Introducing Elizabeth Barnett, group account director at VCCP Australia and graduate of our IPA Business & Agency Leadership 2016 course. She talks to TCC about killing ’em with kindness and wearing your leadership cloak lightly.
TCC: How long have you been in the industry and in your current role?
EB: I’ve been working in the industry for 11 years, having started as a Clemenger Graduate in 2007. I then moved to London in 2010 and worked for VCCP for two years before moving back to help set up VCCP in Sydney. I am currently a group account director at VCCP Australia, and have been in this role for three years.
TCC: What is the best thing about your job and being in the industry?
EB: I love the people that I work with – everyone’s fun, smart and creative. Makes my job and this industry an interesting place to work in. At VCCP we see every brief as a bear hunt and it’s my job to help bring down my client’s bear – their most overwhelming challenge – with brilliant creativity.
TCC: What made you want to get into the industry?
EB: The fact that I could be creative and solve business problems at the same time. I’ve always had a creative streak in me, but I wanted to earn a living too!
TCC: What was your degree in?
EB: A double degree in Communications (Public Communications) and International Studies (Spanish). It was a five year degree with the University of Technology, Sydney and I spent one year of my degree studying in Pamplona, Spain.
TCC: What are your wider career goals?
EB: Eventually I’d like to step sideways away from client management and move into internal operations but still within the advertising industry. My passion for people just wants to make sure everyone is happy, fulfilled and can work to the best of their ability in their working environment.
TCC: Who do you look up to in the industry?
EB: I have had many strong female mentors throughout my career, dating back to my graduate days. They showed me about good old fashioned work ethic, and that sometimes you just have to kill ‘em with kindness. No one can say no to you then.
TCC: What are your main sources of career inspiration?
EB: There’s no one blog, book or podcast I subscribe to, but I do make sure I read widely and keep on top of current affairs each and every day. I like to keep on top of the news and emerging trends – gives me inspiration at work, but also as a nice point of conversation with clients, rather than just the standard “What did you get up to on the weekend?” line.
TCC: What motivates you on both a daily basis and to keep striving towards your goals?
EB: I started my career in direct response advertising, so have always been one to want to see and keep on top of campaign results. I love to see how my work is received but also how it performs to solve my client’s’ business problems – keeps me motivated to keep challenging my clients and pushing the boundaries.
TCC: What made you want to do the IPA Business & Agency Leadership (formerly Client Service – Agency Leadership) course?
EB: I wanted to hear from various industry leaders on what it took to make the step up from senior account management to being a leader within an agency. The IPA and The Communications Council are also highly regarded organisations, so I knew they would have excellent resources and great speakers.
TCC: How would you describe the course in a nutshell?
EB: Three days of intense listening, and equally intense self-reflection.
TCC: What was the best thing about it?
EB: Hearing from industry veterans who gave us fantastic insights and provided us with practical everyday advice on what it takes to be an effective leader.
TCC: What was the number one thing you were able to apply in your day to day work?
EB: Wear your leadership cloak lightly. So that when you walk into the room, people just know you are the leader. Great leaders don’t need to say they’re leaders. Just go on ahead and lead. My job is to unlock people’s potential – and in my day to day work, that means allowing people the space to take centre stage.
TCC: What is your favourite project/campaign you’ve worked on to date?
EB: This is an unfair question, like asking me to choose my favourite child! If I had to choose though, I’d have to say a campaign called “How Fit Feels” for Fitness First. It was a social experiment we conducted with real people who we followed over the course of three months, either picking up fitness for the first time ever, or fitness gurus who gave it up. They all took it incredibly seriously and truly showed us their vulnerable sides and what it takes to make a real change in your life. And the reaction we got from the general public and from the fitness industry was really touching.
TCC: What’s your passion outside of work?
EB: Raising my awesome two-year-old daughter, playing the piano and singing, and scoping out real estate websites for my forever home.