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Annette King, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather UK

“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.

  • Know what you want from work

As she entered the job market during a period of economic turmoil in the UK, most jobs were filled by students from branded Oxbridge universities and it was difficult to secure a job. Nevertheless, she knew exactly what she wanted, which was to work in the media industry and for a large company. It wasn’t easy and Annette had to juggle part-time waitressing jobs while writing briefs and applying to various media companies, but it eventually paid off when she landed her first job with Wunderman, a relatively larger media advertising company.

  • Make your own luck

This experience taught her that you make your own luck. While working part-time as a waitress, Annette still found the time to write letters and briefs every single night to prospective employers as part of her networking efforts. She emphasised the importance of being friendly and leaving a good impression on every single person you meet because you never know how they might end up helping you in your future endeavours. Her first job itself was a product of her numerous networking efforts so don’t make excuses and start making your own luck!

  • If you are going to meet someone at work, choose well!

Annette related a funny story about dating a co-worker during her early days at Wunderman and how it was one of the worst decisions she ever made because of how difficult it was to pretend nothing had happened once the relationship ended. However, the end of this relationship was what motivated her to ask for a transfer to New York City where she met her current husband so things did work out fine after all!

  • When bad things happen do something good with it

Her decision to go to New York after her break up was one of her best decisions ever because she loved the city and also managed to fall in love there.

  • Listen to your instinct about work

Annette couldn’t stop emphasising this point as she recalled being eager and ready to take on new roles within the company such as the American Express account before finally deciding to discard her inhibitions and approach her superior with her request. She understands that most women often feel the need to wait for tasks to be handed down to them but instead she advocates for us to speak up if we feel that we ready to take on more responsibility, because chances are we would probably excel at it anyway.

  • Listen to people who know you and look out for signs

This piece of advice was related to an anecdote Annette shared about her friend approaching her initially about a job offer at Ogilvy. As she was happy at her company at that time, she dismissed the offer straight off the bat and only reconsidered at her friend’s persuasion. In hindsight, she realised how well her friend knew her and how he had managed to identify a company that proved to be a perfect fit for her before she even knew it. Moreover, on the day she visited Ogilvy, she saw the same doorman she used to see every morning at her previous company after not seeing him for a few years. He still remembered her and cracked the same joke about her being late, Annette described this moment with such joy as she felt that it was a sign that she was meant to continue her career in Ogilvy, in an office building with the same doorman she was so familiar with.

  • Care about the who as much as the where

In most industries, especially the field of advertising, you will probably be working as part of a team so it is important to enjoy working with the people around you. As Annette stressed repeatedly, great things can only be achieved by great people so understand your team dynamics, learn to work effectively as a team and consider leaving if you just can’t get along. You would probably be better off starting afresh at a new organisation with people who inspire and motivate you instead.

  • Be ready for change

Annette recounted her experience of being promoted twice on both her maternity leaves and having to step up in order to take on the demanding positions of Business Director and her current role as CEO. She understands that change can be daunting for most of us but she advises women to not shy away from change as they can be rewarding in so many different ways. Instead of changing organisations in order to learn new things, she suggests looking for new learning opportunities within the industry itself, such as new roles or departments. Given how dynamic workplaces have become, Annette would encourage all women to be open-minded and embrace change within the course of their careers as you will never know how rewarding they may turn out to be.

  • Be clear about what you want

To echo Sheryl Sandberg’s message of leaning in at the workplace, Annette also advises women to be clear about what you want. Regardless whether it is about a pay raise, a promotion or a certain amount of maternity leave, she firmly believes that you only get what you ask for and it is time we start being frank and open about our expectations and demands in the workplace. 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.

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