Sharon Salihu 19/06/2020 - TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:00] Gabi: Hello, you are listening to people who work podcast, episode two over here, we talk everything career workplace, and generally our professional lives. But here's the twist. We talk about work without talking about work. And that is because workplaces are made of people and the type of professional you are is within your control.
And this is what we focus on in this podcast. . I'm Gabi Gandolfini. I'm a certified coach for performance and a theater professional. And I've been in the art sector for 15 years. My guest today, someone I worked with in the same office for nearly nine years, I've seen her change and she seen me change and I invited her because I think you will completely relate to her experiences and really appreciate what she's got to say about the workplace.
So welcome Sharon Saihu.
Sharon: Hello Gabi. Thank you for having me on today.
I listened to your podcast. You're a tough question, [00:01:00] master. Okay.
Gabi: Well, you're a tough cookie. So there's nothing there's going to throw you. I promise you so, Sharon, uh, I think you should introduce yourself.
So can you tell us who you are and a bit of a potted history of your career?
Sharon: Okay. So I'm Sharon Salihu who, so currently I'm a resources development manager in the arts and culture sector. Um, I began my career as many years ago in food and drink and the leisure. Uh, sector, which I worked for about five years, then moved into the arts and instead of food and drink and worked my way up to a manager.
Um, and it was about the time I had my daughter. I moved into more of an admin role and again, sort of start at the bottom and work my way up. And probably for the last 10, 15 years I've been working more of a support HR type role.
Gabi: So lets go back to the very beginning because you gave us a very, very brief introduction to how you started everything. Tell us about the beginnings of your professional life. Has everything going [00:02:00] the way you thought they were going to go when you were a child or a teenager?
Sharon: No, not at all.
I'm totally not. I think if you told my teenage self what I'd be doing now, I would have just laughed. I thought, what is that? And I fell, I think like a lot of people, I fell into food and drink by chance. Um, I didn't get the grades that I needed at A level, so I had to retake. And at one point my dad said, I think you should find a job.
Um, and sent me to where he worked as a kid, um, which was at the time I was Chessington Zoo, but it's Chessington world of adventures. Um, And start with, I hated it, but then fell in love with it. And it was something I found that I was good at and really enjoyed. So it started from there. And then through my, uh, studying, I got into the arts side and that's where I've been ever since.
So I it's been very random and not what I thought I was going to do as a teenager at all.
Gabi: So, [00:03:00] what did you think you were going to do as a teenager, Sharon?
Sharon: I'm sure I've told you this. Um, but as a teenager, I really wanted to become a paint and trace artists with Disney. Um, and I wanted to go to art college and it just working as, you know, as an artist that never happened, never went to art school.
Um, so never paid my paint and trace artist for Disney. Their loss. Hey, I floundered a bit. I'd have to say that I floundered a bit when that wasn't going to happen. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. Um, and that's when I found myself in a food and drink job.
Gabi: So Sharon, if, if we're just thinking, well, money's not an issue.
Work is not an issue. We are living in his ideal world , if you had to choose something to do today, would it still be the same thing you wanted to do as a teenager, or has your aspirations, your idealism changed?
In some ways I would like to do what I want to do as a teenager, but I think as you [00:04:00] grow up and you experience jobs or things in life, then your ideas change what you want to do.
So probably now I would think differently. So as I was as a teenager, because of those life experiences and what you learn on that journey through life.
So, you know what I'm going to ask now, don't you, what is it that if you had to choose something to do now, something you love, something, something you would do for work if you didn't have to work, what would it be?
Sharon: Um, I would show you change, um, and go work in a totally different industry. I'd go and work in sports
Gabi: in sports, what kind of sport Sharon?
Sharon: I would go and work within the wrestling industry
Gabi: Why would you leave the art sector?
Because you have been in the art sector for how many years now, Sharon?
Sharon: Um, probably about 30 years,
Gabi: 30 years. It's not an easy decision to, uh, to want to, to leave the arts [00:05:00] sector. And I can say that because I'm also in the art sector and it kind of grabs you. Doesn't it.
Gabi: What is it that would make you leave the arts?
Sharon: I think it's where my life has gone the last few years and the journey that I've been on, partly with my son, um, because that's the route he's going down to and it's a whole industry that I actually love.
And it's very much me. And I fail that I fit in that industry over comfortable. Yeah. So that's partly why it's because partly to do with my son that I want that's where I'd go if I could.
Gabi: So with the arts sector, um, you did end up being the, our sector for 30 years, you might still be in the art sector for another 30, who knows, but what is it about the arts that made you want to stay for that long.
Sharon: I think just the variety of roles and every day is not the same. , I've learned so much in those last 30 years and I'm still learning now within the arts industry, because it's continuously changing. It's developing, it's [00:06:00] moving and different things come along every day. And I think that's why I've stayed because nothing is ever the same.
And you can be creative within the arts. You can think outside the box. Yeah. We used to do that quite a lot. Um, and I think it's that, that you are able to do that.
Gabi: I'm going to push you a bit here, Sharon.
Well, you can also be creative and things can be different if working for Chessington world of adventures, for example, which is not arts necessarily, but there's something very particular by working in the arts or in the charity sector. What is it? Because there's gotta be something else that made you stay for that long?
Sharon: partly it's my love of the arts. Seeing what we all create and what is created on stage and what we create in within our department. Um, because again, it's always different. It's always changing it's I think it's that [00:07:00] seeing that product come to life and being able to see it on the stage and you feel quite privileged sometimes with what you've seen and what goes on behind the scenes.
And how it all comes together to create great shows.
Gabi: the other thing that you mentioned was how , if you had to choose some things, money was not an issue. You would probably go into the sports world. And you said one of the reasons was because you feel your fit in an area, you like, what is it about you that, that makes you fit into their world, which is completely alien to me, to be honest,
I think, um, Have you ever went to a wrestling show?
It's a real, um, just a real mix of people and no one ever judges you. And, you know, cause I, first time I went, I'm a slightly older person with a young son. I thought people might look at me and go, but no one ever judges, you we're all different, but we all have the same love and I've never known any trouble.
