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Agency Life

Making Human Connections

Making Human Connections

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

April 24, 2019

"As we start to get better representation across our teams, working collaboratively will see us deliver bigger and better work,” says Havas UK’s Bukola Garry.

"I don’t look at trends within diversity and inclusion as I think it undervalues what we are trying to achieve."

Havas UK’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Bukola Garry, shares why diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be seen as a trend, but a constant; why you should always be teachable; and her experience in the industry as being the “other.”

 

How did you start your career?

I initially wanted to work in PR as it was all about people, building relationships, making connections—something that comes quite naturally to me. However, I struggled to get any work experience and didn’t know anyone in the industry, so that was the end of that. I then decided advertising was the next best option as I fancied myself the perfect balance of logic and creative, and was a huge fan of Mad Men. I wanted to be Don Draper (minus the alcoholism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity). After nine months of terrible job searching, while volunteering as a youth worker, I met someone who worked at ZenithOptimedia. She told me about their grad scheme and I applied the next day. My first role was a Media Planner for P&G; a role I never knew existed, but one I came to absolutely love.

What drives you?

I am driven by my daughter—she is my “why.” I do what I do for her.

I tell her every day that she can be anything she wants to be, but if I’m being honest, there is some doubt behind my words. [Activist] Marian Wright Edelman’s words always ring in my ears, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” So for me, working in diversity and inclusion within the communications industry is so important. I get to contribute towards the changes being made to have better representation on our screens, so different types of people can “become what they see,” and that the different experiences of people are out loud and mainstream.

Tell us a little about your role.

My role is multifaceted and continues to evolve, which keeps things interesting! I work closely with the People and Talent teams across all agencies to help inform recruitment, induction, and onboarding processes to ensure we are removing any opportunities for bias.

Alongside the Chief People Officer, we are creating a tailored training workshop to help demystify diversity and inclusion—what it really means and how it will impact the culture here at Havas. It will also encourage people to have “courageous conversations” that are open, honest, shared experiences that create opportunities for learning. To complement the training, we are working on a bespoke asset, the “D&I Playbook,” that will provide tools and language to help navigate all things diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Another part of my role is about building a network of partners to help widen the representation of our talent pool, as well as help drive awareness of our industry. This includes working closely with schools, colleges, local authorities, community groups, and charities, and creating opportunities for people to gain experience in the industry through paid internships and apprenticeships.

What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is about the individual experiences of different types of people and how that impacts them day to day. Inclusion is about creating space and validating those different experiences people have, and making an environment that recognizes, supports, and allows people to thrive in—#liveyourbestlife.

What’s a trend that you’ve identified recently that’s related to diversity and inclusion?

In all honesty, I don’t look at trends within diversity and inclusion as I think it undervalues what we are trying to achieve. My worry with “trends” is that when they are no longer of interest, it allows people to disengage, when what we really need people to do is fully engage, and recognize that diversity and inclusion aren’t something that gets done, they are a constant. All parts of the diversity and inclusion conversation are important—race, gender, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, disability…

Diversity and inclusion are obviously hot topics in the industry today—so why is it still hard for many to talk about it?

I think it is hard to have a “mainstream” (for lack of a better word) conversation about diversity and inclusion as it is requiring people to talk about, and more importantly, support and care about experiences that are not their own. It is recognizing there are systems and structures in place that favor one person over another, and it can be uncomfortable for people to see that as truth. It also requires people to be vulnerable and open, which can be a challenge, particularly in the workplace where there is still a dated expectation to present an “appropriate” version of yourself.

"Human connection is one of the most important things to me. I learn so much from people and their experiences and I am inspired by their accomplishments and the ways they overcome challenges."

What have been your biggest career challenges? Your biggest accomplishments, so far?

The biggest challenge I have faced in the industry has been my experience of “other.” Throughout my career, I have often been the only black woman in my team, which has meant facing different challenges, and years of assimilating to fit in. A completely exhausting experience that eventually made me walk away from a career I loved. It took five years, but I finally made my way back.

My biggest career accomplishment is yet to come!

Why Havas?

A fortunate stroke of serendipity.

I had been partnering with Havas on a series of immersion days, inviting young people from the youth charity I was working for into the building to experience agency life. The more time I spent at Havas, the  more I realized how much the industry had changed from when I first started. Havas was open and invested in making real change, and people were making tangible steps towards building a genuinely more inclusive culture. The transition into the role of Diversity and Inclusion Manager was a case of right place, right time, and the right opportunity. I was able to bring all the learning, experience, and networks I had gained working in the social sector and apply it to the role, hitting the ground running!

What are you really good at?

Cooking.

What do you hope to get better at?

Self-belief.

How do you inspire others?

By being open, vulnerable.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the different people I surround myself with. Human connection is one of the most important things to me. I learn so much from people and their experiences and I am inspired by their accomplishments and the ways they overcome challenges. It reminds me never to settle but to always be teachable and curious about life.

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

I say I’m a Diversity and Inclusion Manager, as it’s a role that over time people have become more and more familiar with. And I find that saying that often sparks questions, as people want to know about how the communications industry are responding to diversity and inclusion. It contributes so much to the messaging we are surrounded by.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

The best advice I’ve ever got and still use today is “always be teachable.” It’s a dangerous place to be in when you think you’ve got everything figured out! Also, to not be afraid of failure.

What do you wish that you could change about the industry?

I wish we could challenge our clients to be braver. The different brands we represent contribute so much to the messaging that goes out in the world. I think with less fear, we could be more active in delivering briefs that show more representation on our screens to better reflect the society we live in and the things that matter to our consumers—all our consumers.

What do you hope stays the same?

