This #YesSheCan blog is from Vicky Pearson, Founder/Director and lead creative of Creative DC and Bookie Wookie Doo Dah. Vicky talks us through her varied career from digital marketing to standing for parliament.
We’re so grateful to Vicky for writing this blog, and she has a lot to say- give it a read!
I am a 35-year-old mother of a one-year-old and stepmother to a ten-year-old. I am a disabled lady but a strong woman. I live in rural Lincolnshire in a very old cottage that I love dearly. I am an ex horse trainer and riding coach and an ex roller girl. I love science fiction, reading, movies and gaming. I am definitely a little different as a person, to people’s expectations but I always walk my own path and do what I think is right. I like a lot of variety in life, which has given me a life full of variety and fun.
I really enjoy working with both graphic design and web design and love the fact I have managed to create my own business that works for me and my lifestyle. I have a very flexible day, so can be working from 7 am, or working up until 11 pm, depending on the clients I am working with or work that needs to be done. I am a mother of a one-year-old, so in return, this helps me manage my parenting responsibilities too. As I am a disabled business owner, working flexible hours really helps me.
I work closely with my clients and around their busy working days. The people I mostly work with, are busy themselves running their own business. Some days I will meet with clients to work directly with them to formulate their business website structure or develop their website copy in person, other times I can work remotely through email and phone conversations. It really depends on each client and their needs. I have clients with children themselves who often pop in during the day, or ask if I can work with them after their children’s bedtime. Other clients live much further away, so we communicate via the phone and email only.
One day I can be customising website code to meet specific look requirements, other days I can be mostly working in graphic design. Creating advertising materials or roll banner designs. Everything I do is custom to each business and I have a wealth of industry experience to meet their needs and advise them as to what would work best. My job is to make their business’ digital needs as simple as possible and to get the best results.
My journey was probably not very linear compared to most people, but I definitely tend to create my own paths in life and this was no different.
I started learning how to code websites when I was 13 years old. I grew up with a father who designed engineering machine programs in the 1980s and 1990’s so we always had a desktop computer at home. I started an online business inside a game I played back then. I sold custom profile designs to other players and gather a huge amount of in-game money to spend.
Ironically I did not enjoy computer science in School as I was already teaching myself HTML and CSS in my spare time and my teachers were still teaching people how to use Microsoft Word. I was often in trouble for not sticking to the task and dropped IT from my GCSE’s as I struggled to reproduce work that I could do with my eyes closed.
When I entered University at age 21, I started working in digital production of media and film. I studied typography as a keen interest and digital editing and effects. In my final year, I specialised in media digital design in both graphics and web design. My final piece of exam work was a multi-functional website with digital moving parts, using image mapping.
After graduating in 2009, deep in the recession, I struggled to find business’ hiring graduates in my area, so took a job in a National business with its headquarters in Lincoln. After a year they opened up a graduate apprenticeship in senior business management and after the interview process, I was hired with commendation. They were impressed with the work I was producing, including working out the business economic structure via the administration portal and managed to correctly update the sales numbers for the sales team in my spare time. The CEO pulled me into his office concerned how I had gathered this information and after explaining it to him, I was put forwards for a promotion to work directly for the companies founding director of the international business group.
I was given a new business incubation business to develop and my own building to run and staff body to hire, reporting directly to him and under his apprenticeship. It was truly a baptism of fire. My first day I was given a PC, a telephone and some printed out spreadsheets of past customer details. I was handed the sales team of a dairy producer in the North West, to reformulate and manage the sales team focused on small business. After successfully turning this team to profit within 6 months, I was asked to develop a new business promoting small local dairy farmers to the local Lincoln community. I learned an incredible amount in this time about business, creating targets and reaching your target audience.
Unfortunately, I then had a very serious car accident and damaged a part of my spine and had to leave my current employment.
I used this time to start working from home and also working in the voluntary sector, helping with restructuring committee management systems and developing websites as a donation to a range of charities.
I took on a 16 hour a week contract working for another national company with a headquarters based in Lincoln and took over managing the digital marketing department. I redesigned all the business’s websites, created marketing film material and worked on designing new branding for new products they were creating. In this time my digital work won first place in the Lincolnshire Digital Awards for the website and digital development of a Lincoln-based business.
After this, I decided to take a step back and develop my own business Creativity DC, currently being re-branded as Creative DC. I had discovered I was pregnant and needed to redevelop my career around both health and my family.
I definitely have faced challenges, I think you are extremely lucky if you find success without challenge. I started with nothing. I had been working in New York and Indiana over my Summers at University, running a Western Horse ranch and coaching Teenagers for the YMCA Summer Programs. When I arrived back in the UK we had a new Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) a Recession and even the £20 had changed!
I was crashing on a sofa and took a job working in a Western Training yard to build up my finances to rent a flat and buy a car. Working with horses is one of the hardest jobs you can even imagine, especially in Winter.
Luckily it paid off and I managed to get both my own flat and car, then into a postgraduate career in just over 12 months.
Working for the founding director of the business I did was also incredibly difficult. I had to write and present a board pack every 4 weeks to detail both development and financial gains. In this environment, financial losses were not acceptable and it was possibly the most stressful job I have ever worked in. Luckily I mostly impressed, but my extremely competitive nature was the main cause of this. I take failure very personally and I am definitely my own biggest critic.
