I grew up on council estate in Southampton, in a creative but down on our luck family. I did well at school, and had big intangible dreams, but when you’re broke, have no connections or role models, it’s hard to imagine how you can possibly even get started. People talk a lot about affluent kids having confidence, but sometimes the issue is more than just confidence. It’s just knowing it’s possible in the first place. Which little step to take to get the big ones. It’s gift of the gab. It’s seeing yourself fit in. Never mind all the financial challenges.
As a consequence, I think my career journey has taken longer than it might have, because I’ve needed to overcome these basic issues in my own way. I didn’t go straight to art college. I went straight into an admin job. By the time I finished art school, I didn’t go for the big designer roles, I went to another administrator role, and found ways to be creative within it. I didn’t get a real opportunity until I was 29, in a part time designer role, which I probably got because I seemed like a helpful person in the interview. All the clichés they say about women. I was them all. But beneath the surface there were aspects to my personality that have served me well. An unflappable determination. And always wearing my heart on my sleeve.
My career started to grow in the charity sector because I was comfortable in the environment I was working in, and this allowed my real potential to come out. The fact it was a sector with a healthy male/female split helped for sure. And working with a mix of powerful, quirky, flawed, kind, difficult, genius women, showed me that the perfect ‘middle class’ way, i.e. super confident and never putting a foot wrong, wasn’t the be all and end all. They showed me how it was done, with panache, and it allowed me to figure out how to do it in my own way too.
That’s what I also learnt growing up in a council estate. Messy lives, are interesting lives. So, let’s stay human, and not be afraid to be messy.
Louise, Strategy Director