The collaborative way we work. As we start to get better representation across our teams, working collaboratively will see us deliver bigger and better work.

"I don’t look at trends within diversity and inclusion as I think it undervalues what we are trying to achieve."

Havas UK’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Bukola Garry, shares why diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be seen as a trend, but a constant; why you should always be teachable; and her experience in the industry as being the “other.”

 

How did you start your career?

I initially wanted to work in PR as it was all about people, building relationships, making connections—something that comes quite naturally to me. However, I struggled to get any work experience and didn’t know anyone in the industry, so that was the end of that. I then decided advertising was the next best option as I fancied myself the perfect balance of logic and creative, and was a huge fan of Mad Men. I wanted to be Don Draper (minus the alcoholism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity). After nine months of terrible job searching, while volunteering as a youth worker, I met someone who worked at ZenithOptimedia. She told me about their grad scheme and I applied the next day. My first role was a Media Planner for P&G; a role I never knew existed, but one I came to absolutely love.

What drives you?

I am driven by my daughter—she is my “why.” I do what I do for her.

I tell her every day that she can be anything she wants to be, but if I’m being honest, there is some doubt behind my words. [Activist] Marian Wright Edelman’s words always ring in my ears, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” So for me, working in diversity and inclusion within the communications industry is so important. I get to contribute towards the changes being made to have better representation on our screens, so different types of people can “become what they see,” and that the different experiences of people are out loud and mainstream.

Tell us a little about your role.

My role is multifaceted and continues to evolve, which keeps things interesting! I work closely with the People and Talent teams across all agencies to help inform recruitment, induction, and onboarding processes to ensure we are removing any opportunities for bias.

Alongside the Chief People Officer, we are creating a tailored training workshop to help demystify diversity and inclusion—what it really means and how it will impact the culture here at Havas. It will also encourage people to have “courageous conversations” that are open, honest, shared experiences that create opportunities for learning. To complement the training, we are working on a bespoke asset, the “D&I Playbook,” that will provide tools and language to help navigate all things diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Another part of my role is about building a network of partners to help widen the representation of our talent pool, as well as help drive awareness of our industry. This includes working closely with schools, colleges, local authorities, community groups, and charities, and creating opportunities for people to gain experience in the industry through paid internships and apprenticeships.

What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is about the individual experiences of different types of people and how that impacts them day to day. Inclusion is about creating space and validating those different experiences people have, and making an environment that recognizes, supports, and allows people to thrive in—#liveyourbestlife.

What’s a trend that you’ve identified recently that’s related to diversity and inclusion?

In all honesty, I don’t look at trends within diversity and inclusion as I think it undervalues what we are trying to achieve. My worry with “trends” is that when they are no longer of interest, it allows people to disengage, when what we really need people to do is fully engage, and recognize that diversity and inclusion aren’t something that gets done, they are a constant. All parts of the diversity and inclusion conversation are important—race, gender, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, disability…

Diversity and inclusion are obviously hot topics in the industry today—so why is it still hard for many to talk about it?

I think it is hard to have a “mainstream” (for lack of a better word) conversation about diversity and inclusion as it is requiring people to talk about, and more importantly, support and care about experiences that are not their own. It is recognizing there are systems and structures in place that favor one person over another, and it can be uncomfortable for people to see that as truth. It also requires people to be vulnerable and open, which can be a challenge, particularly in the workplace where there is still a dated expectation to present an “appropriate” version of yourself.

"Human connection is one of the most important things to me. I learn so much from people and their experiences and I am inspired by their accomplishments and the ways they overcome challenges."

What have been your biggest career challenges? Your biggest accomplishments, so far?

The biggest challenge I have faced in the industry has been my experience of “other.” Throughout my career, I have often been the only black woman in my team, which has meant facing different challenges, and years of assimilating to fit in. A completely exhausting experience that eventually made me walk away from a career I loved. It took five years, but I finally made my way back.

My biggest career accomplishment is yet to come!

Why Havas?

A fortunate stroke of serendipity.

I had been partnering with Havas on a series of immersion days, inviting young people from the youth charity I was working for into the building to experience agency life. The more time I spent at Havas, the  more I realized how much the industry had changed from when I first started. Havas was open and invested in making real change, and people were making tangible steps towards building a genuinely more inclusive culture. The transition into the role of Diversity and Inclusion Manager was a case of right place, right time, and the right opportunity. I was able to bring all the learning, experience, and networks I had gained working in the social sector and apply it to the role, hitting the ground running!

What are you really good at?

Cooking.

What do you hope to get better at?

Self-belief.

How do you inspire others?

By being open, vulnerable.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the different people I surround myself with. Human connection is one of the most important things to me. I learn so much from people and their experiences and I am inspired by their accomplishments and the ways they overcome challenges. It reminds me never to settle but to always be teachable and curious about life.

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

I say I’m a Diversity and Inclusion Manager, as it’s a role that over time people have become more and more familiar with. And I find that saying that often sparks questions, as people want to know about how the communications industry are responding to diversity and inclusion. It contributes so much to the messaging we are surrounded by.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

The best advice I’ve ever got and still use today is “always be teachable.” It’s a dangerous place to be in when you think you’ve got everything figured out! Also, to not be afraid of failure.

What do you wish that you could change about the industry?

I wish we could challenge our clients to be braver. The different brands we represent contribute so much to the messaging that goes out in the world. I think with less fear, we could be more active in delivering briefs that show more representation on our screens to better reflect the society we live in and the things that matter to our consumers—all our consumers.

What do you hope stays the same?

The collaborative way we work. As we start to get better representation across our teams, working collaboratively will see us deliver bigger and better work.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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