She has 14 years of experience working on live activations and delivering integrated campaigns for a wide portfolio of UK and global clients including PepsiCo, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Samsung, Heineken UK, Coty, Twinings and McLaren.
Rachel is committed to championing a Live Engagement offering that delivers best in class activations and strives to build on the many awards won for previous campaigns.
In 2016 Rachel was appointed to the Board of Initials in recognition of the role that she plays and the contribution she has made to the success of the agency.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role:
I was born and raised in Bristol. However, London has been my home for 15 years, where I now live with my fiance and daughter.
Currently I head up the Experiential offering and am a board director at creative agency, Initials. In my role as board director, I look after the welfare of people in the agency – something which is really important because the people are what makes agency life great.
Outside of the industry the term ‘Experiential’ is often unknown, but to break it down – we connect brands and people in the live environment, working with clients such as Strongbow, Walkers and Fiat. My team organises everything from festival activations and pop-ups to PR stunts.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
In short, no! I studied Graphic Communication at University in Cardiff and vividly remember a trip to a London with my course to visit a design agency. I was disappointingly told it was a massively competitive industry and only a few were likely to succeed. There were better designers in my midst and without wanting to cede defeat I took the opportunity to take the classic ‘gap year’, travelled the world on the promise to my folks, that I’d ‘think’ about a possible career path.
Following my travels, I was initially drawn to the ‘glamourous’ world of PR – this in turn helped me realise my heart was in events. Having moved to London it was all about meeting the right people, and I was introduced to a very savvy woman who was starting an events agency. With only the two of us for the majority of the time, to this day I still find myself influenced by all that she taught me.
In my late 20’s I followed a path into the marketing world and began dipping into experiential agencies – leading me to Initials (where I’ve stayed for 9 years!). This length of time may sound terrifyingly long, but due to my ever-evolving role, no day being the same and an incredibly supportive senior team, it’s kept me highly motivated to follow a career path within the agency.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I think it goes without saying that everyone faces challenges and different hurdles during their life, and for me the biggest challenges are ones I seem to have set myself. The more senior you become, you gain more responsibility and are faced with higher expectations – it becomes only natural to question your own ability. Even when everyone around you believes in you and your worth to the job, you can still have certain insecurities and be your own worst critic.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Without a doubt it’s the amazing and rewarding role of being a mother to a strong, fiercely independent and opinionated 6-year-old. My biggest goal is to always be an inspirational figure for her. The role I play in her life isn’t necessarily the norm as I co-parent 50/50, but we’re successfully making it work. The upside is the freedom it’s given me to commit to work and enjoy a packed social life.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I’ve reaped the rewards of staying loyal and committed to Initials. It’s sometimes assumed that it’s easier to climb the ladder by switching companies in the agency world. Although my head has been turned, I’ve always believed in the values at Initials and stayed committed to my role through rough and smooth times (luckily the rough have been few and far between). However, being conscientious and hard working in my role hasn’t prevented me from getting the most out of my social life. If anything, it’s allowed me to enjoy the rewards of both.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentoring is such a valuable experience, which I’ve learnt personally through being mentored. It boosts confidence and helps people define the path they wish to go down. In the early part of my career I was lucky enough to have two brilliant mentors – including the female boss I mentioned earlier. Five years ago, as part of a course, I was given an external mentor and coach – both of whom were hugely important at empowering me to reach the next stage in my career. I continue to embrace them both today.
I’ve mentored people both internally and externally and I couldn’t endorse the process more, so much so, I’ve recently implemented a coaching system across Initials called ‘Open Blend’. The programme helps to understand individual skills, alongside nurturing personal talent throughout the agency.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
The eradication of double standards. I’ll give you an example… saying a man’s “assertive” yet calling a woman “bossy”. Negative connotations are threaded through our lives as women, so much so that we often don’t even notice them. It’s something we should all challenge when heard – it would be wonderful if these behaviours changed before my daughter gets older.
This theme is powerfully discussed by Sheryl Sandberg in her Desert Island Discs and is definitely worth a listen.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
As someone who went through a major U turn in my life – when my husband and I decided to separate after having our daughter – the biggest piece of advice I could offer anyone in a challenging situation would be to think about tackling what’s happening now. Don’t worry about next year, or even next month. However clichéd it may sound – live in the moment and work through challenges when they arise. And… trust your intuition – it’s usually right.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Given the constant evolution of the industry and particularly live experiences it’s hard to predict what the next challenge will be – this unknown aspect of my career keeps it interesting. It’s a great time for Initials and to play a part in shaping its future is exciting.
On a personal level I’d like to continue to find ways to enhance self-belief, in order to help me face any challenges I’m confronted with and empower others around me to do the same.
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