Knowledge Exchange: ‘Find some mentors – it doesn't have to be formal'
Whether starting your career or at the culmination of years of experience, there are lessons to be learned
Lin Dickens, marketing director, BM
How did you get into the industry?
I was named Hampshire Businesswoman of the Year in 1992 when I was running a brand consultancy and it got a lot of press coverage. Mike Davey, who worked at Compass Group, saw the coverage, got in touch and asked me to do some marketing work for him. He introduced me to Wendy Bartlett, who also worked at Compass. When she and Ian launched their new catering company, Bartlett Mitchell, I created the brand identity and the rest is history. I joined in August 2011 as marketing director and have been with the company for more than 11 years now.
What advice would you share with those early in their careers?
Find some mentors – it doesn't have to be formal. I used to write to people I admired and invite them out for lunch, and they were always happy to share the benefit of their wisdom.
*Who has been a memorable mentor and why?
A standout was David Stuart, the founder and creative director of multimedia supergroup the Partners. He made it clear to me that he had all the time in the world to mentor me on the understanding that in the future I would pay this back.
I have been very lucky – every boss I have had has been generous with their time to mentor me. What I learned from Rob Parker, former finance director at Whitbread, I still practice today. Rob was a brilliant listener. He could see exactly where I needed to focus my energy. And Wendy Bartlett has always been an incredible inspiration and has always been there to offer guidance.
What have you learned from younger colleagues?
I had the privilege of mentoring the late Gregory Hall in the last year of his life. I learned about inclusivity and diversity and new technical skills from him. He taught me how to look at the world from someone else's perspective. He knew he was dying, but he never gave up hope, and he taught me to never give up trying.
What do you think working with a diverse age range brings to your workplace?
It brings different points of view. The younger cohorts are digital natives and the more experienced team members perhaps have more experience with face-to-face communication. Mix the two and you have a powerful team and mentoring platform.
How did you get into the industry?
After I left school, I worked as a hockey coach during term-time, but I needed another job for the holidays, so I started working at a frozen yogurt store in Durban, South Africa, where I'm from. I went on to manage the site as well as travelling around training staff and assisting franchisees.
I then got a job as an admin and marketing manager at a Mexican restaurant in Durban. Following that, I co-founded a dessert bar, where I was able to build a brand and create its corporate and marketing strategies. In 2018, I decided to move to the UK and got a job in BM's marketing team.
Have you had a formal mentor?
Lin Dickens, BM's marketing director, has taken me under her wing since I joined the team. Of all the courses I've done, books I've read or tutorials I've watched, nothing has taught me more than Lin has. She has pushed me when my motivation has been low. She has guided me when I've felt lost.
Most importantly, she has supported me through every success and failure. Her consistent support has been key to my development.
Have you mentored younger people joining the industry?
Over the last six months I have been mentoring one of our junior designers. The journey has been fruitful in that she has easily found her space in our team and impresses us continually with each project she does. It's been exciting for me to support someone else's career.
What have you learned from more experienced colleagues?
Time management is the most important thing! The further you go in your career, the more you have to fit in. Schedule your time and stick to it as much as possible.
What do you think working with a diverse age range of people brings to your workplace?
Unlimited perspectives. The way a 55-year-old sees a problem might be completely different to the way the generations below them see it. Often, my older colleagues will bring experience to situations, whereas younger ones may bring innovation. Both perspectives can be hugely beneficial.