Everyone taught. It's a place [00:08:00] where you go and people actually talk to you, which in London is quite a shock sometimes. Yeah, you can walk down streets and you can go and shops and go places and people just do not talk or engage with you. Mmm. But it's that acceptance of you can be yourself. Um, and no one ever judges you for that.
Sharon: I'm standing in the queue once. And just looking down the line, I just thought this is the most eclectic group of people ever in one place, but we're all there for one thing and we all accept each other in our weirdness and being unique.
Gabi: uh, I actually got goosebumps just listening to you, Sharon, because I can totally see you thriving in that environment.
Um, so, you know, we talked eclectic, weird. Um, you can be yourself, you can be accepted people, talk to you. Everyone is different, but everyone's together. Isn't it like that in the arts?
Sharon: , I don't think it is. . Being in the big building that we were in. It's very cliquey and some people don't talk to each other or some people might look [00:09:00] down on others because of what they do. I think it's got better over the years. Um, but it was very segregated depending on what part of the arts you worked into and how you were judged.
That's just me being really honest
Gabi: I, I feel exactly the same and you know, the whole point of this podcast is to talk about how people can be themselves at work, which I think it's needed because especially in our industry, We say so much that the arts is about amplifying people's voices and passing on a message.
Um, but actually it's is still, as you say, very cliquey and I feel exactly the same way and we've gone, you know, since I started working in the arts 15 years ago, we've gone such a long way, but I still feel sometimes like a bit of an outsider within my own work home. Um, shouldn't be like that. And I think it takes people like you and me to change their culture.
But there's only so much you can do before you run out of steam.
Sharon: No, I totally agree.
[00:10:00] So let's talk about these now, Sharon, you in the workplace on a scale of one to 10, how much do you feel you can be yourself at work?
Oh, that was such an interesting question. Um, I think within my initial team, and I think what you see is what you get.
Yeah, I'm very much me, um, and authentic, but I think in other situations it's probably more of a five, I would say, because I think there's some times where you feel that you'd have to act or be a certain way. Um, so I'm not always myself probably.
Gabi: , what kind of situations make you feel that you need to be something you are not?
Sharon: I think sometimes I feel in a meeting with your senior managers or people that you might not know. You want to give the best impression or you want to become, you want to be seen as very professional.
Um, so you come across as not quite yourself, I think which in some ways it's [00:11:00] wrong. I think you should be able to be yourself in a very professional way and that they can see the real me and that I'm able to speak up and speak my mind and be who I am.
you think someone can be professional and authentic at the same time?
Sharon: Yes, I think they can. I think it's a fine line because you obviously want to appear as very professional. Um, but I think you should still be allowed to be yourself. You should still be allowed to voice your opinions, say how you feel. Um, and just be yourself because you're going to get the best from someone.
If they're being themselves. Yeah. If they're having to try and squish into the little square box, when they're actually round, you're not going to get the best from someone and they're going to be unhappy if they can't be themselves.
Gabi: if you go into certain situations and feeling the need to be a five, how much of it is you? [00:12:00] Feeling that you need to be a five and therefore adjusting to what you think you should be and how much of it is the actual culture and to the other people in the room expecting youto be something you're not.
Sharon: Oh, interesting question. I think it's a bit of both. I think sometimes I think I should act a certain way around certain people. And I think you just get that impression from other people that they expect you to act in a certain way or behave in a certain way or not talk.
So I think it's a bit of both.
Gabi: So let's wrap this up into a, a answer, which I'm sure you're just gonna have to come up with on the spot here,
Sharon. Um, how can then people bring their authentic self into the workplace, but still be professional? How do we merge these two things where you say, I don't need to pretend if you don't like, is your problem and the other people in the room, not making a field that you need to adjust to a box.
Sharon: I think you have to [00:13:00] be really comfortable within yourself and know how that you can be yourself within work, but still be professional and still do your job and still do your role. But as you yourself, so you give everything to your job or what you're doing or your project. Um, but you're able that you're allowed to give your own creative, your own opinion.
Gabi: , if you had to give an advice here to yourself and I'm hoping I'll be able to take the same advice for me, because I'm just as guilty of, uh, bringing myself down from my 10 at certain circumstances.
Um, what advice would you give to yourself to not be a five. At work.
Sharon: I think the advice I'd give to myself would be just remember who you are and believe in yourself and remember that you all are good at what you do . It's not wrong to give your own opinions or to try and suggest something different.
Um, but yeah, I think it's [00:14:00] more just remember who I am and to believe in myself because I need to believe in myself and then other people will believe in myself and respect me for that.
Gabi: If you had to describe yourself in a few words, who is Sharon?
Sharon: Sharon? Um, someone who is probably. Um, I've never tried to conform to anything. If I like something, I like something and I'm not as scared to admit what I like. Um, I'm very hard working. I have to, I do something I'm going to do it a hundred percent properly.
I'm not going to like try and scoot around something or cut corners. If I'm going to choose a piece of work, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. And I've always believed that if I get knocked backs or if I failed at something, then I would just pick myself up and learn from that. I would never regret it or feel angry about it.
I take, I've always taken it as a learning [00:15:00] curve.
Gabi: Can you tell us about the biggest regret of your professional life? Have you got one?
Sharon: That's a really hard question because, um, there's some things that might not have gone how I wanted them to be, or it might have failed or it might not have got something, but I've never really thought the most regrets.
I've always thought of them as things to learn from. If I've failed at something it's like, right, this is what went wrong. I'm going to do this next time. So it's really hard to actually have regrets. I think the only I thought about this a few times, the only thing that I might regret is that I haven't experienced other organizations like worked in other organizations to get a feel of how different companies work and get that experience.
I think that's the only thing that sometimes I think maybe that would have helped me grow myself to get other experiences.
Gabi: And is it too late for that?
Sharon: No, not at all. [00:16:00] It's never too late for anything.
