Adrenalin Sessions: Lean In & Lead

by Jenni Hayward
29 May 2017
5 min read
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Adrenalin Sessions: Lean In & Lead

Equality in agency land has come leaps and bounds from the Mad Men days. However, there still remains the irrefutable lack of women in leadership positions. But why?

We wanted to delve a little deeper under the skin of this issue and look at how, as women, we might be sabotaging our own success and look at what skills are useful for succeeding in leadership roles.

We invited three prominent female leaders in the digital industry to come and discuss their own experiences and give some practical tips to our #AdrenalinSessions audience of budding leaders.

First speaker: Bronwyn Van Der Merwe, Fjord

First up we heard from Bronwyn Van Der Merwe, Group Director at Fjord ANZ. Bronwyn, started off the evening by giving a very candid account of her own personal journey, taking us back to seven years ago when she was living and working in London. Her first piece of advice was to know yourself. Speaking from her own experience she said:

“Invest in time to work on yourself, and know your psychology and your inner workings”

Key takeaways from Bronwyn:

  • Know yourself – become more authentic by broadening your arena. Be conscious and aware of your blind area, use 360 feedback. Hone the ability to connect and empathise with people
  • Ask for help – be curious and be on a life-long learning to understand yourself and other human beings.Take advantage of opportunities to work with mentors, sponsors, coaches and counsellors
  • Get clarity – Understand your broader purpose and vision. Lift up from being ‘busy’ and focus on priorities that align to your vision
  • Read – The Inner Edge: The Ten Practices of Personal Leadership by Joelle K. Jay

"Practice courage to become authentic and enable real connections"

The parts that stood out for me from Bronwyn's talk were:

In the same way we don't think twice about spending money on manicures, hair cuts or clothes to make us feel good, we should invest in understanding ourselves to feel a more long-term, sustainable sense of wellbeing. 

Ask for feedback and accept it and embrace it when it comes.


Second speaker: Ashleigh Thomas, HuffPost

Next up ‘on stage’ was Ashleigh Thomas, Head of Advertising and Commercial Sales at HuffPost. Beginning with discussing her varied career path to where she is today, Ashleigh gave the audience a high energy account of how she values not having had a linear career and recommended:

"Don't aim for, or expect, a linear career path"

Key takeaways from Ashleigh:

  • Have confidence to know that you are good at what you do 
  • Do a skills audit – know where your skills gap is and work on it 
  • Understand how what you do fits in to the rest of the business 
  • Know what your professional passion is and the reason that you go to work 
  • Don't miss out on opportunities to learn - chances are you'll be able to do it
  • If someone says “This is how we have always done it” – challenge it. The old way is not the right way 
  • There are many ways to get there – support people to find their own way in getting there, and always back them 
  • Say no when its not your job – let other people thrive - in the long term its better to let other shines 
  • There is no excuse to not enjoy your job these days.  

“You know someone is a good leader by looking at who is following them”

My top learnings from Ashleigh:

Think about your skills and work out where you could plug some knowledge gaps. 

'I was waiting for trumpets and confetti' - Ashleigh described that success isn't something that you ever feel you definitively achieve. There's no defining moment when you feel you have made it, you will always continue striving on for the next challenge. 

Third speaker: Inga Latham, Commonwealth Bank

Inga Latham, GM User Experience & Design at CBA was the third speaker. Inga described how her career had brought her to Australia and from a start-up environment to a corporate one and the lessons she learnt from that change. She gave advice mixed in with anecdotes from her career that raised more than a few smiles.

“For god’s sake, don’t apologise. You’re setting yourself up for failure”

Key takeaways from Inga:

  • Know what you are good at, and what you should avoid. Know what gives you joy and what your values are
  • Know what perception you’re creating, how you present yourself, how you hold yourself and how you interact
  • Ask for what you want and what you believe you deserve. If you work hard and get good outcomes, then ASK, otherwise you’ll keep doing what you are doing
  • Be aware of your interaction style – what you are not saying is just as important as what you are saying
  • You are not alone – get help, ask for help. Its impossible to know everything and be good at it all
  • To be an agent of change you have to know your place in the world. Understand what is going on in pop culture this tells you what people want
  • Fail + Learn = flearn. Don’t make the same mistake twice

"Reciprocity really counts. Make your boss look good. Be randomly generous"

My top takeaways from Inga:

Don't take your boss 'dead birds' - meaning if you just go to someone with the problems you are facing rather than also celebrating the wins they won't know what you are doing well. What you don't say matters too.

Think about your stance and posture - if you stand with your legs crossed in front of each other it looks like you are ready to spin around and face the opposite direction. Also dont' fold your arms across yourself, instead, stand with feet shoulder width apart and your hands by your sides. 

Here is a summary of the presentations:


All three speakers covered similar themes including:

  • Knowing yourself
  • Understanding your place within the wider organisation
  • Asking for help

Here is what the attendees thought about the event...

Our next #AdrenalinSessions is on 13th July where we’ll be looking at Multi-screen marketing with speakers including Tim Duggan, Publisher at Junkee Media and Sam Barker, Digital Manager at Supercars. To receive more information about the upcoming event contact us.

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