Updated: May 14, 2021
Join Lou in a conversation with Zoe Loveland, an industry senior director in marketing. Discover all about the audiobooks and podcasts Zoe loves, the 'exploding kittens' card game, the importance of surrounding yourself with different generations for inspiration, forging a career path in publishing, mentoring in third world countries and faking it till you make it – balancing family life and a career.
Transcription (contain Amazon affiliate links):
Right. This is our Inspiring the Next CMO podcast series for Behind the Fluff podcast from The International Bunch. It’s specifically for those in marketing, those interesting in marketing, those in academic publishing, scholarly comms and libraries.
Who are we going to be talking with today?
Zoe is a senior director in marketing. Zoe talks with us about:
· Audiobooks and exploding kittens – yes you did just hear that right!
· The importance of surrounding yourself with different generations for inspiration
· Forging a path in publishing with a working class background
· Mentoring in third world countries
· Fake it till you make it – balancing family life and a career
Some of you may know that several years ago, Zoe was lucky enough to manage me and we went through some career developing times together, learning how to quickly and easily adapt to very changing times. So why don’t we just jump straight in? Let’s go.
Lou: Welcome everybody to our Behind the Fluff, inspiring the next CMO podcast series. You can find lots of great resources to really raise your game on our website, which is www.internationalbunch.com/beinspired.
I am delighted today to have Zoe Loveland with me. Zoe's a senior director of regional marketing EMEA in the industry. And in fact, Zoe and I used to work together some 11 years ago. And Zoe was my boss! We had some fun times and we had some challenging times. But one thing I can say about Zoe is I've always admired Zoe, and Zoe has always been an excellent people manager and a very very supportive manager. And so hello, Zoe.
Zoe: Hello, Lou. Thank you so much for asking me to do this. I loved getting the questions and having a think about, you know, some of the topics that you just don't spend a lot of time thinking about every day. It’s great, thank you.
Lou: My pleasure. Well, I had to have you involved in this. So, now before we get started I have one question for: something we ask everyone to do before we get started with our series of questions is, we have a campaign that we do where we send out a word of the day. So it's #intbunchwordoftheday, and we want to know what's your favourite word and what does it mean?
Zoe: So my favourite word is actually one that you've already had on your International Bunch word of the day, but a couple of months ago, because I checked it out when I was thinking about this, and the word is the word for the wonderful smell after it's been raining. That word is petrichor. So you know when you go out, especially in the summer when it's been really hot and it's been really dry for days and then you have a lovely rain shower and there's that beautiful kind of earthy smell and everything smells like it's coming back to life. That word is petrichor, to describe that, and it's apparently, I found out, it's a Greek word from Petri which means rock and ichor, which was the blood flowing through the veins of the Greek gods. So it's just lovely that there's a word to describe that delicious smell.
Lou: Yasmin does an amazing job of finding some really random words, and I wish some of them we used more in our vocabulary. That is a brilliant word and when you said that, literally I could smell that smell.
Zoe: It is a gorgeous smell. When you're on holiday in a really hot place and there's like a thunderstorm or something. I miss that, but that that beautiful smell you get.
Lou: Oh the good old days when we could go on holiday.
Zoe: To genuinely warm places, yep. Yes so I'm always looking for an opportunity to use petrichor in a sentence; it doesn't come up very often so thank you for allowing me to use that word.
Lou: Well, you know it’s there to be used. I think that actually I should set you a little challenge in the next meeting that you have, you should stick it in.
Zoe: Yes, it's quite challenging in marketing to find the word petrichor in academic marketing, but I'll try.
Lou: Just throw it in. So what is the best thing that you have discovered in the last year?
Zoe: So I think one of the best things that I've discovered in the last year is the Audible app.
Lou: Right there with you on that one.
Zoe: Before the lockdown I'd got really into listening to podcasts going to and from work, and we're going to talk about podcasts I think a bit later, but I was looking for something where if I'm feeling really tired and I don't want to look at stuff, because we're all looking at screens all day every day now with very little break, just something a little bit longer than the kind of one hour podcast. I have listened to so many books on Audible and it's such an amazing immersive experience. I think I've got more out of books that I've listened to, and a deeper understanding of them probably than when I'm just doing normal reading. I've absolutely loved it. It is the contribution of the people who read the books who act; I've read books narrated by Tom Hanks and other people, and yes, I've loved it. It's been really great.
The other thing I've really enjoyed - totally irrelevant - is discovering the card game ‘exploding kittens’.
Lou: Oh, what is that?
