Karen Blackett in conversation with Nadja Bellan-White

  • Jordie Wildin
  • Amie Snow
In March this year, the Ogilvy Roots team organised the first in-conversation piece with WPP’s first UK Country Lead, Karen Blackett, and Ogilvy EMEA’s EVP Global Brand Management, Nadja Bellan-White.
Key highlights below from the event (as blogged by Suzanne Basra, Ogilvy Internal Comms):
Practicing Cognitive Diversity
“From the moment I entered the industry, cognitive diversity is something I've always tried to push”. Karen's opening remarks highlight what has always been an issue close to her heart - she has long championed diversity throughout the industry.
In terms of cognitive diversity, for Karen embracing diversity is not about picking a single silo and doing something in it, or about calculating the return. She argued for the importance of embracing cultural diversity on a practical level, from the bottom-up and the top-down. The business benefit? Diversity is good for business and she believes “doing good and making profit are not mutually exclusive”.
Fishing from a Diverse Talent Pool
A champion for bringing diverse talent into the industry, Karen believes that to achieve true diversity “we have to start fishing in different ponds”. Recognising that shaking up what are sometimes age-old recruitment practices can be a challenging concept for some, Karen believes the way to overcome this is through integration and collaboration.
She encourages her, often senior teams, to “hang out with people”. Within WPP, there is a huge amount of opportunity to network, and more importantly, to learn from colleagues across a huge network. Karen observed that where we see horizontality outside of a new business pitch scenario is in our personal relationships. Echoing this approach, Nadja believes recruiting diverse talent is an opportunity for a business to walk forwards together.
Personal Branding is Important
As the leader of personal branding workshops designed to propel women onto the boards of their companies and through the doors of FTSE 100 businesses, Karen encourages anyone wanting to take the next step in their career to find their personal brand.
She identifies four questions to help you find what your personal brand is - ask yourself: what am I good at, what are my values, what contribution do I make, and how do I intend to be judged? Have a personal brand and use this to propel you forwards.
Advice for Future Leaders
An advocate for taking your career into your own hands, Karen advises those wanting to climb the ladder to state what they want. “It’s your job to tell your HR department what your next role should be. Don’t wait to be asked” she advises. And remember to always spend your time with those who push you. Karen believes in spending time with the people who make you fly, not fall.
While the times in which we live and work are still not entirely equal, Nadja has words of advice for anyone wanting to climb the ladder but who is worried about their options within an environment lacking diversity. Her advice is simple: “Let your excellence tell the story. You can't argue with results”.
The Ogilvy Roots Team
Blog write up - Suzanne Basra - Ogilvy Comms


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