AWARD School alumni and creative director at Host Sydney Kirsty Gavin says juggling motherhood and career is all about backing yourself and debunking your own doubts.

TCC: How many years has it been since you did AWARD School?

KG: 14 years ago

TCC: What have been your career highlights since then? Any favourite campaigns?

KG: While at Publicis Mojo, I was part of the team that created the Burn Campaign (an energy drink) and we developed some content/online films just as the idea of content was emerging via Facebook. While freelancing, I worked on a project that took me to New York to shoot with iconic fashion photographer, Ellen von Unwerth. This was an art director’s dream and was extra-special because I’d had my first child only six months prior and was on maternity leave when I got the call for the job. That particular project was a positive insight into how my career would move forward as a mother and as a creative.

TCC: What learnings from AWARD School have stuck with you to this day?

KG: Ideas are king (or queen). The notion of having a big idea was introduced to me back then (2003) and it is still the single most important thing to look for in the world of creative when hiring people, judging and reviewing work.

TCC: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

KG: I have always backed myself professionally, even in the early days, and was very proactive in finding work. I met with so many people, at all different levels when finding my first job and every other job since. I have always been very open to feedback and taken criticism well, a skill you need on your advertising journey, especially in the formative years.

TCC: Has there been a key mentor or role model that you’ve continued to look to from then until now?

KG: Absolutely. I had the pleasure of meeting Georgia Arnott during my Campaign Palace days. She is an art director-based CD and we had similar ideas and aesthetics. She backed me and believed in me from the second we met. She was the one that sent me to New York years later. I watched her manage her wonderful career while raising two beautiful sons and now I’m doing the exact same thing. She’s a massive inspiration personally and professionally. Micah Walker and Cam Blackley gave me my next two jobs at Mojo and Droga5 respectively, both amazing creatives/ECDs that challenged and inspired me over many years.

TCC: What have been your biggest challenges along the way and how have you dealt with them?

KG: The balance of family and career is always tricky but I like to think that I’ve mastered the art of it over the last few years. That wouldn’t be possible without people like Georgia, Cam and Micah who I have worked with in freelance capacity over that time; and of course Host–where I am now–who are incredibly supportive of my family commitments. The notion of ‘finding a home’ within the industry does take time but Host is very much that place for me. Finding people professionally, that you look forward to seeing everyday and who inspire you is one of the most rewarding aspect of the job.

TCC: What sort of creative do you think you’ve evolved into?

KG: In my twenties I remember thinking ‘I don’t know how I could do this (advertising) if I were ever to have kids’. And years after, I debunked my own doubts of what I can and can’t do. It falls under my earlier point of backing yourself. I also remember whispering to myself my uncertainties of whether I could ever be a CD or ECD. The hours, the clients, the accountability and so on.  Clearly I underestimated myself with the negative internal narration. My last few years as a CD have been a huge growth spurt and I’ve built up those skills required for the role (management/utilising emotional intelligence, presentation skills, client relationships). It’s been brilliant.

Secondly, the spirit of collaboration has become more and more important to me over the years. Building a team around a brief or a problem is far better than tackling it yourself. It says a lot to be able to let go, take on other people’s opinions and to collaborate; people who can do this without ego are the best kinds of creatives.

Because I had such strong mentoring throughout my career, I’m incredibly passionate about giving back on this level. We have some younger creative here at Host, and I hope I’m guiding and making a difference to their careers. And I get emails asking for advice, I always try to write back and keep those lines of communication open and give the same respect I was given when I was younger.

TCC: What further evolution would you like to achieve?

KG: The goal posts move as your career does. I don’t feel complacent or that my best work is done. I’m actually quite competitive with myself and have the ‘Nothing I Do Is Good Enough’ syndrome. I’m not easily impressed by myself (or anyone else). 

TCC: What further evolution would you like to achieve?

KG: Someone who is passionate and fearless. And a little weird is good too.