Inspirational Woman: Lucy Coles | Chief Content Officer, Bookmark

Lucy Coles - Spafax groupLucy Coles is Chief Content Officer at Bookmark, the global content and communications company, orchestrating brand stories across all touchpoints for a wide range of clients including Patek Philippe, Christie’s, American Express and Tesco.

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

My current job is Chief Content Officer at Bookmark, the global content and communications company. I am based in London but we have nine offices in total, across the world and are part of the Spafax Group. My very first job was as a reporter on a local newspaper. After that I worked on national magazines as an editor and writer. The digital revolution was a turning point for me. The content industry exploded and there were suddenly so many opportunities for creatives who were not afraid of technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I remember my sister wanted to be a lawyer and my brother a doctor – I just wanted to ‘do something creative’ and my parents raised an eyebrow at that. The constant has been that I’ve always loved writing stories and communicating ideas. Originally this meant playing with just words; now I especially love creating stories with images.

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

It’s a cliché but challenges are always so satisfying to overcome. My profession has been through huge transformations during the trajectory of my career and I feel so proud to have been part of that. When I was first editing magazines, I was literally cutting galleys of text with a scalpel and sticking pictures to paste board. Then the Internet arrived and saved us all. I have learned so many skills since then and love the endless creative possibilities which digital brings.

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

A typical workday starts like a lot of people’s with my smartphone alarm waking me up and announcing the day’s news, weather, plus messages from colleagues who have been beavering away in different time zones while I slept. This alarm call is way more effective than a cup of coffee in terms of adrenaline rush. My day pretty much ends the same way – though I try to rip my phone out of my hand and replace it with a novel for half an hour before I sleep. I cycle to work and I find the exercise means I start thinking of ideas en route. Once at my desk I capture those and then move on to the priorities of the day.

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

A year ago my title was Editorial Director – but it became increasingly apparent that this was not fitted to what I was doing. My job is to take the insights from the strategy team and dream up the creative proposition based on their findings – that’s just the start of the process. Then I extrapolate that proposition into a whole ecosystem of content and experiences – and that can be anything from a social campaign to native advertising to an in-store event and usually all of the above.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I have had unofficial mentors who I have looked up to and learned from. My first boss at my present company, Jill Winser, was an incredible inspiration. She was (is!) extremely clever and taught me to think strategically and creatively at the same time. She also taught me that you don’t have to be a big ego to be a successful woman. As long as you know your stuff and are confident in your abilities, you will progress. The best female bosses I’ve had have cared about me as a person, too, and do think the female instinct to form relationships is key to our ability to work in and lead teams.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

More genuine opportunities for flexible working. Bookmark is a brilliant company for this – but I know a lot of women whose companies claim to encourage flexible working for mothers but in reality the management complains about them. I would also encourage working mothers to take lunch, take a breath, look after themselves. There are too many hunched female forms over keyboards in the world.

How would you encourage more women into STEM/ the digital industry?

Start early and keep offering opportunities for learning in this field to girls – and make it fun for them. My daughter, aged 9, recently spent a day coding at Facebook. She loved it and didn’t think for a second that she was being targeted precisely because she was unlikely to take this up as a career. At 9 she absolutely believes she is as good as, in fact better, than the boys in her class at maths, science – so-called ‘male’ heartlands. When does this change? It’s heartbreaking.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I’m most proud of my ideas – the creative heart of each project – and making full and proper use of every piece of technology/platform that ever comes along. But also that I have helped shape a culture – a happy, productive environment.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’m at a very exciting point in my career as our company has just merged, rebranded and become truly global. I feel as if I’ve joined an exciting start-up. I’m part of the team that is driving the new company forward and that is a thrill. There is all to play for. I plan to help make it the most successful content and experiences agency in the world – why not?

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