Who are you, what is your current role?
My name is Rowena Johnson and I’m a Global Digital Director at Mediacom
What’s the most exciting part of your role?
Working with and travelling to different markets. It is so interesting to learn about the nuances and different possibilities in the tech landscape from region to region.
What personal and professional strengths do you think have been crucial to your success?
Firstly determination, I think showing up and rolling your sleeves up is half the work. Secondly my ability to not take external or even my own self-criticism too seriously, it is important to give yourself put some space between yourself and any negative noise. Thirdly, being able to build and maintain good relationships, this is a people industry.
What is the most challenging thing you’ve done in your career to date?
Moving into the role I’m in now: I joined Mediacom in August 2014 to take on a newly created role as the Global Digital Lead for GSK. Whilst I had digital experience I was not a digital native, so there was a lot to learn and I wanted to do it quickly.
Since joining I have been submerged in information relating to hot topics such as Programmatic, Mobile and eCommerce. Whilst these topics are incredibly interesting, finding the balance between knowing the detail and getting lost in the details has been an important learning curve. The pace of new developments in the digital space is rapid, which make it a challenging but also incredibly stimulating industry to be in right now.
If you were mentoring your younger self knowing what you now know what advice would you give?
I would tell her to ask for better pay rises. The stats are staggering.
Have you got any role models? Who are they and why are they your role models?
I’m fortunate enough to have a boss, Simon Sadie – Global Account Director, who I see as a good role model. Simon is smart and wise, which is a rarer combination than you would think. He has a strategic mind and an uncanny ability to breakdown what seems like a complex situation or task into something incredibly simple – he is an expert communicator. He also never asks for more from you than he himself would be willing to do, which I think is a positive indication of his value system.
Another role model for me is Karen Blackett OBE, former CEO and now Chairwoman of Mediacom UK, who is a complete inspiration. The breadth of her career to date is very impressive, she is a prominent figure within WACL (Women in Advertising & Communications) and has chaired the “Women of Tomorrow” judging panel and award ceremony. Karen has also launched initiatives that ensure younger generations from all walks of life are being given an opportunity to enter into this industry, the work for which she was awarded an OBE. Karen pushes for diversity and I find that incredibly admirable.
What are your top 3 interests outside of work?
Yoga, travel and friends/family: Yoga every day before work helps me focus, travel feeds my fascination with different cultures and my friends/family keep me grounded and happy.
What kind of career would you have in an alternative universe?
In an alternative universe I would be a yogic guru, with a beautiful retreat space in a warm part of the world that is close to the sea and not far from the mountains.
I would welcome all the tired souls from across the world into my retreat space, bolster them back to health with delicious and nutritious food, meditation and exercise before sending them back renewed and ready to face their worlds again.
…That or I would quite like to be Beyonce!
What are the major barriers facing women in tech today.
I think the barriers are well known, there's an inherent bias that goes against women in the workplace: the same skills that are viewed as leadership traits in a man are dismissed as "bossy" when seen in a women. Equally, when a women expresses an idea it often gets overlooked, a man repeats the same idea 5 minutes later and it is suddenly a good idea.
I have had these things happen to me on numerous occasion and it will not change overnight but at least people are becoming more aware.
However, I think opportunity is what we should focus on: the tech world needs more diversity, which will lead to better creativity. Women have an opportunity to be the transformational change that the tech industry needs to keep developing at such a rapid pace.
What’s the one piece of advice that has always stuck with you.
Early on in my career when I was learning how to manage people I was told to “share my knowledge”. When you have perfectionist/control freak tendencies, there is a temptation to do everything yourself, either because you think it will be quicker or because you do not want to overly critique someone else’s efforts. Thinking of feedback as sharing my knowledge helped me realise that in order to help people advance in their own careers I had to start making a more conscious effort to explain why I thought things should be done in a certain way.
I started my advertising career in the TV investment department back in 2003 before moving into content partnerships at a different agency so I could have more autonomy and licence to be more creative. During my time in that agency I established the content teams digital offering; rolling out training, strengthening relationships with digital media owners and forging new relationships with tech suppliers. Along the way I’ve initiated and organised events, such as “Culture, Content, Commerce and the role of Convergence”, to evangelise my area of specialism and inspire innovation. In 2014 I was selected as a finalist for the Women of Tomorrow awards and last year I was one of 14 winners of WACL’s Future Leaders award, which has led to me embarking on a Mini MBA at the London School of Business & Finance this April.
In my current role I am responsible to helping GSK and Mars realise their ambition for digital media by identifying relevant digital and tech opportunities to focus on and then defining the role and direction their brands should take within those channels.