“Choose where you work. Choose your Ogilvy.”
On the 19th of May, we had the honour of hosting our last speaker of the term-Mrs Annette King, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather UK. She has been with Ogilvy for over 16 years in 8 different roles, ranging from client lead on American Express across EMEA to Managing Director for Ogilvy Interactive and New Business Director for OgilvyOne. Ogilvy operates in ten different, but connected companies in London in order to integrate their services for clients. In her insightful speech, Annette had a few stories to tell us, each relating to a piece of advice she has for students planning to enter the corporate world in the future.
Finally, Annette also talked about the launch of Ogilvy’s new intern selection process which allows applicants to submit absolutely anything creative before finally selecting 14 interns to intern with Ogilvy for a period of 6 months. Her passion and love for the job was evident all throughout her inspiring and humorous speech. She firmly believes that she ‘chose her Ogilvy’ and would love to see more women being brave in choosing theirs as well.
On the 12th of May, we were delighted to host Ms Emma Hogan, European Correspondent for the Economist and a Cambridge alum herself. She shared a bit about life as a journalist and managed to dispense a few tips for students who are considering a future career in journalism.
As a Cambridge alum herself, Emma acknowledged the frenzy over investment banking and shared her own anecdote about her mother questioning her decision to decline a job offer in investment banking in favour of a freelance job (initially) with the Economist. Before she became the European Correspondent, Emma wrote book reviews for the magazine and gradually as she built a solid readership base and grew comfortable with the style of writing for the Economist, she began to take on a wider range of reporting, which led to her current position as European Correspondent.
Emma described the Economist has being a very collegiate environment due to its smaller size in comparison with other publications such as the Guardian or the Financial Times. Due to the absence of bylines in each issue, journalists are also given greater autonomy to pick issues they are passionate about to focus on each week. For example the issue of unaccompanied refugee children was a popular topic in one of the weeks and journalists who were interested in such issues would be able to put forward their research and views on that. The way Emma sees it, the Economist’s role is not to provide the latest breaking news but to add value and dimension to the current dialogue on various issues around the world; thus, there is room for a certain degree of subjectivity and relieves some of the time pressure journalists may have when constantly faced with the need to cover breaking news.
When asked whether her gender had ever affected the way she was treated on the job, Emma gave an interesting answer by stating that gender has never been an issue but age has. Once when she was interviewing Michael Lewis (American author of novels such as ‘Liar’s Poker’ and ‘The Big Short’), he commented on how young she was, a reminder that her youth was a rarity in a relatively non-mainstream industry such as journalism. Nevertheless, she advised students who were considering pursuing a career in journalism to be tenacious in applying for opportunities such as internships and meticulous in their work in order for others to take them seriously. As finalists are approaching graduation and the prospect of leaving Oxford for the harsh realities of the workplace, we hope that you do not discount the rewards of an alternative career in journalism and we at OxWIB wish you the best of luck in everything you may choose to do.
“Nowadays, being so connected makes it hard to switch off.”
On the 11th of May, we had the pleasure of organising a panel discussion about “The Impact of Technology on the Business World” and garden party kindly sponsored by Ernst and Young. The panel discussion covered a few interesting topics including how technology has changed the way we do business in the 21st century, the impact of a sharing economy where companies who own almost 0 of their assets such as Uber and AirBnb gradually overtake traditional businesses and how this trend will progress over the years and lastly, the pros and cons of using technology in the work place.
Almost all the speakers agreed that business models have changed drastically since their student days. Where they used to visit travel agencies to book trips abroad, now we primarily rely on websites such as Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, AirBnb etc. to book our flights, accommodation and even decide on which attractions to visit! Where they used to flag taxis down from the sidewalk, we now rely on mobile apps such as Uber to ensure a private car is at our disposal regardless of when and where we happen to be. All these changes reflect the rise of technology and the sharing economy we currently inhabit. The sharing of information, property and opinions has shaped our perspectives, shifting our demands and spending habits. Traditional companies have had to regroup and rethink their strategies in order to survive amidst increasing competition from companies with business models that never even existed 10 years ago.
As the speakers rightly pointed out, this sharing economy is largely the result of the public’s increasing distrust of large corporations. Instead, they welcome the abundance of choices offered by various startups, showing the gradual shift towards the reinstatement of the notion that consumer is king. Furthermore, apps such as TripAdvisor, AirBnb and Uber operate on a ratings basis, giving consumers greater power to influence others with their opinions, indirectly exerting greater pressure upon businesses to perform better lest they garner poor ratings and lose potential customers.
Nevertheless, technology has allowed for many beneficial changes in the workplace as well, allowing individuals to work from home and minimising travel costs for global corporations due to the ease of having conference calls. As most women will consider the prospect of having a family during the course of their career, the speakers agreed that Ernst & Young provided great flexibility in allowing them to achieve an optimum work life balance without sacrificing one for the other. However, due to the ubiquity of technology, it has become more difficult to completely disconnect and I believe almost everyone would agree that in this age of Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Gmail etc, we are expected to be constantly reachable even during vacations or our supposedly ‘downtime’. Over a long period of time, this may lead to social media fatigue so perhaps we would all benefit from disconnecting ourselves every once in a while? Relax, take a break and reply those emails a day later, it probably won’t hurt anybody to wait 24 hours for once.
