Inspirational Woman: Jo Little | Head of Digital and Operations, Ingenuity

Jo LittleJo Little, Head of Digital and Operations at Ingenuity, has a passion for creative problem solving, alongside a love for people and getting the best out of her team.

Her expertise includes creating new propositions, while helping to drive growth at a fun, energetic and thoroughly thriving new business consultancy. Ingenuity partners with over 50 of the top digital, creative and advertising agencies, helping to grow their pipelines, increase exposure to generate new clients and in turn also match top brands with the ‘right’ agency based on very unique needs.

After a wide and varied start in fashion, media, graphics and furniture design, 13 years ago Little switched from advertising to digital just as people began to see past dial up and make digital a key part of their marketing strategy. Digital is now at the forefront of any evolving brands’ business strategy. Prior to Ingenuity, Jo was part of a creative digital culture at Orange Bus for 10 years. Alongside her team, Little helped the small consultancy grow to an award winning agency that now serves clients across the world.

Jo’s specialties include relationship building, negotiation, people development as well as creative and digital strategy for business growth.

Little is also a qualified NLP and leadership coach, where she specifically mentors young women on a one-to-one basis to help grow their self-development and confidence, whilst also improving their communication skills. Jo’s latest project found her setting up a fashion and t-shirt brand aimed at raising awareness around social, political and mental health issues.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m a colour obsessed, all or nothing kind of person. I love people, laughter and human connection. It’s contagious, even if things are tough.

I’m also a Geordie.

My role at Ingenuity is a mix of all my favourite things. People, ideas, driving change, agency growth and importantly, evolution not revolution. We’re a growing business full of bright and ambitious people, grounded by a great set of principles and values. Plus, we have a CEO who genuinely cares about his team and is always aiming to improve our offering.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. Quite the opposite in fact! I wasn’t a huge fan of school (other than Art, which was a true passion and the social aspect, which was probably an even greater passion!)

I left school at 15 to work on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) at a travel agency.  Boy did I learn the hard way. I went back to school shortly after, determined to prove people wrong and get a place in the most prestigious art college in the UK. With only one A level, I got offered one of the four places available per year. I quickly felt restricted by academia again, so I quit.

Once more, I had to overcome what felt like judgement from others and an inner sense of failure. I went on to dabble a bit in fashion, advertising and personal styling before discovering creative agency life – blending creative and technology with commercial pressures. I was sold, and I then became the one selling – for 15 years – selling a creative vision or idea. I was hooked, and I still am really. However, I’m now more motivated by people and giving back.

In my current role, I am focussed on the operations and inward facing view. I help to drive change, set the vision and develop people. I love helping and supporting the team to be awesome and the best that they can be. It’s no secret that a happier workforce delivers better results.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many. Too many to mention. Some personal, lots work related. It all makes you who you are and you learn, sometimes have a rant, shed a few tears or even laugh about it. But it’s important you overcome the hurdles, put them to bed and move on with life.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

In my previous job, I helped grow an award-winning digital agency from a team of five to 140 people strong. Just like Ingenuity, I was part of an amazing team that worked hard and played hard, and it was definitely one of the best times in my career. We created a real sense of camaraderie. Second to that was mastering a recipe for the perfect beef and ale pie (and perhaps achieving one whole un-assisted pull up on the high bar). Note, these were not at the same time of course!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Determination. Either fuelled from within or fuelled by the doubt I often felt others had in me. I’m sure everyone says that, but it’s true.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is great, I’m a big fan. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of the best mentors in my working and personal life (both men and women), who have been amazing businesspeople but more importantly great humans who have shown kindness and understanding.

I find some of the best mentors don’t even know they are a mentor. Sometimes it’s an unspoken thing. I like to think I’ve done my share of un-official and official mentoring. Having a boost from someone else can make a massive difference to how you feel on a Sunday night about work in the morning, or the thought of walking into a meeting or even in personal relationships. I’ve supported a lot of women, but also increasingly more men.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Just do. Lead by example and just live it. Live your best life regardless of your gender, where you’ve come from or what has been. Wider gender equality will come in time, but in the meantime, go get that promotion, sit on the board and have a voice. Let’s show up and make a difference that way, but from a positive place – not a starting point of feeling like you’re on the back foot.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To embrace my differences and unique qualities earlier in life and not to listen to the self-worry so much.

I remember first coming to London for work and being really conscious of my obvious Geordie accent. I also had concerns over the fact that I didn’t dress in the usual ‘business attire’ and simply how I stood out in a sea of navy suits when at my corporate client’s offices.

It’s funny because the advice I always give to younger people starting out, is to be authentic, and to not give a damn about judgement, yet it took me until my late twenties to be fully authentic. Nowadays I can honestly say I have only one version of me and it’s the same version that comes to work, goes home to family and hangs out with friends. It may not always be appropriate, but the day I decided to embrace myself for me I felt free.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To keep more free time for the little (but important) things in life. We all know time is precious, but the hardest part is living by that and keeping time available for those precious moments. No one will ever wish they’d done more hours in the office.

As everyone in my office knows, I love fashion (the bolder and brighter, the better), so recently I’ve started a fashion label, promoting awareness and support for mental health, homelessness and social and political issues. As fashion is one of the largest industries in the world, it’s a great platform to talk about these issues more widely. So, my next steps for the future is to get the publicity I need to make both a difference and an impact.

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