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Tell Your Story

Carolyn E Stebbings

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an annual worldwide celebration of women and diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), that is dedicated to the woman behind our College’s name, Ada Lovelace.

This year, to mark ALD, we are asking all our industry partners to contribute towards our Tell your Story Campaign. This campaign seeks to highlight women in tech and help others learn more about their experiences in pursuing a digital career path.

Carolyn E Stebbings, Chief Operating & Inclusion Officer, RAPP UK shares her story:

I grew up in an Edmonton in a two up two down terrace, sharing a room with my two sisters. I was the first in my family to go to university where I studied fine art. I ran away from home at 17, so I funded my studies with a Saturday job - which I was good enough at to become one of 6 part-time store managers nation-wide. Managing 35 women (yes, they were all women, many old enough to be my mum) I cut my teeth here on how to motivate and innovate. Post my degree I did 6 jobs in 6 years - who said millennials were the only ones to want job satisfaction. I had a go at designing and buying, at direct sales and marketing in the building sector and new biz development in the finance sector before landing in agency land at the age of 29. I did this because I wanted to find something that would play to my strengths and give me a buzz every day.

I credit myself for always leaning in, always raising my hand to get stuck in - even though I may have been terrified inside. It’s taught me resilience; humility and that vulnerability is a strength. 

It’s not always been plain sailing. Over the years I’ve been told; my accent was too common; as a female wouldn’t stay the course; that I was from the wrong background; been told in a board mtg that my emotions must be because it was that time of the month!! None of this stopped me from pushing forward, never giving up and finding those that would advocate for me.

I’ve always been a person that leans in. Stepping out of my comfort zone and raising my hand. It has opened paths for me, I would never have dreamed of in my 20s. Like the data and technology world that now fuels everyday marketing – for this I thank a client early in my career who put me forward for a data role because they felt I’d excel.  In tandem, I’ve worked hard not to judge and always to appreciate both sides of a story in order that I understand context and opinions. This has been the case both internally when leading and externally when consulting. An integral element of my journey has been contributing outside of work be that as a school governor, a Sunday school teacher, supporting my boys' football team or as an advisory board member for a not for profit. 

What makes me, me? Being myself and leading with empathy. Feeling pain and not wanting to create it. Experiencing bias and wanting to call it out. Reading, listening, and participating in as many things as possible. These are values I hold up as a personal measurement of how I’m doing:

Vulnerability – because however senior you are, you’re still human

Openness – because an open heart builds an open mind 

Honesty – just always ensure the recipient is ready to hear it 

Hearing – it’s not good enough to just listen.

Curiosity – a continual yearning to learn

Consensus – getting teams to find a common goal verses compromise – with compromise no one wins

My purpose has always been to help those from underrepresented groups to be the best they can be. I believe I’ve stayed true to my purpose in every aspect of my life and nothing gives me more of a thrill or lump in the throat than seeing other flourish when given the chance.

In the last 20 odd years I’ve sort out new challenges in the world of data and digital marketing technology - running teams, partnering with clients, and managing commercials. Did I see myself doing this when I started out - no way? Do I love it - absolutely. Am I good at it – ask those I touch. Every day brings a new challenge as well as a new learning.

I got to where I am today because I’ve always put myself forward, I’ve said ‘yes, I’ll do that” when others have been reticent. Having a positive attitude first and foremost and looking to inspire to make a difference to those around me. Most of all aiming to be kind, curious and brave every day.