"As a woman, you need to think of the challenges you face and be strategic and formulaic about how to address them," Nicola Davy, director of global consumer engagement at Jo Malone London, explains. "For me, investing time in mentoring and being mentored has been a process of taking control of my career."
The truth is that in an "always-on" marketing landscape, it is all too easy to prioritise getting the job in front of you done, at the expense of taking the time and space to think about your long-term career goals.
Davy, who is speaking to Campaign as part of the #PassItOn series, is part of the leadership team of the Futures Network, which is developed for and run by winners of the Wacl Future Leader Award to provide support and inspiration for women across the industry.
Through the Futures Network, Davy was mentored by Kathryn Jacob, chief executive of Pearl & Dean and co-author of The Glass Wall. "I had got so much from reading The Glass Wall, so I definitely had some nervousness about the fact she was giving up an hour of her time for me," Davy admits. "But seeing my challenges through a new set of eyes was invaluable."
A new perspective
According to Davy, when you start out in your career, you build a natural network – you speak to people to get jobs, you draw on your friends from university. She explains: "It is nice to have support from people who know you. However, it is a bigger jump from middle management and talking to someone outside your network can be vital.
"There does come a point when you need to be pushed out of your comfort zone and that involves reaching beyond your comfortable, known networks."
What initially unnerved Davy about getting mentored was how she could provide context for her entire career in just an hour. "The fact is that your mentor doesn’t actually need that context," she says. "The very act of being mentored makes you step back and assess what your challenges really are."
Davy is in her first director-level role, after being appointed to her current position in February last year. Making her mark in a relatively new role, proving her worth and yet not being distracted from the day-to-day demands of the job were the key challenges she wanted to address.
She credits mentoring with helping her to stop worrying so much about the bigger picture: "Consider your actions and what you can control. If you start from a place of taking control of your own actions rather than focusing on changing others, you can make traction."
By shifting her focus from "big picture" questions to taking ownership of the day to day, Davy makes the most of the little opportunities of everyday work. She says: "When I go into a meeting, I think more critically about what I want that person to think about me in the future. It is almost all about preparation and thinking more strategically about how I can impact any given situation."
Taking ownership of ambition
It is a process that has given Davy more clarity on her long-term career goals. She explains: "I’ve never worried about being more ambitious. But, perhaps looking back, that drive hasn’t necessarily had a long-term strategic edge to it."
She urges women to focus on the "value exchange" of mentoring and championing other female talent. "Whatever stage you are in your career, you have something to give if you put yourself forward," Davy stresses.
For Davy, putting herself forward for the Wacl Future Leaders Award was a turning point in her career. She used the award to fund a trip to South by Southwest, having been inspired to visit the festival by Amelia Torode, co-founder of The Fawnbrake Collective. "It really changed the course of my career, giving me both confidence and connections," she recalls. "And the day I came back, I started looking for the next role. It ignited something inside me and I want to pass that mantle on."