Q&A with Radio 1s Fiona Hanlon

Fiona (FiFi)  has worked at Radio 1 for nearly 10 years, she has produced radio shows for Nick Grimshaw, Maya Jama and many other well-known radio presenters. Her current role as a Talent Producer involves working with famous people and artists to make mixes that young people will enjoy.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self now?

I would say: Be yourself, do what you believe in and If you think you are good at something then you probably are so you should pursue it. Follow your dreams.

What barriers, if any, have you faced in your career?

I’ve not really had any that stand out. Females & males were always treated equally in my house growing up. I don’t feel like I’ve been dealt any barrier cards so far but I do see them pop up on a regular basis for a variety of people. Unconscious bias is still alive and well. I always wanted to work in radio since I was 14 so I was pretty determined to achieve my goals. The media is a heavily male industry but I just got with it. I got used to it being the norm to work with a majority of males. I felt proud to be breaking the stereotypes. One barrier I do see is when there are a lot of males working together with little female input. The result is not a diverse result.

Who are your inspirations?

Annie Mac & Sara Cox They are radio heroes and legends. I’ve followed Annie Mac through all of her career. She knows her self worth. She’s married, a mum of two and still an amazing broadcaster and a great businesswoman and true to herself. She is really kind too, and passionate. There were very few role models growing up but Sara was one of the few females who was funny and smart. She showed me it was ok to be a bit different.


What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?

–     Be yourself
–     Work hard
–     Have fun

What’s great about being a female in your role?

That people want to hear from you. We’ve gone for years with men telling women how to do things. I love being able to connect with young people. I remember what it’s like being 18 and going out, falling in love, the struggles you have at University and the highs and very lows of life. I like being able to connect with young females. 

Do you think government quotas are a good thing around diversity?

It’s good because it gets people thinking about it. However, I worry that businesses will do it because they have to. Employ someone because they are good, not because they are female.

Do you think that diversity really helps organisations?

Yes. You will keep making content that is dull if you aren’t diverse. You need as many different people with as many different experiences as possible. Also employ people who are smarter than you otherwise you’ll just appeal to the same people. Employ people who you never thought you would employ. 

What are your proudest achievements?

I always wanted to work on the Radio One breakfast show and I did it, plus I was relatively young when it happened, and I did it for 6 years. I’ll never forgot the email when the BBC offered me paid work. Being paid to do what you love is possible. Find your route, it might be a different one to what you originally planned but find it.

What has been your biggest knock-back?

My biggest knock-back was actually a good thing; I was working in a backfill role that was unpaid, the role I was covering had been paid previously. I asked to get paid and they said no, so I had to go home and live with my parents which was a horrendous decision as I genuinely thought that was my one chance in radio. But it actually worked out for the best and I ended up getting a better job in a better place. When you’ve got no money and doing stupid hours and feel like you’re being taken advantage of, you probably are, so don’t do it. You are worth more than that. Find a different path.

How do you feel about being a positive role model?

That’s brilliant if I am a positive role model. The more the better. 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

I’ve got a lot better, I used to work all the time because I wanted to. But now I’ve readjusted it and my boss is great with flexible working hours. My job isn’t a 9-5 job so I can mould my life around my job. If companies can be more flexible with working hours then they should be. The more fun you have out of work the more creative you’ll be at work. Being chained to a desk isn’t going to generate engaging content.

What are your key motivators?

Be happy. I’m determined to do a job I enjoy. You work for so much of your life that it’s really important to do a job that you’ll happily get out of bed for. If I can make someone laugh or make their day better then that motivates me. 

How did you get to the position you are now?

I knew what I wanted to do. I’m lucky because I knew from 14 that I wanted to work in the media. A lot of my friends didn’t and still don’t. I had a goal, I pictured myself doing it and I worked hard to achieve it. I didn’t see it as unattainable. Nothing is unattainable.

Why did you choose the industry that you are in?

I wanted a fast pace and exciting job. It’s interesting and different every day. I was once told that working in the media is one of the hardest industries so that made me more determined to succeed. 

What qualifications (if any) helped you to get where you are?

I got average GCSEs, average A levels and a 2:2 degree. Nothing spectacular. It isn’t the be all and end all if you don’t have loads of qualifications. I went to uni because I wanted to but didn’t work very hard. I did do a lot of student radio though. If you are passionate and you work hard then you’ll be fine. I was told a maths GCSE C was really important, well I tried twice and still didn’t get one and I have a job and earn money. It’s not the end of the world if you’re not a brainbox, you’ll be fine. BUT if you are smart then make the most of it. 


As well as Fiona, we have many inspiring women who are also bringing us amazing content. You can find more here, also check out our jobs here.


Connect with Fiona:

Twitter @fionaradio

Linkedin: Fiona Hanlon

Instagram: @fionaradio

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