On the 27th of April, Oxford Women in Business (OxWIB) had one of our biggest events to date-Welcome Back Drinks at Town Hall. The event was organised for the purposes of ushering in the start of a new term and celebrating our successes over the past academic year. It was a great success and we achieved a record number of 250 attendees, all of whom truly enjoyed the live jazz band and wine reception. This event gave us the opportunity to showcase our new term card as well as for more students to learn about OxWIB and what we do. Throughout the past year, we have gone from strength to strength, expanding our campus presence through innovative social media marketing campaigns, inviting a diverse range of speakers including renowned blogger and entrepreneur -Rosie Thomas(from ‘The Londoner’ blog) and tech entrepreneur- Anne-Marie Imafidon to speak to our members about their experiences as prominent women in business and last but not least the organising of quality events for members to network with a number of our sponsors including EY, PwC, KPMG, BlackRock, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Lloyds. This term, we hope to continue our efforts in providing more opportunities for women to engage with various business fields including more niche ones like marketing and journalism. On Wednesday of week 3, we will be organising a garden party and panel discussion with EY representatives, which would be a fantastic opportunity to get to know the firm and its culture; on Thursday we are delighted to have Emma Hogan, the Europe Correspondent for the Economist to come and speak to us about her experiences in the world of journalism after graduating from Cambridge. Lastly, on Thursday of week 4, we are excited to host Annette King, CEO of renowned marketing firm Oglivy & Mather and have her share her experience as top management of an international corporation. We look forward to welcoming you at our events.
“I care about female empowerment in the bedroom and the boardroom.”
On Tuesday, OxWIB had the pleasure of partnering up with The Oxford Union for another fantastic speaker, Jacqueline Gold, CEO of Ann Summers. Jacqueline started working in Ann Summers at 19; under her wing, the business grew from parties in women’s living rooms to a 140 million behemoth.
She explained how getting the idea off the ground was hard – when she worked there at 19, it was very male dominated, 90 % of customers and staff were male, it was not the best environment for a woman. She had a hard time convincing the all-made Board that it was a good idea – they said women would not be interested in sex – but they agreed to invest a small sum, and she made it grow from word-of-mouth basically.
The key elements of success
1. A unique selling point
Nothing like Ann Summers in the high street, the business offers a completely unique product, in part due to its female-friendly focus and in part due to the controversy which surrounds the shop.
Ann Summers offers innovative products, putting design and quality over everything else to make sure they are delivering the best product possible. Having a USP means that Jacqueline is not concerned about trying to compete or being accessible to all; instead, the focus is on tapping to their customer base who fit with their brand.
2. Customer Experience and Engagement
When Jacqueline first joined the business, she had no experience in retail, and was forced to rely on customer feedback. Initially she saw this as a disadvantage but now knows it was actually a reason for her success. Her customers inspire her, particularly those who attended the parties that got her business off the ground; the media could not see the Ann Summers party beyond girls giggling over wine, but these girls were telling society what they wanted – it is crucial for a business to know how to listen.
Social media has been a huge part of this, as you can now have 24/7 contact with customers and colleagues. Jacqueline is always surprised by the amount of CEO’s who are not on twitter – it’s a vital opportunity to engage with your customers and have a conversation, so that it does not feel like “you” talking at “them”.
3. Clever PR and Marketing
Ann Summers was slow growing, had to achieve brand recognition with a small budget, which it managed to do thanks to PR. One example of this has been the opportunity presented by the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, which Ann Summers has capitalised on. It helped create a platform, a whole new market. Customer profile and sales have since changed.
Chrissie Rucker, founder of the White Company, was kind enough to give OxWIB an interview to share her success story and her best tips for anyone wanting to make it as an entrepreneur. Chrissie started the company in 1994, after spotting a gap in the furnishing market. She recalls attempting to find white furniture and being confronted with two options; the cheaper, high street brands where quality suffered, or the luxury brands which had amazing products but were very expensive. Instead, she wanted to provide fantastic quality products that were affordable in shops where customers would feel welcome. She realized that this could be done; the luxury brands have a huge mark-up on their products, and by minimizing this mark-up she would have the same quality for a more affordable price and still make a profit.
Tips for Anyone Wanting to Start their Own Business
On the 6th of May we had the pleasure of having Sahar Hashemi as our speaker, founder of Coffee Republic and Skinny Candy. Sahar spoke about the challenges she faced as an entrepreneur and her journey, and expressed her optimism for the next generation of women entrepreneurs
The idea of Coffee Republic was inspired by a trip to New York to visit Sahar’s brother, then an investment banker. Sahar had just left her job at a prestigious law firm in London after 5 years, feeling that the training had been invaluable but that she did not want to sacrifice her fun and passion for 9-7 hour days. In the 80s, there was a general idea that work and fun did not go hand-in-hand; the mentality was that these big corporations were “not paying you to enjoy it”. Sahar refused this, but initially decided to start interviewing to become an in-house lawyer.
