Inspirational Woman: Joanna Abeyie | Journalist and Founder & Director Of Hyden

Joanna Abeyie is an award-winning, agenda-setting Diversity champion and recruiter, social campaigner, TV executive, broadcaster and journalist. Aged just 29, Joanna’s TV productions saw her recognised among Broadcast Magazine’s Hotshots of 2016. She founded the award-winning creative industry diverse talent recruitment business Shine Media in 2009, which recently morphed into Hyden as part of leading global recruiter SThree PLC.


Hyden is a champion of diverse senior leadership talent in the creative industries, it leads the industry in providing innovative and unique services such as management on-boarding and post-placement mentoring.

Having helped to place more than 3,000 people from diverse backgrounds in permanent and freelance jobs in the creative industries, it is Joanna’s efforts in improving the creative industry’s diversity that truly have made her stand out.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not initially, no. Although I did always know that I wanted to be a journalist – probably from the age of about 10. I was obsessed with Michael Parkinson and wanted to interview all the inspiring and successful people he had the opportunity to speak with. Then when I turned 16 I decided to make that wish a reality and started to do a lot of work experience on magazines, papers, radio and online so I could learn the ropes and network with others. It was aged 16 that I first identified the need for Hyden and Shine Media – and then I started to plan how I would make the changes I wanted to see.

I recognised throughout my various work experience opportunities that we didn’t have a very diverse work force in the publishing sector and the media industry as a whole and decided to launch Shine Media to help change this. I thought that if I could introduce businesses to diverse talent I could ensure that there was an increase in their recruitment and therefore their representation both in the workforce but also in their output.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Haha how long have you got? I’ve faced so many challenges in my journey as a business owner, managing a team, creating a financially sustainable business, time management and prioritising, marketing the brand… There have been many challenges in all of these areas and others to be honest but I’d say my biggest challenge in the early days was cash flow. The buck always stops with you no matter what… and I think I underestimated how important that was to start off with.

Cash flow to pay staff, resources, venues for training programmes etc was probably the hardest part for me. But I would say how I overcame this was creating multiple revenue streams, teaching myself how to do things – i.e. my colleague Funmi and I made the first and second Shine Media website using a free online wordpress tool. Creating invitations myself through various software like photo shop  etc… It’s about thinking what you can train yourself to do, that allows you to keep costs low but quality high.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

First thing I’d tell them is ask yourself; ‘What does ‘good’ look like?’ How will I measure success? Who are my stakeholders? Who and what do I need lined up already to get the most out of those I’m leading?  Do I need to upskill myself in practicing the best habits before trying to lead anyone? The trick is to create more leaders not followers… and also hire people that are better at everything than you are… you’ll learn loads and it will force you to level up.

How do you manage your own boss?

This is something I’ve had to learn and it’s less about having to manage your boss but more about how to keep stakeholders engaged, enthusiastic and willing to remain your cheerleader.  I would first say once you identify all your stakeholders, it’s about learning how they absorb information and their communication preference. Once you know this you can communicate effectively with those whose expectations you need to manage.

It’s also about making sure that you have in mind ‘expectations’ and ‘what good looks like’ to all stakeholders. Once you know this, it’s up to you to make sure you deliver on this and communicate that delivery in the way that best suits the individual you are communicating with.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I start my day typically at 6am these days and they start usually with answering emails, proof-reading documents I’ve written, read lots of research, write relevant articles on my findings, running through contracts and T’s and C’s etc. Then between 10 -2.30pm I try to have all telephone and client meetings and then from 2.30pm-5.30pm I try to get things done i.e. brief candidates, meet candidates, complete tasks for businesses and clients and then from 6.30pm – 9.30pm I’m usually at an industry event or the like related to my passions or the business.

This is what an ideal day would look like but invariably there could be more or less of the other with a large number of panel discussions and public speaking across the week. I’m going to sound boring but usually when I get home I read one of the books I’m obsessed with at the moment, work on personal projects like my TV work or watch a TED Talk!

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

Get to know what internal networks there are i.e. societies, steering committees and sign up for those that benefit you. Be proactive – if there is something that you would like to develop or someone you would like to learn from suggest it and get it started. Network with the Exec Talent – having a cheerleader is always a good thing as they can teach you their learnings and can introduce you to other people that you can learn from. Give back to entry level talent coming through your organisation and seek mentors for you and for them.

Do as Karen Blackett (Chairwoman MediaCom) always says ‘you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion’, be a sponge for education – and not just academic but learn from the key success stories around you and build relationships. If you want to be excellent you have to seek out excellence. My view is always ‘do your best until you know better then do better’ you can’t do all that much better if you don’t push yourself to your own next level of excellence.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve benefitted in so many ways! I’ve learned a lot about myself through speaking to my coaches. I always push for feedback and I’m always looking for constructive criticism. I’m not a ‘know it all’. If I don’t know a word, jargon or understand something I ask it there and then. I hate not understanding things. I’m like an open book, so if I cried at work because I disappointed myself for whatever reason – I’ll say to one of my mentors or coaches … ‘I cried today because…’ don’t be afraid to be a human. I think coaching whether done formally or informally with clear established aims and outcomes will be brilliant for anyone. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker

Networking is vital! I would say be authentic, sell your passions and interests with people not your service. Not everyone is a business opportunity – some will become friends, coaches, lessons etc but create a relationship on a real thing as opposed to a ‘what can I get from you’. Although I network – in that I get to meet lots of people. I usually establish relationships simply because I like the person and if something else comes of that i.e. business or friendship or learnings/education then even better. But if you go in to a room with your ears open you’ll learn heaps. Networking is nowhere near as scary as people make it think. But I’ll share 3 tips here:

  1. Be warm and friendly.Clearly introduce who you are and what you do and ask open questions about the other person i.e. why did you attend the event today? Etc.
  1. Don’t start with ‘what do you do?’ or ‘who do you work for’ when I was a full-time journalist – if you were on a press trip or in the press pen on the red carpet I’d always get people going ‘where do you work then?’ and If I answered with a sexy title like ‘Radio One’ for example – they would be super friendly but if I said a title they had not heard of they would  lack interest! I used to laugh because I knew I had so many great things going on and I thought – if you were friendly and nice we could have connected on a human level and I would have shared more with you… so please don’t be a shallow networker – people can smell you a mile away.
  1. If you know who will be at an event before you get there and you are really keen to speak to a particular person – research and google them and find something that is of interest to you that they have done or are involved in and ask questions on that. You’ll learn something and the person will be flattered by your interest and efforts.
What does the future hold for you?

Such a big question! BUT in terms of what I want the future to hold for me… Hyden recognised for its change-making approach to diverse and inclusive recruitment in the creative sector and beyond. I want Hyden to have an office in all of the S Three territories! I will also continue to make TV programmes that highlight the struggles of some of the world’s most vulnerable and different – so we can celebrate and learn from them too!


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