Passion, culture, engagement and persistence – the ambition edit

Written by Eleanor Willock

Heraclitus the Obscure probably should have been the MD of a moderately successful PR agency, such was his proclivity for dramatic word play and publicity of his ideas. But instead, given the constraints of his time and place of birth, he had to settle for being the first ‘genuine’ Ancient Greek philosopher. He once said, sagely, ‘big results require big ambitions’.

It’s quite difficult to find an inspirational quote about ambition that doesn’t make it sound like something BAD, and Lord knows, if you’re a woman reading this, you’ve probably suffered some kind of barrier to your ambitions or at some point been told it’s not always a great thing to have. But, here’s the thing. At Mantis x Ruder Finn, we love ambition. We love ambitious people and we celebrate them. So, in conversation, here’s two of our team, Rebecca Paddick, and Kirsty Young, both of whom know how to take a preconception and kick its sorry ass into next week.

Rebecca: What’s been the most invaluable piece of career advice you’ve been given, to date?

Kirsty: The most significant career advice I’ve ever received was to speak up. Whether it’s asking silly questions, letting others know what I enjoy working on, or wanting to do more of something.

I’ve had opportunities that I would not have had if I hadn’t asked. I’m fortunate in that I’m working on projects and accounts that I’m passionate about. The most enjoyable projects for me are those involving patient engagement; seeing the people who are affected by the work we do is very rewarding. I had the opportunity to meet one of the patients who we work with and witness first-hand how the medical devices she uses have significantly improved her quality of life. Most people don’t get to see the impact that technology and therapies can have, so this was definitely a pinch me moment.

This is now something I’d strongly advise others to do; there’s no harm in asking. ‘No’ is the worst response you can get.

Rebecca: You joined Ruder Finn during the first year of the pandemic. How do you think working in an ever-evolving environment has enabled and encouraged you to progress in your role?

Kirsty: Joining in the pandemic was an unforgettable experience! I wasn’t going to let the virtual nature of my role hinder me from learning and progressing when I first started. The team I work with has been incredibly supportive, which has helped me a lot.

The evolving environment of the pandemic and flexible working has been a rollercoaster to say the least. With the offices moving from being open to closing due to lockdowns, you never know what’s next. Being virtual has definitely been challenging, but I have been able to knuckle down and demonstrate that I can adapt to the ever-changing circumstances we find ourselves in and this has helped me to progress in my role here at Ruder Finn.

Rebecca: Do you have any new year’s resolutions… and one month into 2022, are you still sticking to them?

Kirsty: I am someone who has made many new year’s resolutions in the past and I have never stuck to them. Going to the gym? Tried it, failed. If I’m serious about making a change, I make a conscious effort to start things no matter the time of year. I don’t think we need to wait until the 1st of January to start making new habits!

Kirsty: Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Rebecca: Before joining Mantis in my first PR role a little over three years ago, I worked as a journalist for an independent publishers in Bristol. I chose to specialise in education technology, and split my time between producing two monthly B2B magazines, two websites, and managing a small team of editors, reporters and designers. Although the transition from journalism into public relations is a common one, it’s not without its challenges. I remember the culture shock of having to reply to emails very quickly, learning about new products and services at breakneck speed, and coming up with ideas for content and campaigns often while the client is waiting and watching.

I think it was in these early months where I truly adopted the ‘fail to plan, plan to fail attitude’. I researched every single unfamiliar topic as much as possible, devoured every media outlet, website and newsletter I could get my hands on to better understand the new sectors I was now working in, I asked the very patient Mantis leadership team endless questions about all manner of topics so that I could be as prepared as possible when meeting clients, and I shadowed as many of my peers as I could so that I’d learn from the best.

Of course, I had many transferable skills which also stood me in good stead. The most important skill for us, I believe to this day, is the ability to create and tell stories. Where PR and journalism is intrinsically linked is through the content we create, the stories we tell and the news and opinions we share. Telling stories on behalf of my clients is the most exciting and rewarding part of my job. I feel lucky to do it every day.

Kirsty: Do you feel like you’re making a difference in your role at Mantis? Do you have any examples?

Rebecca: Because of my background, I tend to work on most of our education accounts, which I really enjoy. I’m still passionate about tech in schools and higher education, and I believe that edtech is a really exciting topic, especially after seeing so many new teaching and learning techniques emerge during the pandemic. I feel really lucky to help share the news from some of the best edtech providers out there.

Kirsty: What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Rebecca: I have been lucky to have a few milestones that have made me very proud. The first time I saw the Editor title under my name was certainly one. I was promoted to Account Director last year, which came as quite a shock as I thought I was being taken out for a lovely lunch by our equally lovely MD… (I did still get the lunch I might add!) The AD title is really exciting because it’s a new chapter in my PR journey. Teamed with our recent acquisition by Ruder Finn, the future feels very bright and exciting.

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