Zoe: It's a card game where you basically use tactics to try and get whoever is playing with you to pick up the exploding kitten card, and we've spent hours as a family tricking each other being sneaky. So I highly recommend the exploding kittens, the card game.
Lou: I'm definitely going to look that up. That sounds hilarious. I completely agree with you about Audible though. I also have been listening to it a lot in the last year. And I go running and listen to it because I'm terrible at reading. I know you've always been really good at reading, from when we work together. And I just needed something to distract me, and it's amazing and also listening to podcasts. I find I’m running along, trying to breathe, but then I'm chuckling to myself and no one’s got any idea what I'm listening to, but yes, brilliant.
I’m just still laughing in my head about the exploding kittens card game. So who inspires you?
Zoe: This is a really, really tricky one because I don't think there's any one person or any one level which I'm inspired by. Sure, I'm quite often inspired by famous people like just Jacinda Ardern, who's running a country, or Michelle Obama, who I absolutely loved her autobiography and I was really inspired by both her and Jacinda Ardern's ability to be in these extreme positions of leadership that they've never seen themselves in, but still be themselves and still be true to their values and not listen to the critics who wanted them to behave in different ways. So those kinds of people do really inspire me, but I'm also really inspired, just on a day-to-day basis, by a lot of the people that I work with. Particularly my team at the moment. I work with a lot of women who are of a slightly younger generation than me, and I am really inspired by their confidence, their dedication to continuous learning, their resolve and strong sense of self and direction, that I don't feel like I had particularly at their age and where they are in their roles. So I take a lot of inspiration from working with them as well. And being able to help them is one of the most rewarding things I think that I get to do.
Lou: I've worked with your team, from a work capacity in terms of from us to you, because you're one of our clients, and I have to say that I've always been impressed with those of your team that I’ve worked with. They really are rising stars. And actually, I think that they themselves, they get involved with some really interesting projects, but when you speak to them from my perspective - as you being the client and me as the agency side, I'm just really impressed with the calibre of your team and what they're actually doing, and their feedback and how they want things to be done. I think they're really fab too. And I don’t say that because you’re my client!
Zoe: Yes, you have to say that, and I have to say that, no I don’t have to say that because I'm their manager. But actually, I do find that it’s keeping me on my toes. They have knowledge because they've come up through marketing in a different way to me, and I probably talked about this as well, but they have knowledge and experience that I don't have. And they push me to be better all the time, and to learn more because my goal is to make them successful. My success is them being successful, and I listen to them a lot and I've learned such a huge amount from working with them.
Lou: That's really lovely. And I think that when they hear this, they'll really appreciate that as well.
So when you were young, what did you want to be?
Zoe: It’s such a boring cliché for someone working in the publishing industry but a -
Lou: What, a marketer?!
Zoe: No, no. I didn't want to be a marketer, I didn’t even know what that was. I wanted to do something that was oriented in writing and creativity, of course. When I was really young I wanted to be an author, I've always loved books. I've always loved reading. At the time when I was young, before I went to University, I really thought that meant I’d want to be a journalist because journalists are cool and they get to do lots of writing, and it wasn't until I got to University and I joined the student newspaper that like within about three assignments on the student newspaper, I was like, this really isn’t for me; I don't like this at all. But how can I still be involved in the world of the written word and creativity and telling stories? So I think that's how I really ended up in marketing because I love that telling stories piece.
I also really wanted to be, this is going to tell my age now; there used to be a programme on BBC One called The Holiday Programme, and I really wanted to be a presenter on The Holiday Programme because they travelled around to all these exotic resorts and things to encourage people to take holidays abroad. So I really wanted to do that as well. But I love travel too, so I think that's influenced me, even though I didn't end up as a TV presenter on holiday programmes.
Lou: Listen, you could start your own blog. The world is your oyster now.
Zoe: Well, at the moment it's a very small portion of Cambridgeshire as well, but I’m not sure how much of an audience that would get.
Lou: I don't know if you can travel further than we can. In Wales we can only travel five miles. That's quite restrictive.
Zoe: Yes, it's pretty similar here.
Lou: So if you were to have dinner tonight with anybody - alive or dead - anybody in the world, who would it be?
Zoe: So first of all, it would probably be my mum because I really miss seeing my mum, so that would be my number one. But if she wasn't available, I would probably ask the writer and Times columnist Caitlin Moran to join me because I've read all her books. I read her column in the Saturday Times every week. We are the same age roughly and she's so smart and so funny and she's so incisive with her observations. I think we’d just have a real laugh over dinner. I’d like to think she would like me and we'd get along.
