Creative Lives Podcast — Have something to say for yourself: Otegha Uwagba’s advice for mastering a fulfilling career
In this week’s podcast we get to know Otegha Uwagba, whose job title spans a diverse range of roles – from author and journalist, to brand consultant and speaker. As the founder of advice-based platform Women Who, she’s become something of a role model in the field of self-designed career paths. We talked to her about everything from the benefits of personal branding and building a varied skill set, to how in-house experience can pave the way for success as a freelancer.
Writer, Speaker, Brand Consultant and Founder of Women Who
Senior Brand Solutions Manager, Vice (2015)
Account Manager, AMV BBDO (2013–2015)
Account Executive, AS&K Communications (2011–2013)
BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford
Otegha’s journey proves that drawing on multiple skills and turning a topic of interest into your specialism can really set you apart in the world of work. Earlier this year she was featured in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list, and she is also a Sunday Times bestselling author, thanks to her first title, Little Black Book. With her regular output including writing, hosting events and workshops, all the way to brand consultancy, she begins by sharing her approach to professional plate-spinning – from time management to planning.
Born in Lagos and raised in London, Otegha admits that her early career expectations were far more corporate than creative. Earning a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University, her first steps into industry saw her working the reception at a pharmaceuticals communications agency, before moving into account management. This eventually led to work in advertising, taking up positions at both AMV BBDO and Vice.
“A lot of people are finding that they can have a more enjoyable lifestyle by assembling a career based on three or four different things.”
‘Little Black Book’, published by 4th Estate
Over the next few years, Otegha acquired solid branding and marketing know-how, as she handled budgets and clients relationships with big brands. But with time, the glamour and allure of advertising was losing its shine, as she set her sights on launching a project of her own, free from an employer’s restrictions.
After leaving full-time work, Otegha founded Women Who in 2016. While the concept for a networking platform promoting female empowerment had been brewing for some time, she was finally able to plunge detailed thought and research into the project. As a newbie freelancer at a career crossroads, Otegha took inspiration from some of the questions she was now asking herself, and was soon writing these ideas down, forming the basis of a compact, self-published handbook: Little Black Book – A Toolkit for Working Women, which has since been picked up by publishing house 4th Estate.
Building a community through Women Who has exposed Otegha to a growing group of professionals, while brand consultancy has taken her behind the scenes on the employer side. This combination means that Otegha gets unique insight into trends and needs on both sides. One thing she’s noticed is a growing number of people opting for multi-faceted ways of working (also referred to as multi-hyphen or portfolio careers): “A lot of people are finding that they can have a much more enjoyable lifestyle by striking out on their own, and assembling a career based on three or four different things. It’s also much more interesting.”
“People hire you for your opinions as much as technical skills, so having something to say for yourself is important.”
Otegha touches on the benefits of starting out in-house and her thoughts on getting into brand consultancy; “There’s a fetishisation of the idea of freelancing, self-employment or brand consulting. But the only reason I’m in a position to do this is because I spent years working a 9 to 5, and learnt how these systems work at their best; from how to manage clients to what is and isn’t acceptable for the industry standard.
“There can be a real rush to head straight into self-employment, but there’s a lot to be said for working a 9 to 5 when you’ve just left university; just to learn what it’s like to dance to the beat to someone else’s drum. Then you fully appreciate it when you no longer have to.”
And finally, we hear her advice for anyone working towards a wide-reaching, multifaceted work life.
“Read a lot. Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the industry and in culture – this is where the opportunities will come from. Being well-informed about a trend or cultural reference is really important, particularly in the creative industries.
“People hire you for your opinions and ideas as much as technical skills, so having something to say for yourself is also important. Really keep your finger on the pulse. You’ll know what’s coming round the corner, and you’ll be in the best position to leverage it.”
Otegha hosting a Women Who event