Rachel Kennedy, art director at 180 Kingsday, talks about her experience with 'See It Be It'.’ A programme developed and funded by Cannes Lions which brings 15 creative women from around the world to the festival for a week of training, it works towards the equal representation of female and male creative directors across the industry.
When I got my acceptance email for 'See It Be It' I was over the moon, for about 15 seconds. Then the fear hit. The inner voice piped up. This is a mistake, an error. There are hundreds of more qualified applicants with more awards, more experience, more talent etc. etc. I’m going to schlep my way to Cannes so that they can meet me and realise what a talentless hack I am. A future leader? Who am I kidding?
The first thing I learnt in the 'See It Be It' programme is how to shut that voice up.
My experience was part creative inspiration, part therapy, part learning, and part connecting. And in only three days, I strutted out of See It Be It feeling not only that I did belong there, but that I belong in a lot of other places too.
What changed during those three magical days?
Stamping out Imposter Syndrome
During the first few hours of my experience, the topic of “imposter syndrome” was addressed. Almost everyone else in my programme shared my fears and the feeling that they didn’t deserve to be there. A group of talented people, many with incredible portfolios and impactful personal projects. Not to mention awards and other accomplishments. These were some of the best creatives in the industry. It was crazy to me. It became glaringly obvious that our self-doubt was misplaced. We learned to stop asking whether we ‘deserved’ to be there and just started to believe we did.
On day one, we had a workshop with InVisible Creatives, where we looked at our own personal brands. Looking at myself from an outsider’s perspective, I could see all the things that make me a great creative leader. Because my definition of what a leader is had expanded. A great leader doesn’t need to be the loudest voice in the room, or the harshest, or the one who speaks first. They can be the listener, the empathetic one, the optimist. I’m a different kind of leader, and that’s a good thing.
Bulletproofing my career
“Bulletproofing” was a term coined by Lisen Stromberg, Partner and COO of the 3% Movement. It’s an awesomely simple thought. As a creative, we all strive to make game-changing work that wins awards. But what Lisen and many of the other speakers talked about was all the other things we can do outside of the work itself - making connections, answering the call, taking risks, having fun, helping others, getting angry, speaking out, writing, and making time for side projects. These are things that build a platform you can stand on for the rest of your life. So next time I find myself sitting behind a computer for 16 hours straight, eyes glazed over, and mouth frothing trying to make the best work of my life, I’ll remember that it’s not the only thing that matters.
With all the glitz and glam of Cannes Lions, I imagined our “networking” events to be, well, network-y. I imagined meeting industry leaders and having clever discussions about industry topics, making witty jokes about advertising and chuckling while sipping rosé. But things were different. The conversations I had with some of the industry’s most influential leaders, including my three assigned mentors, were honest, candid and real. When I met my first mentor, Juan Manuel Larco, chief creative director of McCann Erickson Ecuador, the first thing he did was ask me to tell him about my family. Then he talked about his family. I found myself completely opening up to a total stranger. This was not the Cannes Lions I knew. No fancy presentations or buzzwords. Just two people connecting on a human level.
Experiencing the human side of Cannes made me realise how important it is to connect and support each other. After all, people need people. And having a support network around you can make a world of difference.
The theme of this year’s programme was “invite yourself”, which I realise now is much more than a theme. It’s one of the most important skills we, as women, can employ to advance our careers. Inviting yourself gets you in the room. Inviting yourself reminds you that you are competent. And inviting yourself tells that delinquent, senseless, ludicrous little voice which says you’re not deserving, to shut the hell up.
So please, don’t wait to be asked, invite yourself.