In this blog, we interviewed Faye Lewis. After a fascinating career, beginning as a journalist writing for well-known publications such as What Car? and The Independent, Faye worked in various industries, eventually working her way up to her current position as Head of Marketing at La Fosse Associates.
Faye told us exactly how she got to her current position, what she learned along the way, and whether she feels enough is being done to address gender imbalance. It’s a fascinating read, enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?
I completed an English Lit undergraduate degree, and then a Master's, and spent a decade as a journalist, writing for varied publications such as What Car? Eve Magazine and The Independent. I also spent several hedonistic years as a full-time music journalist.
When I was working for the music magazine it was 2008 and the start of the social media boom, so I was involved in growing our brand over social channels, in addition to using video for content quite early on. I started working in marketing from the age of 26 or 27 at a very big recruitment company and focused solely on email marketing working with one other on segmenting a 1.6 million database for B2B, B2C, Courses and supplier led emails.
I then joined a digital e-commerce start-up within a larger company initially to set-up the email, but then moved into the building and maintaining website development, writing content, working on campaigns and using SEO to feature literally thousands of items. Following this, I spent several years working in various tech recruitment companies and moved up the ranks from a marketing manager to head of marketing position. Within this period, I worked for a high-growth company which opened offices (in addition to its London HQ) in German and Barcelona, so really helped take the company into an international market. I then spent nine months working across a number of education brands for a change of pace, but quickly went back to digital and tech again with my current position at La Fosse.
What made you choose this career/industry?
For the industry, I fell into it. I was young and a bit naïve so didn't know a lot about recruitment in all honesty. For the career, I was lucky to find something that combines my practical problem-solving analytical part of the brain with the creative element. Both of which are necessary for marketing. I have always tried to do jobs that I care about because work is such a huge part of your life and it's important to do something of worth and value.
‘I have always tried to do jobs that I care about because work is such a huge part of your life and it's important to do something of worth and value.’
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
There are difficulties you face at every stage of your career, for me, initially, time management was something I struggled with massively at 26. At 33 it's a breeze, but now I need to pitch things to people and communicate complex strategic ideas in a very simple top-level way and that is something I need to work on.
The hardest thing is my own criticism, I am my own worst enemy and am constantly striving to do more, better, and faster and can get disengaged if I feel things are moving too slowly.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
It's just about having emotional intelligence and really understanding your strengths, weaknesses and areas of potential development then honing in on the ones that are truly debilitating and working to fix them. With time management it's easy to take a course to help you, and that's an age and inexperience issue, which is very forgivable. If it's a character trait such as stubbornness that can be more difficult, and you really have to dig deep and try a lot harder.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I'm not sure really, I have always had a good work ethic, but I think it's because I am naturally curious, and want to understand as much as possible in whatever I am doing. If I enjoy something or find it interesting, then I have the drive to do well at it. I remember thinking years ago when I first considered marketing, that it was something that might be future proof. There are so many different facets to it, that I could always learn and continuously improve at it.
‘If I enjoy something or find it interesting, then I have the drive to do well at it.’
What is your biggest achievement in life?
I know myself truly and am extremely comfortable in my own skin, and a lot of people can't say that.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
Yes, I have. There hasn't been one stand-out uncomfortable moment, in that as far as I am aware, I haven't been passed over for promotions based on my gender, it's more like a myriad of little things. The only one that comes to mind right now was back in 2010 or 2011 and I was off on tour with some bands and their tour manager said to my editor at the magazine; "will she be ok on tour?" it was some sort of weird assumption based on a few sexist scenarios playing out in his mind. He also asked my editor while I was stood there, and honestly, I don't think he was being intentionally rude or anything like that, it was just a very outdated way of thinking about things. I was stood right there and looked surprised, as did my Editor, who was like "er… yeah she'll be fine." But him saying that was strange and took me and my editor by surprise a bit.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
1) Be yourself, don't feel the need to conform to anything or to try and please anybody.
2) Accept praise and merit but make sure it's based on your competencies at your job.
3) If you're just starting your career, then don't be afraid to try lots of different things out. Failure is the best way to learn. Do that when you're young and the stakes aren't as high.
‘If you're just starting your career, then don't be afraid to try lots of different things out. Failure is the best way to learn.’
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
It's a tough one because women are constantly trying to shatter glass ceilings. There was news published recently around the pension gap for women approaching pensionable age in which women are paid £100,000 less than men on average.
I think a lot of organisations are making huge progress, and there's far more emphasis on transparency in business than ever before. Particularly around attracting the next generation into the workplace. I mean, if you look back to the 60s, it's clear to see the seismic shift that has taken place. However, many are simply paying lip service to gender imbalance, I mean take a look at your own c-suite for example. Indeed, there was a recent report by Cranford University, which stated women appointed to boards is only 'a symbolic gesture' which I am sure you'll agree is a damning indictment of any organisation.
As well as this, if you look beyond gender imbalance, LGBT+ women disproportionately face greater challenges at work. According to research by Vodafone, those aged 18 to 35 are significantly less likely to feel able to be 'out at all' than their male counterparts, so there's a double glass ceiling there…
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
Well, one strategy would be thinking strategically. Rather than being reactive, plan out short, medium and long term goals and then prioritise your workload around this. Proactive approaches are far better and thinking in longer-term ways takes you out of the detail of the day-to-day. Employ a team of excellent people to focus on detail.
I think with women a lot of the time we overthink. I can't speak for all women, obviously, but personally, I know I do. What I have realised is that generally, people can get behind an idea, even if it isn't fully formed yet. I wouldn't be afraid to join in the debate. I am naturally very introverted and like to weigh everything up before speaking, but I don't think this does me any favours. I would say don't let overthinking get in the way and speak up even if what you're saying isn't perfect. Things seldom are, but you might have an idea and it might be really, really good, so don't hold back and make sure you get involved.
‘You might have an idea and it might be really, really good, so don't hold back and make sure you get involved.’
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
I really don't feel like I am in a position to give advice if I am being completely honest. I haven't ever sat down and thought I am in a leadership position, but I do remember being about 28 and thinking I need to make sure that I am doing what I need to in order to progress, take on more responsibilities and build on my skill-set and knowledge base.
It's more important to have goals I think short and medium, at the very least in addition to surrounding yourself with people who are passionate and care. It's far easier to inspire and rally a team if you care about what you do, people are always willing to get behind you if you're passionate about something.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
The way you behave no matter how insignificant it might seem to you, will affect other people.
‘The way you behave no matter how insignificant it might seem to you, will affect other people.’
What a fascinating insight into the the world of marketing and the challenges faced by women in the modern workplace. If you wanted to learn more about women in marketing, read out post on Sue Benson, Managing Director of Behavioural Marketing Company.