Lou: She is funny. She is really funny. I'm listening to her latest book on Audible at the moment, and I listen to her when I run. And I have to say, when I listened to her book, just previous from 2012, I was thinking that some of the things she was saying, I was thinking, hmm, not really quite for me. Some things I found really funny, some things I was thinking not so much. And now listening to her, what was it like nearly 10 years on, and with her latest book –
Zoe: How to be a Woman?
Lou: Yes. Now she's grown, she's adapted, and I'm like: yeah, now we're on the same side. And I don't know if it was me reading as a 40 something-year old, the old version and thinking… but now reading it, I’m going: yes, yes.
Zoe: I listened to that towards the end of last year and it was one of those, like you said about laughing when you are going for a run or for a walk. I was literally walking the dog and thinking if people could hear this, I needed to check my headphones are really on, and I'm laughing my head off, but thinking, ‘Oh my God, I do not want my children to hear this stuff.’
Lou: stuff. Yes, we do have to warn people: she does swear a bit.
Zoe: Absolutely, as a person who's also going into parenting teenagers now, I just find her thoughts on it really helpful.
Lou: And I remember when your daughter was just like a year old.
Zoe: Yeah, she is 14 now.
Lou: I can't believe it.
Zoe: Neither can I. I don’t look old enough.
Lou: Time does fly, doesn't it? So tell me about your career and how you got to where you are today.
Zoe: So I already said a little bit about it: about going to University, thinking I wanted to be a journalist, doing an English and American literature degree because I love reading, love books, love talking to people about books and reading. So when I realized it wasn't for me, journalism, I went to the careers advisors at University, and there were two things that I started investigating more: one was librarianship and the other was a career in publishing. And I thought at the time that where I'd be most happy would be in like commercial fiction publishing industry and it was my initial goal was to start working there.
I left University, and at the time in the mid-‘90s, we were still in a bit of a recession and it was really hard to get jobs. So I actually ended up working in Waterstones Bookshop in central London and absolutely loved it. I loved being a book seller, but the whole reason for working there was to meet all the publishers agents who would come and sell us stuff, because you run your own section and you'd be the buyer for your section, and for them to get to know me and hopefully, if there are openings at publishers, to recommend me for a job. And that's what ended up happening.
I ended up getting my first break in publishing as a Publicity and Marketing Assistant at Castle and Co, working on their nonfiction list. Marketing books about making dolls houses and gardening books with Alan Titchmarsh. And so I did that for a couple of years and then moved into fiction publishing. I was hired as Creative Marketing Assistant for Hodder Headline Publishers, and I was doing fiction marketing. I very quickly realized though, after being in that world just a few years, that probably wasn't right for me. Because as much as I love books and I love reading and I didn't really fit into the mould of the people who worked in that environment. It was all very public-school oriented at the time. I'm sure it's changed since then, but late-‘90s. And I came from a very working-class background and was struggling to live in London on the dreadful salaries that you get paid in commercial publishing. And I believe it's got even worse since then as I hear a lot about the exploitation of work-experience students and things like that. You know, it was a tough market to break into but I realized it wasn't for me, and I actually ended up transitioning into working in legal and regulatory publishing for Butterworths Tolley, who are part of the Reed Elsevier empire.
Lou: Yes. Yes
Zoe: And I really enjoyed that. That was where I really learned a lot more of the nuts and bolts of marketing. Up until then marketing had been very much about writing creative copy to go on adverts, to go on billboards, to write press releases and things. Then when I got into legal and regulatory publishing, that's where I learnt direct mail strategies, lead generation, getting people to adopt books as part of their companies, their law company’s library, and it was a real education in: okay, marketing is more than the fluff -behind the fluff!
Lou: Yes, exactly.
Zoe: And from there I went to work for Elsevier because it was part of the same group and I joined their Health Sciences division. That's when I got my first break as a Marketing Manager. I think one of the things I learned through my career is, certainly in my early days, it was necessary to move around a bit to get promotions. It's very hard in marketing: they're quite flat structures, they always have been to get to the next level.
I got my first role at Elsevier as a Marketing Manager, managing their Health Sciences list. I really enjoyed that role but wanted to move out of London. I started looking around and that's how I found ProQuest, where I've been for 15 years since. They are based in Cambridge - for those people who don't know - and it was an area of publishing that I didn't even know existed when I got the job. I had no idea. But it was a kind of real opportunity for me to marry my early interest in librarianship with the publishing industry, with academic publishing, and what I really like about this area is that sense of there's meaning to what you do: you're helping researchers. There's a real kind of mission around enabling those researchers and research discoveries to happen, and hopefully opportunities for people to fulfil their own academic and career opportunities by doing this study. By the way, I hope you can’t hear my dog snoring?