Gabi: So Sharon, what has been the biggest achievement of your life?
Sharon: Biggest achievement. Um, my biggest achievement is very much, it's a team effort. It's not all the awards that we won together. Even. I'm very proud of those it's this is very much a team effort. This wasn't this down to me, but it's something that I am incredibly proud of and I will always take away is the way that we reorganized and rethought the way we recruit.
Um, how we recruit, who we recruit and all the work that we did with other organizations and groups and support groups to give opportunities to people that maybe in the past, when the thought of working in the art sector, or they would never have thought working with our organization or they never thought they could`.
And maybe a few years beforehand, they wouldn't have even got an interview or they might have got an interview but they wouldnt pass. [00:17:00] And it's now watching those people come to us and see them grow and develop and just blossom into amazing people that are real assets. And we are really lucky to have them.
, I was talking to one person last year and he was someone who had worked his whole life in the law. In the law industry, um, in taken retirement, but then he decided he wanted a little part time job, I think, to get him under his, out of his wife's feet, uh, to give her some space.
And I was talking to him last year and he'd been with us a couple of years and he said, you know what? I've worked my whole life in the, uh, within the law. But these last few years have been the most rewarding of my life. And it's like, wow. You know, we were able to do that. We gave people opportunities that might never have come along before.
That's what I'm most proud of.
Gabi: I got all emotional there, Sharon, because he's exactly mine as well. When people ask me that is [00:18:00] exactly the one. Um, and I think, you know, if you go back many, many years, The moment that hit it for me, it was when, as Sharon was saying, guys, that would change the way we do. We did recruitment and we opened up opportunities for people who previously wouldn't even have set foot in an arts organization before.
And we interviewed one person who had never worked in the arts and did his background was working in the milk factory. And, uh, there, that person would, that background would have never got a job. In our department, ever, in the past, no one would have given that person a job. And we did. And I think at that point we kind of realized, wow well, I realized in a way, what we're doing is right and is worth fighting for.
And we did, we fought for many years and, you know, in, in many ways we were the only ones fighting their fight and we held on until their last breath. I think. But
Sharon: I think [00:19:00] the department sees the benefits now because of the stuff that they have. You know, I mean, when we were in the one, he came through action on disability.
She won the audience experience award one month and she's gone on to appear in films for action on disability. Shes become a real ambassador and she's done things now that three years ago, she'd never agreed to do. And it's yeah. Watching them grow and helping them on that journey and just see the amazing people that they become.
Gabi: But we need to remember that to make those things happen. Those initiatives to actually come to life. It requires passionate people who believe in what they're doing. Oh yeah, you are. You are that person.
Sharon: . And I sometimes think of the staff that we've recruited through those, but they're my surrogate children. Pretty proud. ,
I never asked you to these earlier on when we were talking about the beginnings of your professional career, did you attend university?
I went [00:20:00] to a Polytechnic, which they're all now universities. Um, so I did, but I didn't go straight from school. Um, and I'm so glad I didn't. Um, I failed, but I didn't get the grades I needed to get into university originally. And I was going to do a bit like you, I was going to do a business studies course, cause I thought that's broad. It covers anything's. Cause I didn't really know what I wanted to do at 18.
At that point I'd sort of lost my way. Um, so I did fail my, uh, A Levels so I had to retake and then went to work at Chessington. And found something I actually loved. And it was then after, and I was a bit of a sponge at Chessington cause I moved into the events side and they just taught me everything.
Yeah. All the things to the point that, you know, and I think we encouraged our chef because there was two of us who were just like sponges on wanting to learn. And I think we encouraged him to develop and try different things. And at that point I thought, no, I really love this. This is what I went to that study.
[00:21:00] So it's that point that I went to university or Polytechnic. Um, and I always feel that doing it a few years later, not at 18. Um, I did so much best cause in some ways it was like, Oh, I've got this second chance. And I did really well. And I worked really hard at it, even though I worked and was studying at the same time, but I came out probably with a best qualification than I would have done if I'd gone straight.
Gabi: what is your message to the young people nowadays, trying to decide what they should do with their lives? Do I have to go to university? Will I ever get a job? If I don't have a degree?
Sharon: I think it's really hard to be honest, especially with the experience with my two. I don't think university is for everyone.
I don't think some people grow and develop that way in a, you know, a classroom environment. Um, I remember having this was a couple of years ago, having a disagreement with one of my son's teachers, a parent's evening [00:22:00] because, um, we've gone to see this teacher and my son wasn't doing, he wasn't getting the grades that he should have been. reaching at that point. And he said, well, what do you want to do when you, when you leave school? And my son at that point went I don't know. So the teacher went into this big rant about, well, this is your problem you should know what you want to do. And it's like, no, you don't. Um, I didn't, I'm not doing what I wanted to do. at 14, 15, not many people do. Some people do. Um, They know from a very early age. And I think that's great that what they want to do when they grow older. I think a lot of people don't, and I know from my experience, I floundered at 18, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I get sometimes just experiencing things.
Um, and I said to my son afterwards, you know, don't feel pressurized to know what you want to do. Um, later go out there experiencing, because sometimes you might come across something that like, for me, I just. Sort of thought, yeah, this is me. I want to [00:23:00] do it.
I would never say, feel pressurized to go to university. If it's not what you think you want to do, or you don't. Yeah, a classroom environment. Isn't for you. I know it wasn't for my son. Um, and I would never press it. I've had a lot of arguments with my husband about this. Um, cause I think he needs to find his own way.
It's his life it's life is too short. You need to do what you want to do. Does make you happy. Don't look, I would hate anyone to look back at life and go, Oh, I really regret doing that. Or I wonder what would happen if I tried that. You should grasp what you want to do.
Gabi: . I it's a minority of people I know in my life who have a vocation, they, they knew what they wanted to do from, from an early age. And I think that's incredible and the world needs those people. Most people they don't know. And you know, I have no shame in saying that I still don't know what I want to do.
