Read all about Katie’s design story
From a child, I always loved art and was never far away from a sketchbook and pen.
As I went through school it was clear that being in a creative space as opposed to an academic space was where I really shone. I dropped (rightly or wrongly) a few GCSE subjects which I struggled with and plowed more time into Art and Design subjects.
I think there is a general downer on creative subjects within governing bodies, and I know recently a few have been axed out of the curriculum to focus more on STEM subjects. This infuriates me because I believe that with the drive and passion to fulfill your dreams, you can become very successful in a creative career. There are so many job options, from tattoo artist to digital designer, from interior designer to creative director – and all are as needed and as important as academic roles. Let’s face it, what kind of world would it be with no films, music, theatre, advertising, art, etc.?
I decided to pursue my passions after school and did a 2-year, multi-disciplinary design course at college which covered textiles, fine art, photography, media, art history, and visual communications. This gave me such a great overview of all the design disciplines and showed me that I really enjoyed the graphic element and the use of digitally created assets and advertising. Back then, Macs and the internet were only entering the scene, so it was very exciting and something I wanted to be a big part of.
I did a 2-week work placement in a small design agency in Lichfield, which gave me an insight into the real world.
I then had a year off to figure out my next move and took a break from education. I quickly realised after a year of random jobs (none in creative), I was really missing it and wanted to further my education and specialise in Graphic Design. So, I got accepted on an HND Typography Visual Communication course at Staffordshire University. Having that time out was very valuable, as when I went back to my studies, I was determined, more than ever.
By this time, I was living on my own and supporting myself, studying full time and working 2 jobs to run a house, and a car and complete my studies. I passed with Distinction and was offered a place to complete my degree within a year, instead of a further 3. However, before starting my degree, I applied for a job at a large retailer’s In-house Design Team, as an Advertising Production Assistant, and got it! This was a turning point, I decided not to go ahead with my degree as I figured I had got the outcome I wanted – finally a job in design!
The retail company was quite a white, male-dominated corporate setup, with the creative direction coming from the men in suits. We were a team of 3 and I was the only woman. I was able to grow as the team grew but I quickly realised that, if I was going to make it, I had to stand my ground with my creative integrity and gain the respect of my male colleagues. I had to ensure I didn’t become ‘the girl in the corner doing the colouring in!’
On some occasions, faking it till I made it was the approach. I had to find the confidence to make my voice heard, which proved incredibly tough at times. As I was becoming more established, I felt I was being held back by my line manager and was met by brick walls when discussing my personal development.
In 2000, I gave birth to twin girls and returned to work 9 months later. In 2003, I became a single parent, so the pressure of developing my career whilst bringing up 2 children became huge!
I didn’t want to give up what I had worked so hard for, so I continued working full-time as well as being a full-time mum.
I started to develop imposter syndrome and suffered with anxiety. This snowballed because the voice inside me was saying, “you’re not competent to do this anymore, but you must keep going because if you lose your job, who will support your kids?” I felt like I was on a gerbil wheel for many years.
Feeling very institutionalised and having minimal support from above, my confidence really took a knock.
When my kids were old enough to walk to school and back, I decided to take the leap and I left in 2012 to pursue my passion by joining the agency side and get a job in the city 25 miles away. I felt my creativity and confidence was being stifled after so many years at the same place and I needed a new arena.
However, I’m grateful for my time at the retail company, even with its up and downs, I learnt a lot about the workplace, and it was a good platform to expand on. Also, as it was only a short drive from home, I could be a full-time mum whilst keeping a foot in the design door.
I joined my first agency in Birmingham as a Senior Designer…with B2B and B2C clients…wow…just wow! What a change! Fast-paced, exciting culture, working with great creatives, exciting clients, great socials and totally feeling valued with a purpose. I spent 8 happy years there, and progressed to Senior Creative and then onto Head of Creative.
I left in 2021 to join Silver to explore the B2B tech side further. Even though my time at my first agency was great, on reflection I feel having a woman CEO here at Silver, the care, the culture, the personal development, and equal opportunities are next level. We have a 50/50 male-female ratio here and are a very diverse business. The policies we have in place for male and female colleagues are amazing and are current with today’s world – in line with total equality.
This is my best, happiest, and most confident job to date. I am now Art Director and manage a team of 2 women who also have the best opportunities to go far at Silver.
Believe you can, and you will.
Some tips from Katie…
Follow your dreams.
Do freelance work. Get as much on-the-job experience as possible – it’s not always about the qualifications on paper.
Offer to do work experience in agencies/design studios.
Be yourself and enjoy what you do.
Believe in yourself. Find a mentor.