Lou: No, no I can’t. As we said just before we started this, we both have dogs in the room and mine jumped off the sofa, wandered in front, knocked my light, wandered over there. I was thinking ‘shut up’!
Zoe: Mine’s snoring really loudly! She’s a tiny dog but she’s like a train!
Lou: She’s contented bless her. She’s content. So if anyone hears any kind of, you know, [snoring noise]…
Lou: we’re guessing that is your dog!
Zoe: So that's how I ended up at ProQuest where I've been for 15 years. I worked in various different roles. Starting out in product marketing, as you know because we worked together in Product Marketing. That was called Strategic Marketing at the time, and then from there I moved into a new role they created called Segment Planning, and that's when I got my first break as a Director. That was a role that ProQuest created around looking at market trends and market sizing and market opportunity for direction, it was much more of a strategy role than a marketing role. I learnt a huge amount doing that around strategy, and again storytelling, being able to communicate to C-Suite about what they should do and be able to convince them of your arguments.
And then for the last three-four years nearly, I've been leading the EMEA Regional Marketing organization for the company. So combining regional marketing field marketing tactics and also market development, kind of which was how Segment Planning really evolved into.
Lou: Yes. I think for me that strategic marketing team that we were in, for me, was an absolute life-changer in my career. And it was probably I would say, apart from what I do now, but from a client side, it was one of the most valuable experiences I've ever had and it completely changed me as a person. It was, it really was an incredible team and I've never experienced anything like it since. I don't know if I ever will again, but there are so many things I've taken from that time that I now very much implement in what I do moving forward. It was just such a good team.
Zoe: I think you're right. It was such a revelation and a foundational role for me because it combined strategy and planning with field marketing tactics. In my previous roles it being very tactical, just like sending out campaigns, trying to get leads back in, Elsevier trying to get people to adopt our nursing textbooks. But this role really did say, ‘Right. Okay, you've got this region. You've got this product set you are responsible for – like what's your plan?’ And that like that really has made a huge difference: that close engagement with working with product teams, with working with sales organizations and trying to make both pieces successful, both strategically and on tactics to drive engagement. It's really helped me through. I go back to those foundations repeatedly and I still use a lot of those things that we learnt.
Lou: learned. It was a game-changer, wasn't it?
Lou: It really was.
So what have you been most proud of in your career?
Zoe: So I think the thing that I've been most proud of has been the opportunities, both formally and informally, I've had to do mentoring and coaching. That's one of the things that I most enjoy, particularly as I've had more opportunity to do it more formally as a team leader. But also, all the informal opportunities I've been given since the early days of my career really. Since basically when I got a Marketing Execs role at Butterworths Tolley, I volunteered to be the person who supported the work experience students when they came in. And I used that more than just task-based, but quickly saw an opportunity to coach these people, build their confidence, help them identify what they wanted to do next in their career, and help them get the most out of the experiences they were having.
Since then, ProQuest has a mentoring scheme. I've been a mentee in it, and I've been a mentor on it. I've done some mentoring for some women at work charities where they work with people in third world. Women in third world countries who are starting their own businesses and things. It is totally removed from my own experience, but really, people who just need someone to listen to them and believe in them. And it's amazing how just being in someone's corner and telling them you think they're doing is great and helping them unblock whatever problem that is - and I don't unblock it for them. I don't tell them what to do. But helping them think through things in ways that they've not thought through before to unblock something and come to a bit of a self-revelation sometimes. Sometimes it's very small and sometimes it's very transformative. These people have gone on to have success in different areas, not always in marketing; one of the people I mentored went on to start her own company. Another person that I was lucky enough to mentor is now a published author. Other people have been just people within marketing roles. I think that's one of the most rewarding things to get involved in is helping you grow your experiences, but also lifting up other people and helping build their confidence and self-belief.
Lou: Love that and I love that phrase, ‘lifting up other people.’ I do mentoring stuff too and it does make you feel like you're making real difference for someone. If there's something that you've learned along the way that you can pass on, it's incredible. And now that you say that, that sounds absolutely brilliant. Are there any of the charities that you want to name to recommend so that people can get in touch? I tend to find that it's harder for there to be mentors. There are generally usually a lot of mentees looking for someone.
