Inspirational Woman: Amy Durrant | Associate Creative Director, rehab

Amy Durant headshot

Amy Durrant is the Creative Lead at the creative technology company rehab.

She leads messaging and voice experiences for clients including Nike, Google and Red Bull. Before her four years in the advertising and creative tech industry, she was a journalist. She completed her training with NCTJ and studied Journalism at Sheffield University, going on to write for the likes of NME, Dezeen and USA publisher The PBH Network, among other titles.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Amy Durrant - an Associate Creative Director at the creative technology company, rehab. I do what I do because I like to make bold, brave things that move people.

I had a fairly unusual route into creative tech. I studied journalism at University and started writing for music publications like NME before moving onto design, tech and architecture and becoming a fully-fledged journalist. After a few years, I realised that journalism wasn’t where I wanted to be and had to rethink my career. From there, I took my love for storytelling and applied it to brands as a creative for Karmarama and several agencies later, I now make emerging tech experiences for clients including Nike, Google and Amazon, as an ACD at Rehab.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always wanted to be a journalist from a very young age. I even wrote in my school leavers annual that in five years’ time, I’d be writing for The Times. But while journalism is the perfect career for some, it turned out not to be the right one for me. I think that sometimes on the way to a destination, you can get lost and find a new one. So, while planning is good and can help start your journey, it’s better to have a bit of flex once you’re on it.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I’ve faced various challenges along the way, although I guess that’s true for most careers. Weirdly I’ve been told at various points throughout my career that I was too positive to make it in the creative industry. That I needed to learn how to “throw a few verbal punches” for my ideas to be listened to with any real value and that I’d never make it at a senior level. But I worked hard, supporting others along the way and now, I’m an incredibly positive ACD at rehab, leading creative tech for some amazing global clients. No verbal punches needed.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is so important. I’ve been lucky enough to have mentored some remarkable young creatives over the past few years and have learnt as much from them as they’ve learnt from me. When I started in the industry, I had a fantastic mentor - an Art Director called Laila Milborrow - who taught me how to think differently about brand storytelling and proved that positive women could in fact thrive in a creative career. I now feel lucky to have the chance to impart my own learnings to the next generation of talent and my LinkedIn is always an open door for those who want advice or just want to chat.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

Diversity is an increasingly talked about topic and while there are many important discussions to be had, as a young, openly gay woman myself, I’d like to see more LGBTQ+ representation in the industry. I only came out about a year or so ago and you never really stop coming out. Being open about your sexuality in the advertising and tech industry can be a terrifying thing. There are some great organisations, like Stonewall and Pride AM, who champion LGBTQ+ representation but while that conversation is happening, there is still more to be done in the coming years. I’d like to see women of all ages and races be inspired to reach for senior creative positions but particularly, I hope to be an active voice for the LGBTQ+ community.

How would you encourage more women and girls into careers in STEM?

I’m incredibly passionate about encouraging more women and girls into STEM careers. There are two fantastic organisations I work with, called Women of the Future and Inspiring Women, who connect school girls with women in STEM careers and provide them a forum to find out more. I think the best way to encourage new talent is just to be available and willing to talk - particularly for creative technology careers, which aren’t always thought of as an option. It can be incredibly powerful to hear from someone in a different kind of role to those you’re actively surrounded by.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

If I could change one thing, it would be that emotions are understood as a strength, not a weakness. I’ve been lucky enough to have been in some fantastic agencies who really champion this however sometimes in the past, female colleagues of mine have been overwhelmed by the work or pushed to breaking point. Rather than being supported, they’ve been moved out of sight, told to be more professional and even accused of being unnecessarily hormonal. Emotions, whichever gender experiences them, are never a weakness. In fact, some of the best work I’ve seen has been fuelled by raw, honest emotions. So let’s be emotional and be bold about it.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think my biggest achievement to date was earlier this year, when I had the honour of being invited to Number 10 Downing Street to advise the government’s business advisor on creative entrepreneurship. I was invited to share my thoughts on how they could encourage and support talent in the creative tech space and was proud to have had the chance to help shape the future of the industry for generations to come.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m not sure what my next challenge will be and that’s an incredibly exciting prospect. I hope to keep encouraging young talent into creative tech careers and showing that whatever their age, race, gender or sexuality, they can succeed in senior leadership positions. Most importantly, that they can kill it with kindness along the way and rely on the immense network of talented women who are out there and very willing to talk, for support on their own journey.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


How to be listened to as a woman at a senior level

Opinion piece from Sona Patel, Finance Director at rehab

How-to-be-an-effective-female-leaderWhy aren’t there more women in tech?