I think more recently, re-developing both myself and my career after becoming disabled was extremely challenging. Its hardly a selling point when gaining new business and it took a while to develop a strategy and business model that works well for both my clients and for me.
Finally, I think becoming a mother, running two businesses (I sell children’s books online as a hobby through Usborne Books) and dealing with regular hospital visits is definitely extremely challenging. I am thankful I have found a way to make it work.
I have been told by every single employer I have worked for, that tenacity is my biggest strength. I never give up. Sometimes I take a pause to sit back and analyse the situation, before formulating the best strategy to move forwards. I definitely find sitting back and really thinking about your plan, is important and never giving up. By all means shout for a little bit, get frustrated, then continue forwards. I am definitely a big ranter, but I’m also a do-er too.
Supporting small business, with great digital marketing is something very important to me. Working with clients who have avoided developing their digital websites or are scared of asking as they feel embarrassed about how little they understand computers. I enjoy working with them and aiding them in developing the best outcome for them.
I also enjoy selling my children’s books and I am currently running a book drive for businesses to sponsor mental health books to be provided to Lincolnshire Primary Schools. My book business is Bookie Wookie Doo Dah and if you are as passionate as me about supporting children, Schools and mental health, get in touch about sponsoring some books!
I had an extremely challenging childhood. It’s a lot to discuss and not something I want to make public, but nothing was easy for me and I grew frustrated with how others were given things and I wanted those things too. So I worked hard for them. I always wanted my own pony so on my 16th birthday I got myself a job at Lauren’s Cake Factory (RIP) at weekends and saved up to buy my first pony. I then funded her care myself through working, whilst still attending college. At times I had three jobs alongside my college course, to fund my home needs, car and horse. I knew what I wanted, haha.
Being a female in my role…
There are not many females that do what I do. There are a lot who work in digital marketing and social media management but specifically, in developing digital code for web design and at my age (35) I am definitely a lone ranger at times. As with most aspects of my life, I like to surprise people. I think I bring a personal touch to my business and I am easy to talk too. I also accommodate other female entrepreneurs with busy home lives.
Before my accident, I played Roller Derby for Lincoln, then later Leicester. I managed to compete at International level, playing in France, Belgium, Germany and playing teams from America and Scandinavia too. I am incredibly proud of how far I went with my roller skating, alongside developing my career. Scoring the winning points in a game against Helsinki was definitely a highlight.
I also stood for parliament in 2017 for the Green Party. I gained above the national average in vote share for my party and ran my campaign mostly myself as a digital campaign, as a disabled candidate. I was touted as having won the radio debates against a long-standing incumbent MP.
Now it would be parenting my son, despite my difficulties and still making my business grow.
Nothing is easy but being smart and persisting will make things happen. Never put a cap on your dreams or limit who you think you are. Treat everything like an adventure and some adventures fail, some succeed but definitely enjoy what you do. Don’t try to live up to other peoples expectations, or measure your worth against anyone else.
I didn’t realise this until recently that gender has brought unnecessary challenges to my career. I always found it frustrating how my male colleagues who I would say in some instances, were not as experienced as me, found new business easy to find. It was only recently I realised how gender bias the digital and tech industry is and how selling yourself to predominantly male business owners, requires you to put on a huge performance of confidence to get ahead. My business persona is something I have had to learn and develop.
Not enough is done to address the gender imbalance. think a lot of token gestures but we need to see more women running departments and businesses. The big boys club as I often hear discussed needs to be removed. In a world where more people named John run businesses than the entirety of women running businesses, we still have a long way to go.
I have a tattoo on my arm that echoes Arya Starks famous words, Not Today. It means to me, today is not the day to give up and today is not the end of my story. Keep fighting.
Back when I was 22, working in Indianapolis I was taken aside by my director and given a talk and lesson in having a poker face. I used to wear my emotions and I am a very honest straight-talking person. Apparently sometimes this was not to my advantage. We had a long talk about how sometimes you may strongly disagree with a senior manager but they don’t want to always hear your opinions. Judge your moments and think before acting and speaking.
I want to create something, I want to be recognised as a strong woman and I want to lead a lifestyle I enjoy. I also want to provide for my son and family and have my own financial security.
Women leading the way
To any woman looking for a leadership role I would say ‘Go for it.’ Speak with people you admire in roles you would like to achieve. Ask for advice and jump at any opportunity. Be aware of when you are being used rather than appreciated too. Far too often I was given token tasks for no extra pay, just to keep me quiet.
Think about your language, don’t say things like possibly or maybe in sentences. Be confident even if you don’t feel it. Break things down into tasks and assess those, rather than just looking at the title of a role. Be strong and believe in yourself. Work hard, we definitely have to work harder to achieve but it is possible.
A leadership lesson that is important to me is to listen to people, ask advice and then make the best decision you can with what you have. Respect those who work for you but be strong and show authority when needed. Too many people will try to tear you down or make you feel bad about yourself. You need to wear your emotional armour and find the strength within. Never give up.
It will be ok, you are not stupid or worthless and one day you will prove to people, you are not who they think you are.
Be strong, be proud and be confident.
My story has not yet been completed and please get in touch if you would like to know more about my web design services or would like to sponsor one of my mental health books for Primary Schools.
Thanks so much to Vicky for her blog, if you’d like to check out more of our inspirational women you can do here.