And I don't think there has a reflection [00:24:00] on who I am as a professional, how hard I work, how strategic I can be with my next steps, because every single step I take has a purpose. I will take the next step if they make sense, but they don't necessarily lead me to a bigger goal because I don't know what their goal is and I'm totally okay with it.
And I'm verging on my late thirties. So how can we expect anything different from an 18 year old? So I, it's very unrealistic to expect people to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at that age. I think,
Sharon: um, I think it's so much pressure on an 18 year olds now, you know, what they want to do and to want to go. And there's a lot of pressure for them to go to university. Um, which I, I don't agree with just from my experience and through my children. I think people should be allowed to grow and develop and. Work at what they want to do. If they feel that university isn't right for [00:25:00] them, if they don't like the classroom environment or they want to do something practical, like learn on the job, do a work experience, do a trainee ship, doing apprentice. They should be allowed to do those things. Midlife is too short.
You need to grasp, um, Do something for yourself, that's making you happy and not to go through life and have regrets. But I wonder what happened if I tried that or I didn't do that. Yeah. I think there's too much pressure on children
Gabi: so you talked about your two quite a lot.
Tell us how you go through being a mom of two through 30 years of being a working parent. ,
Sharon: um, it's very difficult cause you always have that sense of guilt that you're not with them all the time. Um, cause I have to work. You have to pay bills and you have to pay the mortgage and I want you to provide for them. So I've I was been really lucky. I was allowed to work four days a week and have a day off in the week, which I found. so beneficial because it meant I [00:26:00] spent time with them and you could do the school pickups, which I don't know if you found this, you miss out making those connections with parents, um, and their friends, because you're not there. You're not picking them up all the time. Yeah. I used to drop them, but you're running in and out in the morning.
So you don't really get chance to talk to people. So making those connections is quite cool. Um, and I've always tried to make sure that when I'm at home, we it's their time. You know, we always used to read at time stories. We used to have a thing every evening where we do a different activity together, the three of us.
So one evening we might do some art. One day we did arts and crafts. We might do puzzles. We might play ball games. So I try to make the most of the time that we did have together. So on holidays, I'd always try and take a couple of days off. So we'd go to museums or we go to the zoo or we do things [00:27:00] together. So I try to, even though I was working make the most of the time that we did have together and make that special for them.
And I think they actually really enjoyed it because I was quite lucky. My parents helped out with childcare. And they love spending time with nan and granddad. Yeah. They've learned so much and they talk so foundally now at the times that they spent with them. So they got the best of both worlds, but it was a tough one.
And then resources that sense of guilt that you're not with them all the time. And you're missing out on things. And
Gabi: how old are they now? Sharon?
Sharon: Shows has my age. Um, my daughter is 25 and my son is 18. Is it
Gabi: easier now that they are grown ups?
Sharon: No. Cause I think, um, they're always going to be your babies and they're always going to be, cause they're at different point in their life journey. That's going to be different things that they bring or that you're worried [00:28:00] about, or, you know, you helping them on their way, doing different things at one time you might be helping them with schoolwork. Now you're helping them get a job or do something themselves that is. They're always going to be your babies.
Gabi: So, uh, Sharon, we coming up to our last three questions to bring your podcast to an end. The first one is, can you recommend our listeners, a book, a podcast, a website, anything that kind of helped you personally?
Sharon: Um, , I'm proud of this one. Um, the books I would recommend, cause I remember reading them 10, 15 years ago and I still, they stuck so much in my mind and I learned so much more from them and it's the Disney books on customer service and staff engagement.
And there are quite a few of them. Um, there's one called Be Our Guest there's one called Disney You and I think it was another one called Creative Magic. And it's just them talking about [00:29:00] how they do their staff engagement, how they share their ideas on customer service. And they are amazing. They really made me think outside the box.
And I still think of some now, so I would recommend those.
Gabi: If you could go back and give your professional, younger self, a piece of advice, what would it be?
Sharon: , it's just believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself and things are going to come along. That might, you might not be expecting, but learn from them, um, and just remember that you are great.
Gabi: And finally, Sharon, what advice do you wish someone would give you right now? So something you might already know about yourself, but you need to hear from someone else?
to be confident in myself and believe in myself. Um, cause I don't think I always have.
Um, and to remember that everyone has a skill or a talent, and it's something that I've always believed in. And sometimes it might take a while for you to find it. Um, [00:30:00] but there is something special in everyone. And just remember that you are special and so on an employer should be lucky to have you
Sharon, any final words you want to leave our listeners with?
Sharon: , if you go through life's journey, you are, as I said before, you are going to get knocks. Um, you are going to get someone who might not like you, or like your idea, or believe in what you want to do. Um, But don't be put down by that.
Just pick yourself up because there's going to be the next person is either going to love you or love your idea or believe in you. Um, and I've always taken those as life lessons and learn from them. I thought, do you know what I'm going to show you that I am worthy or I can do that, or maybe rethink what I want to do, but just remember, just learn from it.
And life is too short: grasp it. If you have a dream, if you have a passion, go for it. You might not always get there or you might go off on a tangent. Okay. Don't look [00:31:00] back on your life and have regrets.
Gabi: . Yes. Thank you so much, Sharon. I absolutely loved having
Sharon: you today. Thank you for having me. . It's been wonderful. Thank you.
Gabi: Now, if you want to keep in touch with Sharon, I'm going to leave her details hear the description, do get in touch with her. And I hope you've enjoyed this episode and you'll find a useful you find inspiring. I absolutely loved it. I had a few tears in my eyes a few times.
Now go and hit the subscribe button right now. So you never miss a show. There's a new episode every Tuesday, Join me on my Instagram page, people who work podcast ,also tagged in the description and come and tell me your thoughts on this episode with Sharon. Join me next time. And I'll see you then.
Kate Bone 01/06/2020 - TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:00] Gabi Gandolfini: today with me I have Kate Bone, and Kate and I worked together for over eight years and I can genuinely say it was a pleasure. And I've learned a lot from Kate. She probably doesn't believe me when I say that, but it is true. I've learned so much from Kate in my time with her, and I'm really happy to have her here today.
