Factory Settings: Leveraging your own psychological power to grow in digital

By Mohini Lakhani, Senior Digital Account Manager, as originally featured in New Digital Age.

Welcome to Factory Settings, a content series from some of the women in digital at The Kite Factory.

This series aims to myth-bust misconceptions about the digital industry by showcasing the journey and talent of some of our fantastic women in digital. You’ll hear from women with a wide range of experiences and career paths – from Mohini Lakhani (Senior Digital Account Manager), who quickly made the switch from a career in neuroscience to Digital Marketing when she realised the lab life wasn’t for her; to Maria Tudor (Planner Buyer), who studied a masters in digital marketing and has tried her hand at PR and comms before settling on paid planning and buying.

They’ll share their perspectives on some of the most important things they have learned in their careers.

People, people, people, they make the world go round, and they certainly make the foundations of the media industry, built on the exchange between clients and their agencies. Everyone seems to know everyone in media, and with every new person I’ve met in my career, there was always a mutual connection somewhere. If you already work in the industry, take a step back and think about how many people you’ve met since starting your career (perhaps quantifiable by the number of LinkedIn connections you’ve racked up over the years). It’s pretty overwhelming.

Working in digital, the realm of people you need to hold relationships with can seem overwhelming, ranging from your colleagues in different departments, your clients, those at creative or analytics agencies, and even media tech owners where you become their clients. Knowing how to adapt yourself and bring different elements of your personality to each relationship helps them flourish. These connections and how you are perceived in their eyes can make or break your success, for they say perception is reality.

There is no single guide on how to build relationships. It’s largely down to confidence, intuition, and a little bit of mind-reading. University prepared me well for this, where I studied Psychology as an undergraduate. Whilst the neuroscience element fascinated me, I knew I didn’t want to be confined to a lab and a microscope my whole life, so I started thinking about how I might be able to adapt this to other disciplines. Before seeking an office job, I settled on a Master’s in Marketing, learning all about the 4Ps and how to conduct a SWOT analysis. Whilst the theory shaped my thinking from people’s thought processes to consumers’ thought processes, there was a huge missing piece for me – the digital element that I was so profoundly stuck on. Following university and sifting through various digitally focused job descriptions, I eventually found my way into the world of media, learning how to set up, optimise, and report on multiple social, search, and programmatic display campaigns. Fast forward to almost four years later, and I am now a Senior Digital Account Manager at The Kite Factory, leading a team of two and responsible for the digital planning and strategy for a handful of clients.

The digital world is full of acronyms and technical jargon, which can be challenging to keep up with in an ever-changing landscape. But this can all be learnt on the job. Tying back to Gabby’s piece on how much of our day-to-day work is routed in Excel, I can say with certainty that this was not a skill I held when joining the industry, failing to produce a pivot table in my first-ever interview. However, understanding the hiring manager’s background and speaking their language landed me the job in the end. Knowing the technical stuff isn’t essential; it’s how you apply yourself within your surroundings.

It takes time to understand the people around you – what makes them tick, what makes them excited, and how they tackle challenges. You can effectively leverage your psychological power to grow relationships into mutually beneficial ones. This can be pulled out in various elements:

  • Personality: How personable is that individual, and how do you dial up or down your personality based on this? Can you find something outside of your day-to-day conversation topics to connect on? Having that added common ground can help them feel valued outside the expected remit.
  • Language: Listen to the language they use, how they portray themselves, and how they see you adding to the relationship. Playing back their language and modifying the complexity and clarity of this based on the response will make them feel heard and understood, instinctively building trust.
  • Resourcefulness: What resources do you have access to vs what do they do? If it’s a client, how can you add value to the relationship by using industry tools and insight to fill the knowledge gaps, for example, on emerging opportunities like connected TV or how to navigate the uncertain cookieless world? This, again instinctively, can help build trust as they rely on your digital expertise.
  • Cognition: Do your thought processes follow the same flow? If not, how can you use your different ways of thinking to challenge each other and come to a compromise? Doing this can help grow the relationship from a dictated one to a two-way and meaningful one.
  • Perception: How are you viewed and valued within the conversational exchange? Why should they listen to you, and does your opinion matter to them? Boundaries that are respected both ways are often the pinnacle of any relationship.

Thinking about these when approaching new (or existing) relationships should help grow them. Remember that you don’t have to be a psychic to accomplish this. People are different and won’t respond the same, so even directly asking that individual about some of these elements may help you understand one another better.

Networking has been one way that I have found incredibly useful when learning how to change my thinking and become adaptable in my approach to different people — having a good level of awareness of the resource available and harnessing my inner confidence to do something about it. There are various support networks within The Kite Factory and at the broader industry level, accessible to individuals.

As a woman of colour, Media for All (MEFA) has been fundamental to my progression in the past year. They run regular events hosted by their various sponsors, as well as hosting an annual mentorship scheme programme, working to champion ethnically diverse talent within advertising. I am also a part of Bloom UK, a network for women in the marketing and communications industry. They, too, run various events throughout the year, and an annual mentorship scheme, although the criteria here is more stringent, where mentees must have between 1.5-5 years experience and mentors, 7+ years. The more senior counterpart to this is Women in Advertising & Communications Leadership (WACL), connecting those established within the industry and running annual talent awards, offering bursaries to fund training courses. In addition, NABS takes a well-being angle, positioned as the industry’s charity. They offer guidance and support to those in media and host regular talks and masterclasses around building your brand, confidence, or rapport. Finally, internally at The Kite Factory, we’ve recently set up our Inclusion & Belonging Committee, committing to making diversity and inclusion a core pillar of the agency’s growth strategy.

With a high barrier to entry or not, there is at least one support network for everyone working in digital media. I’ve found that consciously exposing myself to opportunities like these has opened even further doors for me, such as complimentary delegate passes to Advertising Week Europe and MAD//Fest earlier this year, pushing the networking boat out even further. But, of course, this wouldn’t have ever happened if I hadn’t approached people in the first place. Connecting with them on LinkedIn to understand how they present themselves within the industry also helps. The key takeaway here is that whilst this is all in existence; you must be willing and motivated enough to be doing something about it.

If you’re considering a career in digital, channel your inner curiosity to help you excel. You don’t need to be able to keep on top of the newest industry updates or fully understand technology just as you’re starting out. Instead, embrace what you can control. Build relationships from the off, no matter your seniority. Not only should you put yourself in their shoes, but also their minds. As you move through your career, networks can be a great way to help build your personal brand and steer your career in the direction that feels right for you. Surround yourself with the knowledge and the resource available to you and use your psychological power to leverage it. Your opinion matters, so what are you waiting for?

Up next in our Factory Setting series is Digital Account Manager Naomi Linturn, with my question to her being, “What are the benefits of working across multiple channels in Digital?”