Alice Mcginn Planning partner,  Grey London; McGinn featured in Campaign’s Faces to Watch in 2013
Alice Mcginn Planning partner, Grey London; McGinn featured in Campaign’s Faces to Watch in 2013
A view from Alice McGinn

'Be open to serendipitous opportunities', says Grey London's Alice McGinn

My career has had an element of serendipity about it.

When I started out as a graduate at DDB, I found planning to be a "dark art" with an output that was supposed to be invisible to the naked eye. Unconvinced, I left and went to work at a major London art gallery. But planning is strangely addictive so I gave it another chance. I returned to the industry in 2009 and spent some time at Leagas Delaney before joining Mother as a strategist. While there
I was nominated as a Face to Watch, primarily for the work I had done with the 10 Downing Street and Steve Hilton, then David Cameron’s director of strategy, to create the "GREAT Britain" campaign. 

New challenges beckoned so in 2014 I joined Grey as planning partner, initially working as part of the team that secured the Vodafone account. I also gained experience of global pieces of Procter & Gamble business.

So where am I now? In my Faces to Watch interview, I rather grandly said: "My career so far has had an element of serendipity about it and so I want to leave part of my future open to that." Oddly, I’ve somehow managed to stay true to that. I’ve always had an interest in fashion and retail so when an opportunity arose earlier this year to work on one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, I took it and I now split my week between Grey London and Germany.

And what have I learnt since Faces to Watch? Words aren’t my thing so I’m going to do this as a list:

If you’re in a network, use it. Adventures await.

Seek out the most interesting people in your agency. Find ways to work with them.

Take work seriously but not personally. Caring less is liberating.

An absence of ‘yes’ multiplied by time equals ‘no’. Get things in writing.

Prioritise what interests you. Ten years into this job, there are moments when it can feel like a production line so prioritise what interests you above anything else.

Go outside your comfort zone. One benefit of my unorthodox Anglo-German arrangement is that having leadership responsibility in a different country, in an office that isn’t my own, provides a greater degree of exposure.

Find a speed-mentor. Good people don’t have time for open-ended, navel-gazing chats over coffee about your future, so find the person who will give you five minutes of practical advice when you need it.

Energy and enthusiasm. Bring them to every project.

Management is predominantly HR + admin.

You can’t cry and whistle at the same time.

What’s next? I’ll be joining WPP’s Stella programme this month, where I’ll get to work with talented senior women from across our industry. So serendipitous opportunities doubtless lie ahead.

Alice McGinn is planning partner at Grey London; she featured in Campaign's Faces to Watch in 2013