Zoe: Yes. This is a problem. I'll send you the links afterwards in the chat. There's a Dr. Sam Collinswho does a lot of this and puts people in touch with mentors and mentees.
Lou: Great. We can include that in our description. That would be perfect, yeah thanks so much that would be fab. So, what have you found the most challenging in your career? Working… [laughing], being my boss?
Zoe: [Laughing]…ah no not quite. Being your boss wasn't the most challenging experience.
Lou: Dam it!
Zoe: You tried! Some of the most challenging experiences, like as we talked earlier, I really get inspired by the people I work with. I like them to challenge me, like you challenge me just as much as anybody. And that makes you better, it makes me better being challenged in those things. Just because I'm the leader of the team, I don’t have all the answers. I'm perfectly prepared to be vulnerable about that kind of stuff and have other people's. I want to take other people's ideas. I don't want to run with mine because quite often mine are quite rubbish, but if I can help someone else run with theirs, that's good.
But no, the most challenging, and you might be able to relate to this, but for me it's been navigating a path as somebody who's a career-oriented woman and also a mother of two children who I adore, obviously. But when I had Juliette 14 years ago, I didn't have any role models or anyone in my peer group who was planning to do the same thing as me and go back to work full-time and try and have a career. Everybody that I met in my parenting groups and in my social circles they were planning to go back to work part-time and take a backseat on their careers for the next 10-15 years, until at least their children got to secondary school, and I wasn't planning to do that, and I didn't have anyone to talk to or relate to.
My Mum had given up work, you know, in the ‘70s. She worked in publishing. She gave up work as soon as she had me and my brother, and then until we were teenagers she did invoicing for my Dad's company. So I didn't have anyone. Andi's just trying to find my own path for what's going to work for me, and be successful and manage the guilt you get on both sides. I spent a lot of time listening to different people who've now, having found podcasts and things, there's so much more information out there about how people are navigating this. I think there's so much better support now for women in the workplace. Not that I'm saying that my company were bad about it. But there wasn't really anybody in a similar situation to me when I started going through this.
And I travel for work and I've always travelled for work and I'm really fortunate that I have a very supportive partner who's always supported me in my career ambitions. And I have kids now, who, because I travelled a lot for work when they were small, were quite independent early on; and Juliette could do her own hair by the time she was five-years old because she hated it when I was away for work and her dad did it. But at the same time, just managing and finding the right path for me and the right balance between working and parenting. And the fact that there is no easy answer.
Lou: Yes, it is very challenging and it's very hard to prioritize yourself, because suddenly you are just not a priority anymore. But you've got to find your way, like you said. But then Zoe, you've done an amazing job on the path that you've taken and what you've done. You've always been an incredibly solid innovative performer, and you clearly know what you're doing, and that’s the reason that you've actually remained in ProQuest, despite the organizational shifts and changes, is because you're very adaptive to different environments and also you really see where you need to be going and what you need to be doing. So, you know, credit to you for that.
And as a late mum, as…as the term is coined when you have children later on in life, as a ‘geriatric’ mother, what you say really resonates with me now because my daughter is three it’s like [eye opening].
Zoe: It was really nice of you to say that as I don't think I always felt like I knew what I was doing - fake it till you make it.
Lou: Well, you faked it really well!
Zoe: I didn’t always feel 100% confident in what I was doing and there were challenging days when you're going to work and you're dropping your child at nursery and they're screaming their head off. Like now, I ask my kids about that and they're like, ‘I don't know what you’re talking about; I loved nursery.’
Lou: They don't remember.
Zoe: It's so fascinating; I remember the torture of leaving them when they were really young. I remember I have missed some of their small milestones: first sports day, I missed when Juliette had her leavers’ assembly before going to secondary school, and you know those things I always feel slightly guilty about, but my kids don't feel bad about it and they don't know anything different. And so I feel really quite reassured by the fact that it's not bothered them as much as I tortured myself when they were small, that it was going to bother them.
Lou: That’s life, isn't it. Zoe though? We can't be expected to be there for everything, and when they're older, you won't want them to feel like that when they have children, or if they have children.
Lou: It's okay you know.
Zoe: Exactly, and it took me a long time and a lot of work and seeing a couple of therapists to help me come to terms with that and like not feel guilty about the fact that I really was passionate about my job and the people I work with. That's another thing, when it comes back to helping people, I now work with people on my team with young children and I think it really helps me, that I can really empathize with the situation that they find themselves in and hope that I can reassure them in a way that won't make them feel the way that I felt sometimes when I was dealing with those situations. It's a challenge that keeps evolving
Zoe: Because now they are older you might think they need you less, but in some ways they need you more than when they were tiny, and they're going to remember these years a lot more clearly.
