A view from Abi Morrish

Be provocative and make risky decisions, advises MEC's Abi Morrish

MEC's digital engagement chief recalls the adage, "Well-behaved women never made history."

Contributing to Lessons from the Ladder forced me to consider what having "made it" means and what actually exists atop the mythical, mysterious ladder.

This year, I was lucky to be placed in Media Week’s 30 Under 30 and WPP’s high-potential group, and shortlisted for Media Week’s Rising Star. I was also delighted to have my work on the Netflix FOMOmeter scoop various awards, including a Cannes shortlist nomination.

I’m also one of the youngest business directors leading the digital engagement team at MEC Wavemaker. Do I feel like I’m close to making it? Not at all. I couldn’t feel further away from being "made".

My belief that nothing’s ever truly finished or completed has formulated the lessons I followed while ascending the rungs.

Never call yourself a good manager

People management remains one of the toughest beasts to tame. As soon as you think it’s fully domesticated, it will bite your arm off.

People management is intensely personal, complex and unique – you can’t afford to be complacent where the game and the players constantly change. Always rate yourself as average in this area and be constantly critical.

Have a 'minor' subject

Your career should emulate your first year at university where, alongside your main degree subject, you studied a minor subject.

I have my core role in digital engagement, but my minor is the work I do with the people and culture teams about millennial management and diversity. Develop new skills and show you can add value to other areas of the business.

Build your personal board

No one person excels in all the attributes and experiences required for your personal development, and your boss shouldn’t shoulder the responsibility of being superhuman.

Seek out people around your business who have knowledge you can borrow. It’s like shopping – you wouldn’t necessarily buy your prime steak from the same place you would purchase your long-stem organic broccoli. Step out of Tesco and find specialist mentors to help fill the gaps.

Love your fuck-ups

Remember messing up so bad you can’t even trust yourself to make a cup of tea afterwards and, from that day on, you live with that omnipresent modicum of fear?

That fear is your friend. It makes you more cautious and more creative in ensuring you avoid the error again. My past mistakes are often the first place I look when I’m trying to find a solution to move forward.

Be a little bit naughty

Don’t be afraid to challenge, be provocative and make some risky hires and decisions. Sometimes you need to beg for forgiveness rather than ask permission to force change and get the result you need. As the saying goes, "Well-behaved women never made history."

My biggest piece of advice would be to treat your career and capabilities as a permanent "work in progress". And don’t just take my word for it. When I asked Paul Hutchison, chief operating officer at MEC, if he felt he’d made it, he replied: "In short, no – and I don’t think I ever will." Here’s to the infinite climb.

Abi Morrish is the digital engagement business director at MEC. Morrish was featured in Media Week's 30
Under 30 in 2016.