot of guts at that time to achieve this.”
Last minute advice
“Use the first few years in your career to network in addition to your job. Visit local meetups, join networks or go to conferences to see the bigger picture”, is what Verena (Managing Director) advises others. “Because if, like me, you have to bring a job and family together later, you might not have the time or will to do so in a few years. In my experience, however, family and a cool job can be well combined in a good corporate environment.”
When it comes to career advice, the ladies agree on the ‘just do it’ part of the story. Especially, since you are in charge of your future. Liza: “Do what you love and everything else will follow, and not what anyone expects from you; not your parents, not your teachers. It doesn’t matter what career you choose, as long as you love it.”