Our learnings: DLG's Chilvers, Wavemaker's Hutchison and the7stars' Clarke

As a new, free and accredited online training course - TV Masters from Thinkbox - gets underway, three industry leaders reveal how they build learning into their professional and personal lives. Why it matters to them, what strategies they use to learn when they are at their busiest, and how they hope to inspire those on the way up to broaden their skills and get the learning bug

Kerry Chilvers, brands director, DLG

For me, every day is a learning day.  It’s where I get my energy from.  Meeting new people, listening to views that challenge my thinking and make me curious to know more, are a huge source of motivation. 

When I reflect on times where I’ve enjoyed myself the most – either at home or work – it’s always been when I’ve been learning new things and embracing new experiences.  Don’t get me wrong, learning comes with inevitable challenge too (as my husband would agree having taught me how to ski!), but the moment I’m foolish enough to think we’ve nailed it, and have nothing more to learn, it’s game over.   

At Direct Line we have a huge focus on learning and development.  It’s critical if we’re to deliver brilliant work, and if we’re to recruit, grow and keep brilliant people.  Everyone has tailored learning plans that are rooted in what they want to get out of their career, be that in the coming six months or longer term.  We run training sessions on topics that have wide appeal, encourage our subject matter experts to run teach-ins, help find mentors, and support our people if they want to work towards professional qualifications. 

I’ve had to adapt my learning style since working from home.  The last seven months have been so busy, learning has too often been pushed to the bottom of the priority list. But a few months into lockdown, I realised how much I missed it, and since then I’ve set aside time each month to spend being curious and learning new things. I can’t see it as a luxury to only be enjoyed when there’s time; it is an integral part of my job to learn and bring new ideas in. 

I do worry that working from home makes it more difficult for us all to learn, especially for those earlier on in their career.  Over the years I’ve learnt so much by observing and listening to people more experienced than me, and so much of that is picked up by osmosis in the office environment. Not yet figured out how to create some of that remotely! 

It’s also important as we look to develop more marketing generalists.  For years we’ve focused on specialisms, mainly as we got to grips with digital channels.  But it’s important that we have marketers who can think and work broadly too, and we encourage our people to learn about channels they’re not experienced in so they can build a wider perspective.  

Paul Hutchison, CEO, Wavemaker

As a keen sportsman, some might call me training-obsessed. Competition today is less against others but more against myself.

Most mornings start with a swim. I used to just get in and bash out at least 120 lengths at the Oasis in Covent Garden before work but I never seemed to get any faster or more efficient. An hour lesson later and I had four or five drills that now take centre stage most mornings. My stroke is better and I am 10% faster every length in 10% fewer strokes.

This isn’t an approach I only follow in my personal life. I’m committed to getting better every day professionally and there’s nothing like practice to help me on my way. But, for me, practice only works best when you have new, different and provocative approaches to test out. A natural introvert with imposter syndrome in bucket loads, I’ve learnt to embrace new ways of doing things and trying out new approaches – hopefully at the right time.

At Wavemaker, we are committed to offering the very best training and development we can through a range of structured programmes and on the job learning. We find that, with this blend, we are able to build a team of positive provocateurs, brilliantly equipped to help our clients find growth.

Finding time for training has proved a real challenge this year with our lives busier than ever. To help me protect training time, I now ensure that I tell my team and my clients when I have training. I’m yet to find anyone who has objected to me investing in my personal learning and development. It makes sense that if I become a better partner for our clients and leader for our people, that investment works for all of us.

I’ve been working for over 20 years now and I think learning and development and, critically, progression have changed significantly. I used to think about a linear route: get some experience, learn the necessary skills and knowledge, and get ready for the next step.

Today, I think it is far more organic and, I often think, similar to Super Mario. I always encourage Wavemakers to think about how they can "collect" knowledge and experiences to provide them with the best platform for growth.

When considering their next role or two, I ask them to think about what that next role can best add to their skillset and maybe prepare them for where they want to get to. Don’t only think about the next role - think maybe three or four roles ahead and consider how you will excel in that role and what experiences will best prepare you for that.

Having said that, I also encourage everyone to enjoy the role they are in today. None of us know what the future holds; 2020 has taught us that, for sure. 

Anuschka Clarke, managing partner, the7stars

From a personal point of view, I think the best training comes from working with experts.

Learning from those around you is vital and great leadership and expertise play a hugely important role in the skills and development growth of any individual.

At the7stars, we understand that training is very personal and shouldn’t be an off-the-shelf plan. We focus on building a programme tailored around an individual’s needs. For it to work and benefit those involved, it has to be personalised.

Lockdown certainly made us adapt some of our training initiatives. One way in which we did this was with a weekly training newsletter. While there has never been so many virtual events and webinars for people to tune into, providing focus and guidance for individuals was crucial. This newsletter highlighted the best training initiatives available that week – both internally and externally – allowing people to prioritise their time and develop their own learning. This has proved especially crucial for those on furlough or new to the agency.

An individual’s knowledge and understanding of our evolving sector has had to develop at great speed, which has, in turn, meant experience in either one or multiple areas of media advancing at a phenomenal pace.

The dichotomy between specialist and generalist still plays out. We spend a great deal of time training and developing our teams so that everyone knows the fundamentals of each medium, but as the media landscape rapidly evolves, we value specialist expertise more than ever.

At the7stars, the path to progression is open to all – with no job titles, it’s based purely on merit which is rewarded with responsibility, not a fancy (bull****) job title. This, we’ve seen over the last 15 years, is what makes for better development, performance and happiness.

The team here is always hungry to learn, and so I think it’s great that Thinkbox has set up TV Masters. Thinkbox has always flown the flag for the medium and helping agencies and clients understand the intricacies of AV can only be a benefit to our industry.

TV Masters is the UK’s fully accredited TV advertising course, created by Thinkbox in collaboration with broadcasters, advertisers and agencies to help boost critical TV advertising knowledge and skills across the industry.
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