Sara Holt, vice-president of marketing, BBC Store

In an era where major brands are seeking to inject a start-up mentality into their businesses, Sara Holt is a marketer on the right side of the curve. She joined the BBC from Hailo, where she was head of marketing for the UK, leading the development of marketing and communications at the taxi app.

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Comfortable in her own skin, while Holt doesn’t identify herself as a Maverick, there is no denying her entrepreneurial spirit. But how did she translate the culture of a start-up to an established brand like the BBC? 

"If you work at a start-up, you need energy, tenaciousness and the ability to get shit done, and this is just as important in established companies. The key is, don’t take limitations as a given and kick down the doors you need to," she says.

The culture of the BBC was also a big draw. "It does give a lot of creative freedom," adds Holt. Crucially, the organisation also benefits from an array of dynamic, energetic and approachable role models forging ahead in their careers on their own terms.

Holt believes that more diverse role models for women are "absolutely critical" when it comes to better addressing the exodus of female talent from the industry. She explains: "I struggled with finding a role model to identify with after having my first child.

I struggled with finding a role model. It’s not simply about the lack of women, it is about having understanding leaders

It’s not simply about the lack of women, it is about having authentic and understanding leaders, whether they are men or women. But I looked at the senior men around me and I didn’t want to be like them."

The start-up culture had its benefits: notably, it was free of the outdated presenteeism that fuels a suffocating and unhealthy culture at so many of the UK’s biggest businesses. "People need to stop thinking about flexibility as a ‘woman’s issue’," contends Holt.

"Anything I would give to a woman in my team I would also do for men. Parenting happens to men and women, and we need to address it as more of a 50:50 issue."

At a time when technology means the world is speeding up significantly, marketers have an increasing ability to work where and when they like. Yet this ‘always-on’ culture is not without potential pitfalls. "One of the first things I would say to marketers starting out is to chill out," explains Holt. "Really slow down, calm down and listen to your instincts."

She believes that ensuring that you are in a company with the right culture and respect for marketing is crucial. "If something feels right, just do it; and likewise, if things don’t feel right, trust your instincts," she adds.

The power of speaking your mind

Working in such an emotionally driven and creative industry, women should not shy away from speaking up and listening to their feelings, rather than automatically dismissing them.

"I would say to women, trust your instincts more; men speak with such authority and credibility, even if they haven’t done the work. Have confidence in yourself." 

Holt’s personal blend of confidence and energy is infectious; a Digital Maverick who is just as focused on empowering others as boosting her own impressive career trajectory. 

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