Kate Bone: Oh, thank you, Gabriela. What a wonderful introduction. And I think you've probably learned what not to do for me, but I learned most amounts from you. You've always inspired me with them, everything you've done and everything you've achieved and, I know that you would achieve, so thank you very much for inviting me.
Gabi Gandolfini: Thank you. And, I'm not willing to introduce Kate to you. I'm going to let her do the honors, but Kate, I don't want you to introduce yourself first by the job titles you've had, what you're doing now, because in my humble opinion, that's the least important thing about someone.
So start with you first and then tell us about what you've done in your career. [00:01:00]
Kate Bone: I think I've always been a creative person. And if anybody asked me, that's what I would describe myself as, I've always liked creating things and having ideas and producing stuff. I like projects.
And I find that exciting and I like lots of challenges. I like doing lots of things at once. Having a lot of things on the go. So I trained in theater, I've trained in graphic design and I've worked in retail. So I'm kind of a bit like a market trader with them.
Give them do good signage and a nice set.
Gabi Gandolfini: Tell us about the things you've done professionally.
Kate Bone: So I started off, you know, theater. So as a child, I was always into theater. We went to it a lot and that happened at school. I was very involved in the theater side of things there, we were fortunate enough to have a [00:02:00] little stage with some lighting and some sounds, and I would always be involved with that.
So I always saw myself as going into a creative area. and I trained to go in technical theater. So I did a vocational course and I did a diploma in technical theater. And then I went out into the big wide world and I didn't actually do too much technical theater.
I did a bit of stage management and then I worked for the Shakespeare Company at the Mermaid Theater. And went around a few small West End organizations and then ended up running my own fringe venue for a bit, which was brilliant fun. I learnt a lot, probably a lot by my mistakes, really.
but in the end, it doesn't make you any money. And so I decided to be trained as a graphic designer. So another vocational course, and it was at the London College of printing and I did an HMD and type of graphic design. And I love that, [00:03:00] which is fantastic. But again, as I left and became a freelancer and money is always a bit tricky when you are a freelancer.
So one Christmas I decided to attempt Waterstones and started selling books. I mean, I love books. I've always loved reading, which is probably the worst answer. If you're applying for job in a bookshop, I, you know, because actually what you end up doing is applying lots of stickers and putting things in boxes and bags.
but I had a lovely, lovely time there, lovely people and just stayed in retail just by default. An awful lot of things in my life seem to just happen. but they've always seemed the right thing to do at the time. And, then in a really securitas way and purely by accident, I ended up back at the National Theater, running their retail operation there.
So I started off in theater. I ended up in theater and, that's been quite bizarre, and it wasn't planned for, at all.
Gabi Gandolfini: So we worked together. I mentioned that we worked together for over 8 years. There was at the national theater where we worked [00:04:00] together. And for me, anyway, whenever I say to people, Oh, I worked at the national theater and I run my department, whatever people find a very glamorous, you know, especially people who don't work in theater, my non theater, friends, is it glamorous Kate? Is it glamorous?
Kate Bone: It's very hard work.
I think there is, there is glamour, but when you step out back of house to front of house at about seven, seven fifteen, and, the, the audiences is there with their, glasses of wine and their gin and tonics and the bars. and they're about to go in and see a show. I mean, there's a real, fantastic energy in it. And that's, that's the moment when the whole thing coming to life until it gets to that point is hard work.
I mean, I'm a hard stop trying to make money about money. My job is to try and make money for the business and to do it in a creative way that, matched the theater's ambitions and their mission, which is quite tricky at times, you know, that takes a bit of brain power. but back of house, there are [00:05:00] technicians that stage managers, costume makers, wardrobe, everybody snacking away from about eight 30 in the morning, housekeepers.
You know, engineering, everything is, it's a huge operation and it's an absolute machine. So yeah, there isn't, there was an element of glamour there and you do get to see the odd star walking around the dressing room, but it's, it's a hard slog. Good fun but hard.
Gabi Gandolfini: If working in theater in the arts is hard work, it doesn't pay well, and there aren't that many jobs available. Why did you stay in the arts for so long?
Kate Bone: A good question. I don't like making money for emission. You know, the thing about millennials are they only, they only want to do things they care about, and I don't want to make money for faceless organizations.
I don't want to work for those people. Like I want to make a difference. and I think the NT. That, that the arts and theater do make a difference to people and they change people's [00:06:00] lives. And it may not, you may not think that, but I, do believe that a small child going into the theater and seeing someone else's life, inspires them.
if they take part in it, it gives them confidence to, bringing the arts into schools is so important. And, bringing diverse communities in to experience different stories and different things is so important. and to be able to support that. And I mean, I've done it in various ways from directing and producing my early day as to, to, to making money for them.
And, more recently, I mean, it's an essential part of our lives. and even if you watch, know I adore Grayson Perry's art club and, and you watched that and the difference it makes the people and their stories and. People who have never drawn or painted before doing amazing things, and, feeling inspired and they inspire me and they inspire the people and they go, there's the art straightforward.
Absolutely, absolutely vital.
Gabi Gandolfini: all that in mind, Kate, what has been the biggest success of your career to [00:07:00] date? It could be anything from small to big.
Kate Bone: Ah, biggest success. I was lucky enough when Nick Star and Nick H. were running the national theater. Nick Star allowed me to produce a book called All About Theater, with a publishing fund called Walker Books, who do amazing fun, amazing people and do amazing books, for kids.
And it was a book for kids and to introduce, act as an introduction for theater, but to also expand upon people's ideas, that theater is just acting. just people being on the stage. It's actually more than that. They're all the roles back in house from her tailors, engineers, welding, carpentry, you know, lighting, marketing, box office, everything, all the different roles that you could, you could take part in.
Yeah, and being both in theater. And so we worked together, along with the learning department and we developed this book and it's [00:08:00] fantastic. It's won some awards. and it really works as a way as a gateway into theater for not only kids that have eight or nine but adults as well. I mean, you know, when we were doing it, I was like, Oh my God, I didn't realize that job existed.
