We had the opportunity to speak with Nicky Young, a Workplace Culture Award Winner and Global Content, Communications and Change Director. Nicky shared her inspiring journey of how she went from having just £400 to her name to becoming a Managing Director at a successful agency.
Nicky's journey began when she arrived in the UK in 1998, She wanted to explore Italy, so she knew she needed an income. Although she had a first class Bachelor of Arts degree, it was difficult for her to find work due to her lack of experience. She began temping and eventually found a role in management consulting at PA Consulting. It was here that she was given the advice to move into an agency environment if she wanted to pursue a career in communications, her passion.
Nicky then met the two founders of salt Ltd., Richard Cox and Andy Last, who believed there was a better way to do business. She felt an immediate connection to them and decided to leave her well-paid job in an established company to join the start-up. Nicky's advice to others is to always trust your gut -- it's your second brain.
At salt, Nicky was able to do everything from HR to Sales to Marketing. She was also given the opportunity to build departments, consult clients and design and implement business methodologies. This experience provided Nicky with an MBA-level education and she eventually stayed with the company for twenty years. She then left the company when it was acquired by The Interpublic Group (IPG).
Nicky shared that at salt, they created a strong family culture. Everyone had a nickname and the office was like a home away from home for employees. This culture drove employees to put in extra effort to make the business the best it could be. Nicky believes that culture should be front and centre of a business plan and that it's essential for the success of a business.
Nicky also recalled how she was often the only female in the room during management meetings. She was given advice from a successful businesswoman on how to be respected in these settings and it helped her gain the confidence to lean in.
Finally, Nicky highlighted the importance of having mentors. She was particularly grateful to John Thorpe, the Vistage Chairman of the group she belonged to in London. He was always encouraging and provided Nicky with the support she needed during difficult times. His coaching and support has been hugely valued by Nicky and despite being a young executive and occasionally the only female in the room, John always operated through a principle of inclusion; he always encouraged and involved her.
Nicky's top tips for others include surrounding yourself with colleagues who delight and inspire you, trusting employees and creating a nurturing culture, getting involved in a business network for personal and professional support, and life's too short to work in a toxic work environment. Her inspiring story highlights the importance of culture in the workplace and the importance of having mentors. It also reinforces the need to trust your gut and lean in to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. We hope her story will inspire you to create a workplace where employees want to be and to seek mentors who can help you on your journey.
Read Nicky's full story and insights here and look out for our Women In Business Series Two where we highlight more inspirational leaders, sharing their advice and experience to support positive change in the workplace.