Lou: I think it’s…, one of the most poignant things that my business mentor Nathan Farrugia has said to me is, ‘It's not about work-life balance. It's actually about quality’. So you could spend a morning with your kids and be doing stuff and they're around, but actually, rather than spending four hours doing that and being distracted by working or whatever, actually if you spend an hour and you sat down as a family and did something like play the exploding kitten card game, something like that, that hour of valuable concentrated time will mean so much more to them than a whole morning or a whole day where you're kind of there but not there.
Zoe: Yes, that work-life balance thing - it's rubbish. It's the same as the, ‘You can't have it all.’ It's all rubbish and it's just there to make women particularly feel bad. Yes, you're right: it's about the quality not the quantity of the time, that you spend with your kids, I hope it is anyway because I only had an hour and half a day to spend on home school, so it better be quality not quantity.
Lou: It depends what their output is, and I hope that you're measuring their output so that’s fine.
Zoe: Yes absolutely.
Lou: Oh we’re such marketers aren’t we. So, bearing in mind that you are a senior director now, what is your ultimate career goal?
Zoe: I never had career goals, like never. I've always just followed what seems really interesting to me because it's curiosity that drives me rather than career opportunities. I'm driven by: is this interesting? Can I get engaged in it? Like what can I learn. So I am very happy with what I do now; I am in a position where I can do the things that I really care about in terms of culture and supporting others and coaching and mentoring. I also act as the site lead for Cambridge as well so I have an opportunity to do things outside of marketing that I really care about, like influencing company culture and the type of organization that I want to work for. So I really am in a comfortable happy place where I'm still being stretched every day and learning new things, but also getting to bring new things into marketing. Because I think marketing is changing so fast right now, it’s this kind of steam train running through and you've got to keep catching up with it like constantly. So my career goal is to stay on top of that basically, and yes, just to carry on having that opportunity to have some influence over helping people and culture.
Lou: Brilliant. So, if you weren’t doing your role now and money was absolutely no object, what would you be?
Zoe: I'd think be more than one thing. I think I would probably be studying. I would love to be back…, I don't want to do postgraduate anything.
Lou: You ‘d be an academic, wouldn't you?
Zoe: Well, I think I’d like to be doing more undergraduate degrees, being a student, I don’t particularly want to be an academic. But I would love to study more history, social history. I'd like to study some more aspects of business, like some of the social psychology around business and advertising, those aspects.
I think I'd be doing that. I'd also - this is a bit off the wall -but I've always really really had this thing for the humble British hedgehog.
Lou: Oh yes, I remember from Facebook, you had one.
Zoe: Yes so there's a local lady who runs a hedgehog rescue centre, and my family we foster a hedgehog every winter that would be too small to hibernate. So I think I'd probably be running some kind of hedgehog sanctuary and hedgehog hospital because - you laugh but hedgehogs are truly an endangered species in the UK.
Lou: No no I love it!
Zoe: It is our lifestyles and the way we build housing developments and things that is just destroying their population because they can't roam and meet other hedgehogs and make hedgehog babies.
Lou: I love them. I wish I saw more of them, I and I actually don't see any.
Zoe: No, hardly any, unless they're being rescued. There's less than one million left in the country now
Zoe: Their populations have declined from, I think 20 years ago there were 10 million of them. So they're truly endangered. I would be probably doing something mad. I'd be like a mad hedgehog lady.
Lou: Credit to you. I think I'll be right there with you. And actually, I do remember seeing that on Facebook and it's interesting you saying that it was a local woman to you, and we're not in the same country: you are in England and I'm a Wales, but that makes me feel like I should get in contact as I’ve got big enough garden here. I should get in contact with them and see if there's a local charity because I was really inspired when I saw you do that. I just thought, what a lovely thing to do.
Zoe: Well, that's the thing with the hedgehog rescue is it is all people with either land or big garden sheds who are just like independently, like there's very little coordinating effort to save hedgehogs. It’s a grassroots. People are just rescuing them and becoming the person that people take the hedgehog to. So it's a big grassroots organization, which gives me hope, and I would love to play a bigger role in it if I could.
Lou: You never know - one day you might move to a house with a bigger garden and actually run a hedgehog sanctuary, even while you're working, who knows?