I didn't realize you could do that. That's actually brilliant. So you can actually be a tailor and work at the national theater. You can be a carpenter and work at the national theater, all of your local feeds and all that.
Gabi Gandolfini: I got a bit emotional now it's really, really sad.
Kate can actually see me on video. And I was like, Oh my God, please don't cry. Please don't cry. Because actually I remember at that time, the spirit of celebration when their book went live and how immensely proud everybody was of Kate and the retail colleagues and everybody for making it happen because it did really feel like an internal massive achievement made by the people who actually care about the organization. and I think this [00:09:00] spirit of teamwork and genuinely celebrating successes of our colleagues with no, no motives behind it, just because we genuinely care about each other is something that I'm starting to see less and less in the workplace, which I think is a shame.
What are your thoughts on that? What actually makes a really great workplace? What is it that makes you want to go to work today? Every day?
Kate Bone: It's a shared goal. I think, I mean, when I first joined the national theater and the Nicks landed, and it was a small organization than it, than it is now.
but there was a sense of everyone moving in the same direction. And everyone working together to create an amazing piece of theater that at 7.30, a thousand people would sit down and be blown away by it. and that it was one big, big building. it, it was not corporate. it was a kind of, a bit of a mess at times.
but I [00:10:00] mean, I, I was very fortunate to spend time working with Nick Star who was an inspirational, individual hand, a true entrepreneur and who just had the confidence and the courage to, to go. okay. You've never been used a booklet in your life, but go for it, go for it, just do it. If you need any help, let me know and then get on with it and to be given that freedom that there's the safe boundaries, but the freedom to be creative in that space was amazing. yeah, a creative organization is the best place to work.
Gabi Gandolfini: Yeah. When, you know, thinking about the people who really inspired me from the top, some of the best things that they have made for my career. And actually for me personally, you know, for me to grow as a person where the people who said, do you know what I, I'm not sure you actually going to succeed actually, you’re very, very likely to fail, but go for it.
And if you need to help fixing your mistakes, let me know and I'll help you.
[00:11:00] Kate Bone: Absolutely. It's the thing the freedom to fail. I mean, everyone learns from their mistakes. You learn from a show that it doesn't do particularly well. You learn a fun piece of art that went wrong at some point. And the trick is to find those people who can support you, whether they're within the organization or whether they sit outside of it.
and to have those individuals who believe in you, you go, yeah, as you say, you might get this wrong, but let's have a go. It'd be interesting.
Gabi Gandolfini: So I'm just going to go back to something you said earlier, you said that a lot of your career kind of just happened, not much of it was planned and, I completely understand, cause it's pretty much the same with mine. however, I think with every single young person out there. They always get asked the same question. What do you want to be when you grow up? Or you go for a job interview and you get asked, where do you want to be in five years’ time? And I've always been the person asking those questions at interviews and at the back of my mind I'm always like, well, I'm [00:12:00] being a hypocrite because if someone asked me that, I wouldn't know. And I still don't know. How important is it to have your career planed out?
Kate Bone: I'm always kind of wildly journalists and hugely admiring and there's people who go, I know I want to be a cinematographer and they spend their entire life being a cinematographer and they get to it.
And they're fantastic. And I just think that must be so wonderful to take all of the concern or the worry of what you're going to do next, but actually I quite like the falling into things. I mean, I have a lot of interests, And I'm not a specialist in that way. I don't, I'm not a, a complete nerd on, I like a bit of Lego.
I like a bit of X-Box. I like designing like this. I like theater, films. but to be able to pay attention to those interests, and then when an opportunity comes along with that peaks one of those interests it's lovely to be able to confidently go. Yeah, I'm really [00:13:00] interested in that.
I'm going to have a go and I think that's kind of an organic way of yeah. Just working through things and you can reassess all the time. I'm constantly thinking about, well, that's interesting. I haven't looked at that shop again and that's quite fun.
Gabi Gandolfini: At another podcast that I recorded, Not for this series for someone else.
I interviewed someone called Bernard Donoghue that some of you may know, and, he's the director for ALVA if you know what ALVA if not, I can leave the link here in the, in the description for you to go check it out. But Bernard, who is incredibly successful in so many ways and is actually a man I admire a lot personally who has done quite a bit for my career as well. He said that, well you need to do, to allow your career to take you and not the other way around you don't take your career. You let your career, take you because if you have it planned out, you miss out on incredible opportunities that you wouldn't have otherwise because you're just following a path and you can't see everything that is on the sides of the path that would [00:14:00] lead to incredible ways.
And a lot of his career wasn't planned out at all. And. A lot of the very senior managers and leaders, I speak to most of them say the same thing. So I think we need to start just saying, do you know what it's okay for you not to know what you wanted to do in five years’ time. You just make sure that your next step makes sense instead.
Kate Bone: Absolutely. There's always going to be the job you take because you have to pay bills. and you should be able to put your hand off and go, I'm going to do this job the best I possibly can, but I'm not seeing this as my 25 year plan, because to be honest, that long term career linear career in the same organization or similar organizations, it properly kind of out of the window now, you know, when we're looking at a complete rewriting of everything at the moment, especially in the cultural sector, I mean, COVID-19 has landed and, and just things of the [00:15:00] scattering and to sit there and believe that in in 10 years’ time, I will be doing some retail in an arts organization is not going to happen.
so much more interesting to go into and say, why let's have a bit more opportunity though, where can things go or where can I go or where can my interests take me? and if someone said that an interview I'd be absolutely delighted. I'd just think. Well, interesting person. Brilliant, great. You’re hired!
Gabi Gandolfini: Absolutely.
tell me about these interests. What do you think, what do you think the next step is for someone who has worked for a long time in traditional retail, but COVID-19 has completely thrown that out of the window?
Kate Bone: I'm seeing a lot of pivoting from very small producers and suppliers. and, retailers. I mean, I live in Brighton and they've got food box schemes , people producing honey, I'm hugely impressed by [00:16:00] the way they pivoted with complete speed from a traditional shop or a market or their usual supply into a traditional retail and offering everything online, they're setting up websites.
