Each week I ask an interesting person to reveal a little something about themselves. To give us a glimpse into how they think, what they value and the mindset that's got them to where they are.
This week I'm delighted to include Dena Walker, Global Head of Strategy with advertising colossus BBDO, into the fold.
She's super-sharp, insightful, has an impressive CV and knows what dots are worth connecting. Currently based in New York (via Manchester, Singapore and Dublin) she was introduced to me through a past Off Topic contributor. My best kind of guest.
Let's not hang about on this one.
See you on the other side.
What is the most undervalued skill in marketing?
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
That’s a tie between event planning (which shaved years of my life) or being an account exec on a condom brand and having to dress up as a giant sperm and run at the UK CEO of the agency network I then worked for.
What gets you out of bed on a morning?
Usually a text message from friends and family back in the UK & Ireland, who forget that time-zones are a thing. 😉 But also gratitude. I don’t have to do my job, I get to do it. There’s always some joy to be found.
What are your three tips for doing your best work?
Stay curious and challenge what you think you know, 2. Trust your process, 3. Don’t forget to make it fun.
What is your favourite type of creative brief?
One that is a problem to solve rather than a solution to articulate. I much prefer briefs that I get to explore with my creative partners – kicking around ways to really tackle a wicked problem – as they are far more fulfilling. And true to how the world really works.
What’s the one quality you look for in a new hire?
Insatiable curiosity – it keeps a person hungry to learn, self-aware enough to know they don’t know everything, and super interesting.
You’ve won a million quid – first purchase?
A house on a hill somewhere in the Peak District… actually that’s a lie. The first thing would probably be a flight to Dublin to celebrate with my best friend and copious amounts of Guinness. Then the house.
What do you spend way too much money on?
Rent. I live in New York 😉 But also books.
Where is your happy place?
A dancefloor with friends and Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to be real” playing.
What is your best piece of advice?
Be honest about the lies you’ve been telling yourself.
What is something that I could learn right now, that will be useful for the rest of my life?
Most things aren’t about you, but tell you how you think about yourself.
If you could wave a magic wand and have *everyone** in your company read one book to make the business better, what would it be?
Strategy: A History – Lawrence Freedman. A great way to inspire boldness.
You visit your ten-year-old self and tell them about your life. What do they think?
She’d be over the moon that I did what she dreamed of, and more, but wondering why Rock Astley isn’t cooking my dinner.
There are 5 empty seats at your table, who are your dream dinner party guests - from any time or place?
David Bowie, Stephen Fry, Bette Davis, Circe and Richard Pryor. A good mix of debate, laughter, music, gluttony and the promise of chaos.
a. Tea of coffee? Tea.
b. Early bird or night owl? Early Bird.
c. Book or boxset? Book. Always.
d. Call or text? If we’re close, call. If we’re not, text.
e. Introvert or Extrovert? Extrovert.
f. Netflix or YouTube? Netflix
g. Library or museum? Library
h. Classic or modern? Classic.
Finally – who would you like to see answer these questions?
Talk us through your work space and the indespensible items within it.
"Currently mostly from my dining table while we ride out this utter bonkersness, but I rather like it."
A few sentimental bits & pieces
A framed Emmeline Pankhurst quote in a nod to my Mancunian, feminist roots and a memory of a great day with a friend; a framed print of a quote from Withnail & I, a film I will always love and belly laugh over. It’s pretty much perfect. my Lego model of Old Trafford. I couldn’t bear to complete it as I wouldn’t be able to see the pitch. Maybe I will one day, during an overly long Zoom call or something.
An increasing collection of albums of all kinds, and vintage rare soul singles too. I’m the child of a Northern Soul family and definitely caught the bug early.
I always have a fountain pen and lots of notebooks to hand. While I love tech, my brain doesn’t really work unless I scribble or write things out and I get a deep joy from the feeling of a good pen & ink on paper. It’s visceral.
Tea or Coffee
There’s always a cup of tea or coffee on the go. Has to be good espresso coffee made with my Gaggia. And the tea is usually Barry’s Gold Blend schlepped over in bulk whenever I visit home, brewed to be strong with a drop of milk added, or it’s a Lady Grey served black.
My first and most enduring love. I enjoy facing my bookcase while I work.
No plugs per se, more a desire for us all to refocus on inspiring genuine, meaningful change.
All strategy is revolution, and all creativity should be a spark that ignites it, in however small a form.
Ads for ad people don’t tend to do it well. 😉