Creative Lives Podcast — Nicole Crentsil on embracing alternative paths: “Traditional routes aren’t the only way”
This week, we find out how the multitalented Nicole Crentsil went from a degree in product design to carving out her own unique path, acquiring a number of job titles along the way. By day, Nicole is head of partnerships and marketing at Creative Mentor Network, a charity connecting diverse young talent with industry. But in her own time, she is a speaker for platforms like TEDx, and the founder and curator of Black Girl Festival and Unmasked Women. We find out how her journey has unfolded so far.
Head of Partnerships and Marketing at Creative Mentor Network, Speaker, Curator, founder of Black Girl Festival
Head of Partnerships and Marketing, Creative Mentor Network, (2017–present)
Digital Brand and Product Manager, The Artworks (2016)Junior Account Executive, Caro Communications (2015–2016)
Marketing and E-commerce Manager, Dezeen (2015)
E-commerce Assistant, Dezeen (2014–2015)
BA Product Design, Nottingham Trent University (2011–2014)
ustwo Adventure, based in Shoreditch, London, where Creative Mentor Network is based
Nicole radiates with enthusiasm and energy for her work, confirming that she’s a huge believer in doing the things that genuinely move and inspire her. But this has often meant moving into new, unfamiliar territory, supported by a knack for identifying her most transferable skills.
At university, Nicole studied product design, but in 2014 she graduated feeling like a fraud. “I felt like a phoney for not sticking to the thing I thought I had to,” she shares. While her peers had been polishing their practical making and design skills, she had blossomed in situations where she had to present to a crowd, or carry out detailed research. Even though she instantly landed an e-commerce assistant job she loved at Dezeen, she still had a feeling that she’d failed the expectations of her degree.
Now far beyond the guilt she experienced as a recent grad, Nicole has learnt to embrace having many outlets, finding confidence in trying new things; “Whenever I do something that I thought I couldn’t do, it reminds me that I’m capable of so much more,” she says, “I’m like, ‘If I can do this what else can I do?’ It makes me want to go for gold.”
“Whenever I do something that I felt I couldn’t do, it reminds me that I’m capable of so much more.”
Nicole’s first experience with curation and programming came around two years ago, when she began a personal project as a form of therapy – exploring the topic of mental health. This eventually became an extensive exhibition, embracing local charities and artists. This paved the way for a second major passion project, Black Girl Festival, created with Paula Akpan, social media editor at gal-dem magazine.
With so much on at one time, Nicole tells us how she manages to juggle passion projects with full-time work: “I always say I’ve got two jobs: a day job and a night job, a 9-to-5 and a 5-to-9. But it’s because I enjoy doing them; I like having something else that I do... You just have to kick yourself up the butt and get things done.”
She looks back on how differently she saw things when she was just leaving university, and imparts her advice for others who might also be questioning following the ‘right’ path: “Don’t panic. Those traditional routes aren’t the only way. There’s just so much more you can do.
“Don’t focus on what you think a job wants from you, but what you can bring to the job. This makes you think about your skills and hone in on what you’re good at… Those skills make you the person you are; they should be celebrated. And have fun with it.”
Unmasked Women, 2016
Black Girl Festival, 2017
Black Girl Festival, 2017