They're making things easy for people to. access to buy from them. but also they have, because they're small, they have a real message there. They're engaging. They're there. You can talk to the person who looks after the bees who produces the honey. You can talk to the guy who's milling the flour, you know, the guy, who's the person who's producing your vegetables. It's wonderful. I mean, I'm enjoying it and that's what really interests me. But equally I'm really interested in how the, how arts organizations are moving online, how they're sending out their content digitally and how they're managing to engage new audiences.
I mean, there's national theater. It obviously is something I know. [00:17:00] the national theater live, it has been offered for three on YouTube and they've had something like 9, 10 million views. They could be more by now. And there's probably the majority of those people would not have gone to the national theater in London to see this.
they may not have gone into the cinema to see it either, but on YouTube. You're suddenly seeing a whole different range of people coming on. There'll be interesting to see that the analytics on that to see what demographics are actually tuning in on a Thursday night to see it, but I'm really interested in how you would take a, an exhibition virtually, how you could, if you get a new audience to, to look at your Hockney exhibition while you're Picasso.
and take that out there and how we can look at 3 D displays, 3 D scans of objects even actually rotate them in front of me. It was very interesting that when Notre Dame was so badly damaged. [00:18:00] The only reference that they're using in the rebuild is the, digital Notre Dame in Assassin's Creed.
Unity because the designer needs the digital creative of that spent three years studying the building and recreating it on a one to one basis within a video game. So that's an absolute replica of Notre Dame and that's kind of crazy really that you can play a video game and at the same time experience, most of the most incredible pieces of architecture rather than.
Gabi Gandolfini: And if someone had told your 20 year old self that today you would be telling me about these things, a video game and COVID-19, and having worked at the national theater, would you have believed it back then? Did you see, did you see yourself being here today?
I don't probably not, not in this particular way.
Was involved in computers at a very early stage. I knew a lot of people [00:19:00] programming the original adventure games, you know, you're in a dark room and there's a North, South East West. so I hung out with those kinds of people. I had a computer for one of the original BBC micros, and I played with programming and all that kind of stuff.
Kate Bone: So I was, I was a bit of a nerd. at the same time, I was creative, creative nerd. Is there such a thing? it joins up, you can see the patterns, you can see the interests and all there.
Gabi Gandolfini: Kate's looking back on your career so far. What has been your biggest regret of your professional career?
Kate Bone: Very early on when I was, I was directing a very, I thought quite badly, directing Shakespeare in a space, small thing, theater, trying to get a King Lear on a three meter square stage is interesting.
I was offered the opportunity to go and try out directing for television at the BBC. [00:20:00] And there's so there's really nice guy said, Oh, just start, come and do this. And I didn't believe I'd be good at it. And I had a real fear of that failure and, and I turned it down and I really regret doing that.
really mind-numbingly stupid thing to do. And I look back on it because I can still see that the piece of paper with the phone number and you know, this guy's name on it, on the sideboard and me just thinking, you know, I would just be, it'd be so embarrassing. I'll be such an, I'll be so bad at it. I'm not going to get this.
So it's pretty major regret.
It was really painful. Yeah. It's still really painful. but, but it's taken me a long time. I still, I sort of struggled with imposter syndrome and confidence and, it doesn't get better as you get older. it's still something you fight with on a daily basis, you have to keep challenging it. but I do say yes to things I said yes, to your kind invitation to do this because [00:21:00] in the past I'd have been like, Oh, no way.
This is just not going to be, this is not me, but here I am, but I'm enjoying it. So thank you.
Gabi Gandolfini: So are those, the lessons learned that you started to say yes to things?
Yeah, definitely not. So that you have to say yes. and if you get offered an opportunity, you think, well, you know, I, haven't got a clue how to do that, but there's always someone who can help you.
Kate Bone: I think you just have to say yes, if someone believes in you enough to offer you an opportunity, you should do them the courtesy of saying yes and, It had to be a pretty extreme, obviously someone said, come and join, come and climb Everest with me. I would, my fear of heights would probably procured my go, as I am a five foot seven chicken.
I want to talk about the imposter syndrome thing, because, you listening to this podcast, you probably don't know Kate, but Kate is type of [00:22:00] person who gets invited to a board meeting. And she turns up to the board meeting as the coolest person in the room.
Gabi Gandolfini: She sits down, and she makes everybody in the room laugh. Everyone. And everyone always looks forward to having Kate in the room because we know that she's gonna tell you straight as things are, she's not going to hold back and she's still gonna do it in an incredibly diplomatic and professional way, but really funny.
And I never quite figured out how Katie did that. So, I mean, because I've known her for so long, I can understand the imposter syndrome thing, but actually someone looking from the outside, you wouldn't necessarily see it. So I'm really interested in you giving us a bit of an insight on how that works. Kate.
Kate Bone: How does it work? I think humor is what I hide behind. it, it helps, it also helps deliver some often not great information to people. you know, you're, maybe you haven't, [00:23:00] haven't made budget, but there's a slightly humorous way of delivering that news.
Trying to be authentic as well. And that's something I struggled with hugely, it's to turn up to work and be yourself is I think a constant struggle for everybody, within a corporate setting to be authentic, to stick to your values, to be honest, not only with yourself, but with everybody else, And I think that's what I've always tried to do when I've shown up to say that the board meeting, and you're very generous to say that, it's important to try and be honest at all times about where you're going, what you're doing, and more importantly, understand why you're doing it, whether for the organization, from the organizational point of view, or from your own point of view, whether inside you can truly believe in what you walked in.
Gabi Gandolfini: So you talked about being authentic and being yourself, how much of any scale of 1 to 10 [00:24:00] you feel you can be yourself when you're going to work?