Zoe: Exactly. Yes, there is that hope.
Lou: So um, now, which three inspiring professional books would you say are a must-read for a marketer, and why?
Zoe: I'm going to say and confess out loud: I'm not a big reader of professional books.
Lou: You are the third interview that we’ve done, you are the third person to say that, so you're not alone.
Zoe: There are a couple of books that I have really enjoyed. I don't know if this first one properly classifies as a professional book, but there is a data journalist called David McCandless, and he has a website called Information is Beautiful and he's also written two books called Information is Beautiful. And when we talk about telling stories, increasingly these days as marketers, we have to tell stories with data. And he has…charts are really boring, can be very confusing, but he has like cornered this whole area of the market around visualizing data concepts in ways that people can understand. So he has this famous graphic called the Billion Dollar Gram, and it basically shows what a billion dollars looks like in terms of how much government spend on defence vs education.
We see these big numbers all the time: the governments talk about, we’re giving $300 million or £300 million to education - that's a drop in the ocean compared to how much they spend on defence, but you have no way of relating these things together. He does these amazing beautiful graphics, again, I'll send you the link to his website because he's actually done some visualisations around COVID.
I found sometimes, when I'm having to put together presentation decks, which I seem to spend increasing amount of my time on for either like customers….
Lou: Still? [Laughing]
Zoe: Yes I know! Or leadership teams, I quite often will go back to his books to look for ideas. Some of the stuff he does is really wacky and off the wall, kind of data visualization and there are some sensible business books about how to do a great bar chart, but like I really, that telling stories with data, is so important, and being able to show someone something and not have to explain a chart to them is crucial. So I go back to him a lot and flick through his books when I'm feeling like I'm struggling for an idea for something I've got to present.
So I definitely recommend that. Not specifically a marketing book, but when I got my latest role about four years ago, my boss gave me a book called The First 90 days, and I have to remind myself who it's by - by Michael Watkins, and it's a really good book for someone taking up a new role in a leadership position. It just walks you through a step-by-step process for the first 90 days in a new role. Because that first 90 days, as we all know, is so crucial to set you up for success longer-term. There are so many pitfalls that you can make and so many things you can do in that first 90 days that you just don't know at the time. So I used that book quite a lot when I was kind of walking through how to do this new role.
So those would be two that I would recommend. I'm much more of a fan of reading articles, short articles in Inc, Wired, or HBR or whatever, or the EIU. I much prefer reading articles rather than whole books.
Lou: We’re time poor now aren’t we?
Zoe: I do like reading biographies and things.
Lou: Yes, we're very time poor now aren’t we so we need stuff that's easily digestible, and actually, reading books is quite hard. I’ve been listening to, I read a book recently - Who Moved My Cheese? I think it is. It’s a really interesting book about change management. I’m not going to go and explain it.
Zoe: You’ll have to send it to me if you think it’s an engaging read.
Lou: It's very short as well. I listened to it on Audible. Yeah, it's super short. It’s literally like as a book, it’s like that.
Zoe: I like business books like that.
Lou: When you look at it on Audible and it says it is one and a half hours you’re like, yes that will do me!
Zoe: That’s one run for you isn’t it?!
Lou: Yes exactly, my marathon training, definitely. So what's your most favourite book, podcast, blog, whatever, and why? There’s the dog jumping off the sofa!
Zoe: That’s fine, that’s fine. Can I have three podcasts?
Lou: You can whatever, have as many as you like.
Zoe: The first podcast is one that's definitely work-related, and is one of those alternatives to reading professional business books. It's a great podcast called How to be Awesome at Your Job. And it's been going for ages. It’s the guy who does the podcast is called - I'm going to say his surname wrong - I think it's Pete Mockaitis. It doesn't look like that, it looks like Pete Mackato. He interviews people who've written professional business books about marketing or about leadership, or all sorts of different topics. And that interview basically saves you reading the book. He produces every week a little blog post which is called Gold Nugget, and it basically is the one page view of the key takeaways from that interview. So you don't even need to listen to the podcast, but there is such a library for whatever business situation you're stuck in, you can go to his website and you'll find like multiple really amazing speakers. And he does great podcast interviews. So I really recommend that.
I also really like, and this is more of a personal thing, but actually it does cross over with work-life balance, is a podcast called Postcards From the Midlife, and it's by Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin. And they're both former magazine editors, and they talk about, it's really relatable to me; it's professional women who've had amazing careers, well not amazing careers, but professional women who now have teenagers, now find themselves at a pivotal moment, as you are kind of like heading into your 50s. Pivotal moment in your life around change. They are extremely funny and they're sometimes quite rude, but also, there are some real gems of information and they get great speakers on it. It's all about managing that midlife transition that many women go through.
