I recently turned 46, feeling well and truly middle-aged and find myself increasingly reflective about all aspects of life. I guess it’s natural.
I’ve worked in digital now for over two decades and as an ‘agency’ person for even longer than that. My first job was at an agency and I’m still at an agency today. I’ve always loved the excitement and pace of agency life and the constant pivot between products and brands is exhausting but also immensely interesting. On the occasions that I’ve found myself client-side, I’ve felt myself wilt and ultimately become bored. Perhaps when I’m older, I’d say, then go back to agency.
I fell in love with digital in my early 20s and like all love affairs, we’ve had our highs and lows. It was so new and exciting in the 90s. We were making it all up as we went! Everything was cool and fun and I was young and full of beans. At the highs, I would say that I didn’t want to be anywhere but here or do anything else but what I did. I would work nights and weekends and wear it almost like a badge of honour. But digital production is hard and agency life is relentless. You’re at the mercy of every one of your client’s deadlines and the punching bag of frustrated creatives and technicians. You have to get twice the hours of effort into half the physical time there is and cut corners without it looking like corners were cut.
I’ve broken up with digital twice, with almost a decade between them. On both occasions, I didn’t want to do it anymore but didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. I just knew I hated digital. I hated the differences between browsers, the pointless microsites about pointless stuff and the sheer exhaustion of it all. I had mid-life crises before I was middle-aged and on the second occasion, left a well-paid job to go to barbering school with a view to opening my own take on mens’ grooming. That was before all the hipster barbershops started to appear everywhere, so I felt ahead of the curve at the time. I think I just wanted to do something so completely and utterly, not digital.
But after both breakups, I found my way back to digital and rediscovered my mojo. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder and I realised that I loved digital and agency, with all their quirks and frustrations – I just needed to find the right place to practise my craft, where I’m surrounded with people who share my values and value my contribution. There are thousands of agencies in London alone, each with its own dynamic created by the overlap of their people, clients and values. You could excel in one and not in another and it have nothing to do with your skills or passion for digital itself. I’ve let people go and been genuinely happy to see them go onto bigger and better things.
As I’ve got older, finding a workplace that shares my values has become paramount. I admire Millennials, who insist upon this more than any other generation before them and expect ways to ‘give back’ to their community as part of the time they spend at work. Luckily, Fat Beehive has that in spades. On any given day, I get to work on some of the most important social issues of our time, including LGBT+ rights, climate change, poverty, women’s rights and more. I’m an activist everyday, not just on weekends, and my clients’ success is my success.
Add to that, an agency culture built on co-operation, empathy and respect, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.