Kate Bone: I think it's got, it's a tricky one. I think the cultural sector at the moment is having a bit of a love affair with the high street. And I left the high street because I didn't want to make money for the shareholders to be brutally honest, but also, I didn't think that the way the high street did businesses and tidy wonderful. And so to go to the cultural sector, it was very nice to, to be creative, to be kind. And I think that's very important. And to work with a belief in what you're doing, that what they're doing here is kind of ethical.
and as the high street influence became stronger, then we started to move away. I mean, yes, there's a commercial drive there. You have to make more money. And there are certainly high street, initiatives that, that deliver higher revenues for their businesses. But at the [00:25:00] same time, the high Street's not doing great.
He wasn't doing great before Covid. It was losing people. and I'm not convinced that that, just helps out and replicating marks and Spencer's in the cultural environment is the best thing to do. So it was, it was getting more of a struggle to be authentic while trying to be very cool, fun to be there and fitting within a corporate structure that frankly has been created.
I mean, to be honest by white men, if you're not a white man, I think it's quite tricky to, be a hundred percent authentic because you won't stand out too much. and that's where cultural organizations are great because they are very open very diverse in themselves. So you can be, you can turn up to a board meeting and be funny.
People won't be too upset. I think a big company that's acceptable. So I'm probably, I probably got down to about 5 out of 10 towards the end.
Gabi Gandolfini: Okay. And Kate, if you could give our [00:26:00] listeners or even yourself an advice on how to go an extra three points on that scale, maybe get to maybe six, seven, eight, nine. I don't know. What would it be?
Kate Bone: I think in the end, if you can be kind, not only to yourself, but to other people being authentic doesn't mean interpreting the rules to suit you. And we've seen an example of that currently in the press with, various governmental advisors doing silly things. one in particular, I'm sure he was saying he was being authentic and his behavior, but it hurt people.
you have to be authentic. You have to be confident about your values and interpreting them in a way that doesn't hurt, offend, upset. Other people I've failed this many, many times in that, but the back of my head, that's what I've always tried to do.
Gabi Gandolfini: let's say that [00:27:00] you won the lottery and you never have to work ever again. And if you could see Kate's face...would you still work? And if you still worked, what would you do?
Kate Bone: I wouldn't work. I mean, I'm assuming we're talking about quite a few millions here. We're not doing, I'm not talking about 10 grand. Let's go. Let's go full on ultimate lottery winner.
Yeah, definitely. I wouldn't work like crazy to count working, but I do think, wow, fantastic things you could do that would influence like impact positively on people's lives. I would be more creative. I would want to have my studio do my art and design and all that kind of stuff. But at the same time, be more political.
I think, use that money to set ups with lots of smuggling schemes that would help people, I don't know, small gardens where people can go and work and improve [00:28:00] their mental health, stuff like that. Lots of small things that help local communities. Around the country. I mean, that would make me incredibly happy to feel like I could leave a positive impact on, the world, while also being creatively fulfilled.
Gabi Gandolfini: Do you already get involved in any sort of political activity?
Kate Bone: I support the Green Party where I can, at the moment it's a bit tricky, obviously. but it's better. climate emergency is just absolutely horrific. we've been derailed in this country by Brexit now. COVID we were seeing what can be achieved in the very short time by government pouring money into, into changing the way homeless people, my house instantly, we've managed to take them off the streets and give them somewhere to live. why can we not make these kinds of massive changes? anyway, this year kind of emergency landing upon [00:29:00] us increasingly horrendous situation. Yeah. I mean, I will become more and more politically active.
Gabi Gandolfini: Okay. So coming to the end of our podcast. Now you said you love books, so recommend us is a really good one!
Wow. Cranky. There are two people. That's the moment I'm, I'm really inspired by one is Emma Gannon. I mean, she's written a lot there. You can choose any of her books, but the multihyphenate method I think is wonderful.
she had just written a nice blog piece about to look forward, look back into your childhood and seeing what interests you and what you enjoy doing and see how, how that, that can take you forward. Then the multi hyphen methods book about, how you can have a portfolio career really, And, and merge lots of interests, lots of passions into one life.
Now that's really exciting. the other [00:30:00] person is Brene Brown. And, again, I can't recommend just any one particular book. her, her Ted talk, actually the initial one is probably the best one to look into. She's a research professor. She bridges the gap between academics and the rest of us.
she started courage and vulnerability and talks about shame and empathy. and if she doesn't have a website, her motto at the moment is courage over comfort. but yeah, it's not with a Ted talk and move into the book, the books.
Gabi Gandolfini: Okay. This is a bit of an odd one, but what advice do you wish someone would give you right now? You know, something that you already know about yourself or your career, but you just needed to hear from someone else to make it happen?
Kate Bone: I think stop doing what you think you should be doing and do what you really want to do.
Gabi Gandolfini: do you really want to do?
Kate Bone: it's, it's more creative than commercial lately. [00:31:00] It's bringing my, political interests into a creative life. My concern, I think at the back of your mind is that financially that's not the best thing to do, but yeah.
Gabi Gandolfini: Well, as you said earlier, your creative nerd, right?
Kate Bone: Yes.
Gabi Gandolfini: Got to live up to it.
Kate Bone: Yeah, totally.
Gabi Gandolfini: So, Kate, what final words, you want us to leave our listeners with.
Kate Bone: I think these are difficult and in brackets, dangerous times, there are a lot of, bad actors out there. I think that's the political term, isn't that, we're seeing politicians and extremists, doing, stupid things and hurting people and we shouldn't let that. Go unnoticed or acted upon.
And I think if you have values, you should stick up for them and you should be vocal about those values and your actions should support those beliefs. be authentic. Oh, that'd be [00:32:00] brave.
Gabi Gandolfini: So Kate, I can only wish you, your own design studio. I can only wish you that you work towards your community initiatives and make them happen. And I wish you keep powering through being a nerd because there's nothing wrong with it. I'm one too. And I genuinely loved talking to you and I really looked forward to being a friend for the next 10 years.
Kate Bone: Oh, thank you Gabriela. It's always a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much. This has been great.
Gabi Gandolfini: Thank you. Thank you very much.
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