The last one that I've always really enjoyed is the Feel Better, Live More podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee. He's a doctor but also a real lifestyle medicine person and he too gets amazing people every week from different walks of life in health, fitness, nutrition, mental health areas around this whole concept of, if you feel better, you live more. Love those podcasts.
Lou: Fantastic, you've given us some really great recommendations there and I'm sure that people will have some really good fun listening to those. They sound really really good.
And so if you could travel back in a time machine, I mean one day they'll probably exist, what would you tell your early-career self?
Zoe: So I think I’d tell my early career self to stop stressing out over my failures. Like, I think there's an acronym now they teach in school and I wish they’d taught it to us. And you might hear this when Poppy gets a bit older: FAIL: first attempt in learning - that's what they say: a fail is a first attempt in learning, and you have to fail before you can succeed. You will learn more from your failures than from your successes. And I wish I had known that when I was much younger and didn't sweat that stuff quite so much when things didn't work out as I planned. It’s like the only person judging me was me.
So we have a real culture in our marketing organization, from my boss down, like that. Testing and failing is completely welcome. And we want to review and discuss failures in meetings as much as we want to discuss successes. It's really about learning from those experiences. You know I don't think I was in companies that had that culture back in the early days. But that culture really has transformed the way I know my team think about taking risks and pushing things because they know that they're not going to get into trouble if something doesn't work. They know that we're going to learn from it and we're going to move on and we're going to try something different.
Zoe: So I wish I'd known that and I wish I could tell myself: chill, it's okay.
Lou: Absolutely. I think the worst thing is Zoe, is if you make a mistake and you keep making the same mistake and you don't learn and adapt and you don't be agile. Some marketeers will say to me, you know I’ve always done this. Because I'll ask the question and I'll say, ‘The marketing that you've just done,’ if it's a specific campaign or something, I’ll say, ‘Are you proud of that?’ And they'll go, ‘No, not really, but I've done it because I've always done it and I don't really have time not to do it.’ and then it's about changing a mindset and saying, actually, change what you're doing. Test it. If it's not working, put it back to what you were doing before. It's absolutely fine. And like you said, it's about learning from your mistakes. I find it sad in, let's say, a research community where scientists are discouraged from publishing negative results because if they do that how is the community, that research community supposed to move forward if they all keep making the same mistakes? So yes, absolutely.
Zoe: Negative results. I think finally, negative results are being recognized as important.
Zoe: Everything that we do as a team we talk and we evaluate afterwards. What went well? What didn't work? Okay. This didn't work. What are you going to try next?
Zoe: Those are the conversation the managers and team members have with everything that we do. There's a real culture of test, put something out in the market, reset, test, reset. Nothing comes out. I'd rather have something imperfect go out into market as a test than people spend ages planning something, making it fully baked, having a huge holistic plan and everything they're going to roll out because if the first thing fails then everything else fails. So that test and iterate is just so important in marketing these days; to find the right spot and find the channel or the message or whatever that someone's going to do what you want them to do. The call to actions are so important these days, and so we are not afraid as a team to do that
Lou: That’s fantastic.
Zoe: But it has to be embedded in the culture.
Lou: Oh absolutely, and it's really, really great to hear that you've got such an agile mindset there and that your team is doing that. That's very important. So what piece of advice, or what is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
Zoe: The best piece of advice I've ever been given – wow - I've had so much advice over the years on so many topics. One of the things that I talk a lot with people that I'm mentoring or coaching with is about comfort zones. And one of the things that sticks with me is that a comfort zone is a fine place, but nothing grows there. Yes, quite often people are afraid of making change, of taking the next step, of putting themselves out there, because they exist in a comfort zone and they feel safe there and they feel supported and they like their role and they like their teammates and they don't want to put themselves forward for a project or something. But the best piece of advice I was ever given, and I think it's why I've been able to pivot so much and change at ProQuest, is to continually push myself out of my comfort zone just a little.
This idea that the more you take those tiny steps out of your comfort zone, your comfort zone just keeps growing bigger and bigger and then your experiences will be broader. You'll take more opportunities to learn. Every tiny step out of the comfort zone will bring you more confidence to do the next thing and the next thing. That has been really helpful advice for me, especially working in marketing where this environment is so so… like if I went back to the 1990s when I first started out here, it's unrecognizable.