The trip to New York sowed the seeds for what would become Coffee Republic. Sahar describes falling in love with the American coffee shops, so different from the sandwich bars in the UK. She went to a coffee shop in NY expecting the same awful, congealed coffee she found back home, and was amazed at the variety that coffee shops offered, at the possibility of having a skinny or soy latte, with cinnamon or vanilla or syrups on it.
The catalyst for Coffee Republic was a conversation at a Thai restaurant with her family. She was innocently remarking on how much she had enjoyed the American coffee when her brother suggested that they partner up and bring in a coffee brand like Starbucks to the UK, which had yet to see the arrival of such coffee shops. After much deliberation, she decided to go for it. Coffee Republic was eventually valued at 50 million in April 2001, 6 years after opening its first shop.
After selling Coffee Republic, she went on to write her own book, “Anyone Can do It”, which became a cult book in entrepreneurship. Later, missing the thrill of having a start-up, she started a brand of sugar-free candy, Skinny Candy.
On Entrepreneurship and How it has Changed –
In the 80s, when Sahar grew up, there was only one entrepreneur to compare yourself to – Richard Branson. The idea seemed to be that unless you have made your first million in the playground or, ironically, dropped out of university, then you couldn’t really be an entrepreneur. She would never have thought someone like her would have been able to do it.
Chef and entrepreneur Natasha Corrett talked to OxWIB to share the story of her business and what she has learnt. Natasha is the founder of Honestly Healthy, a well-known health brand with books, a website, nationwide food delivery service, a bestselling app and a brilliant online database. The path to success has not been easy, but Natasha assures us that success comes from a strong work ethic combined with passion.
Honestly Healthy was created to help solve the struggle of being healthy in day to day life. Natasha originally set up weekend retreats for people outside of London. However, on one occasion, Natasha had to step in as chef. Natasha’s food received such good reviews that she decided to carry on - the business grew organically from this point onwards.
Here are our top entrepreneurial tips from Natasha:
Business is about being in the right place at the right time - take every opportunity and network as much as you can. Fake it to make it, bending the truth can often work in your favour to provide people the reassurance that you know exactly what you are doing, when in fact you may not. This gives you the chance to learn on the job.
When setting up a business, you should also set up a board of advisers – talk to 3 or 4 people that have already set up a business and have already made mistakes. Show them your work, accounts, future plans, get advice and ask questions. You will struggle to look outside the box when running your own business. However, those on the outside can highlight your mistakes – make sure you do not take this as a personal attack & take feedback on board. Mistakes are useful lessons, but learning from someone else saves money and increases productivity.
3. Do not be too proud
Know your strengths, but also understand and acknowledge your weaknesses. Acknowledge that you need help sometimes. You cannot be everything and the sooner you realise that, the better. As soon as you can afford to pay someone to do something better than you, do!
On the 18th of February, OxWIB welcomed the lovely Katrina Bentley from Barclays to provide an interview workshop for our members. Katrina had a wealth of knowledge to share with us and set out the different styles of interview and how to tackle each individually.
1. Motivational Interview:
- Why do you want to apply to our firm?
- Why have you selected this role?
Essentially, you need to justify your keenness for their company. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you want to be hearing. This is your place to flag up any events you have been and any representatives you have encountered.
2. Competency Interview
- Can you tell me about a time you have demonstrated teamwork/problem-solving/leadership?
When answering these questions, try to relate your answer to the skills and profile that they are looking for. They want you to present past behaviours and performance to predict the potential for future development. Try and think how you have learnt from your previous experiences, what you are proud of and how this reflects you as a person. Then, pair up these experiences with competencies (resilience/relationship-building/leadership etc.)
Structure your response to their question very clearly:
1. Set the scene.
2. Explain what you did and the skills that were required.
3. Talk through the outcome.
4. Highlight anything that you would do differently if faced with the same situation again.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our members! Hopefully, Hilary is going well and that you don’t come down with 5th week blues next week!
On Tuesday, OxWIB were delighted to host Dame Clara Furse as part of our inspirational speaker series. Dame Clara has had an incredibly successful career spanning a variety of different roles. As one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world, Dame Clara is in the perfect position to provide us with advice for the future. However, it was also incredibly inspiring to hear about Dame Clara’s development and experiences on such a personal and relatable level. We hope that everyone who attended found the talk as useful and interesting as we did.
If you are looking to develop your skills and understanding, OxWIB are hosting a number of events in the near future which can help you to increase your confidence – including an Interview Skills Workshop with Barclays next Wednesday (18/02). Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@oxwib) to keep informed!