Inspirational Woman: Pip Hulbert | Chief Operating Officer, Wunderman UK

pip_hulbert_finalI’m the Chief Operating Officer at Wunderman UK, a global marketing agency and member of the WPP group. I’ve lived in and worked across many markets globally, with a background in CRM and loyalty, and at Wunderman I help to deliver solutions drawing on both creativity and data insights, which inspire action both within the agency and for our clients.

As well as overseeing business operations, I’m a staunch advocate for ensuring people are at the heart of the business and happy in their roles. Gender equality and diversity in the workplace are also top of my list here at Wunderman and I hope to launch a ream of internal initiatives to promote both these hot topics.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have a reputation for being super organised, with a long term vision of what we all need to achieve. However, way back when I first embarked on my career I had no hard and fast plan whatsoever!  I remember wanting to nurture my creative side and to draw, but wasn’t certain what I wanted to be when I grew up! It was my father who sat me down and explained that as a woman it was important to find an industry where women could be successful; that wasn’t completely dominated by men and had a creative side to it. He suggested advertising, and while statistics back then probably wouldn’t have supported his aspirations for me, I followed his advice and truth be told, I haven’t looked back since.

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

The benefit of not having a firm career plan is that your journey can meander down diverse paths, with no destination set in stone. The upside to this is that you don’t have to beat yourself up about veering off-piste! Although I didn’t have a career trajectory in mind, I have always been crystal clear about the experiences I want out of life and that has led me down the paths of travel, living in different countries and at times deviating from marketing to trying other projects.

There have undoubtedly been challenges along the way, both big and small. They have ranged from being brave enough to take risks, to leave employers, to take time out, to have children and take on diverse roles. Challenges aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally thrive on them. I think you have to embrace a challenge and accept that you may not always make the right decision. But you will nearly always have a story to tell and some advice to pass on.

I think sometimes people encounter challenges that they feel are overwhelming.  My advice here would be to always believe in yourself, keep smiling and ensure that you have fun along the way.  Be honest, be true and the moment you stop having fun is when you need to walk away.

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

If your ambition is to move into a leadership role then I salute you.  You are aiming high and that is fantastic. In preparation for that transition I would recommend that you spend time reflecting on what different behaviours you will need to adopt and exhibit to move from managing to leading.  There is a marked difference. Observe other leaders and make a note of their strengths and what you can learn from them. You need to be able to step back from the day-to-day tasks and be very clear on what course you are setting.  Most importantly look after your team and treat them with trust and respect.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

This is a quandary I face more often than I’d like. A candidate’s enthusiasm and ambition is important and their personality and diversity is vital for the immediate team. However, to be honest, usually the killer question I ask myself is this: “Who would I genuinely like to sit with on a 3 hour train journey on a rainy day?” That usually seals the deal.

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

My 5-year-old daughter has a habit of creeping into my bed very early, so I am usually woken up by her small body rolling on top of me and telling me to move over. We then have an in-depth discussion about Power Rangers, what she’s having for breakfast and what’s going on at school. The penny then drops that we’re going to be late and have to get ready in a manic fashion. I quickly read my emails, help my daughter do last minute homework and get dressed for school, and finally try to arrive at work with a sense of calm and that all is under control!

My days can really vary. I often spend my time in back-to-back in meetings, which is why I’m in the habit of checking my emails the evening before. However, with 4,045 unread emails currently sitting in my inbox, I’m questioning my method of evening reading! That said, I do like to ensure that I’m on top of what’s in my diary for the next day and a clear plan in place, albeit not in those manic morning hours!

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

Say yes, put your hand up and be involved. That doesn’t mean having to work 24/7, it just means show an interest, be part of it, ask questions, contribute your ideas and most importantly have a voice.  At Wunderman I’m excited about the fact that we’re launching some training programmes to help promote ‘Brand You’. This is aimed to give women the confidence to be at their very best and bring their whole self to work. Enthusiasm is key.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve never been mentored, but I am a career sponsor to others. I think it’s tremendously valuable to know that someone is there in a professional context when needed. Finding the right fit is important so you need to be selective. You will share a lot so you need to feel at ease with your coach.  If you don’t have this system in place, I still strongly believe that you can learn something every day, from all situations; the good, the bad and ugly. Spending time to reflect on your day is a vital part of the learning process and will help you challenge yourself and ensure you don’t always overlay the same view of the world.

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

Absolutely! Apart from my first job, all my other roles and adventures have been a result of my contacts! You can do this by:

  • Seeking out genuinely interesting people who are already well-connected. Make an effort to meet people in person. You can’t do everything online
  • Invest time in building key relationships. Keep in touch
  • Have a point of view and touch upon topics you want to discuss. No-one wants to connect with someone who doesn’t have much to say

What does the future hold for you?

Adventure and happiness

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