It’s a question that doesn’t seem to be going away, but with women constantly being told that they are ‘bossy and emotional’, while men are ‘strong and opinionated’, it’s not that surprising that the number of women in top boardroom positions has fallen.

The need to encourage and push females in business is still a much-discussed topic, with companies continually being criticised for their lack of progress in getting more women to the top.

2017 report found that just 15% of the people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles across the UK are female. It also showed that a mere 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. That being said, it was also reported that Britain’s most successful companies have women in senior roles.

Something doesn’t add up. Isn’t it time we listened to the research and made encouraging women to flourish and be listened to within the tech sector a focus?

Attracting females to more high-profile roles

The fact that there are more male leaders than female is not just because many industries are still stuck in the “Mad Men” or “Boys Club” era, but that women often have more choices to face. If both men and women could carry a child, then I doubt we would be questioning the lacking number of women leaders. But today’s harsh reality is that, in many cases, women must choose between a top-level career or having a family. When a woman chooses both paths, she ends up in a paradigm where she gets grey hair too early and doing it all simply seems too much. Eventually one side has to give. More often than not, it's giving up the chance to “sit at the table” or to give up the dream to have your own start-up.

We are seeing an increasing number of bigger companies, like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Coca Cola and the Foreign Office do a lot for women in the workplace, for example: workplace creches, working from home, flexible hours and help with nursery fees, to help make family life flexible. But if you work in a smaller company, one that can't afford to give women paid time off and flexible working hours, then top-level female roles will never flourish. I think it’s more about what the government is doing to help smaller companies, we need to open these opportunities for women so they can start one or look after their family.

The hurdles to overcome in order to be listened to

During my career, I’ve started from the very bottom and worked my way up in privately-owned companies. This meant I was able to learn a lot, and fast! My upbringing never allowed me to sit back. I’ve been working since I was 16 and knew the quickest way to grow was to learn from others. Teaching yourself will take longer, so always try to surround yourself with people you can learn from.

During my career I’ve observed a lot, and that's what helped me get to where I am today. In a meeting of say, five men and two women, women often tend to say less – even though you can see they have something they want to say. Being able to watch from a distance has taught me to identify how people actually behave, and what you can do in order to be heard by the right people at the right time. Everyone can talk, but for me, it's about being listened to. I would often wait until the end of large meetings before saying anything because it allowed me to absorb all the information and make a valid and well-thought-out contribution to the meeting.

Like many others will have experienced and prior to working at rehab, I have been in situations where others will speak over you, but the art of contributing at the right time with the right information is a skill. Personally, I don’t believe it’s about who speaks the most or talks the loudest, it’s the person that makes the most sense, no matter the position you hold within the company.

The power of female mentoring

I have not had direct “mentoring” before, but I believe I’ve had mentors in my life (whether they know it or not!). I try to mentor and guide my team to think creatively and outside the box. Finance can often be stereotyped as a boring career choice, so I find it important to apply some glitter where I can. My aim is for my team to feel that I am a good mentor and that they are able to learn from me daily.

Positivity around women in tech

Rehab is an extremely supportive company. Not only do they support women, but they also help them to progress within their role. My CEO is always trying to encourage me to network and find mentors within my field, despite knowing I want to start a family next year. It can be rare to find a company that would want to invest in someone that might be going on maternity leave in the near future. The jury is out on whether motherhood will potentially sway their next choice regarding work, so I feel blessed to work alongside a management team that supports women inside and outside of the workplace.

The future of women in tech

Don’t try to be a man. You also don’t need to be the loudest or most social person in the company to get a high-level role. Respect from colleagues is built from inside the office, not out. The biggest advice I would give a junior in my position is learn from those around you, it doesn't just have to be people in your department, but from the company as a whole. It’s important to be curious about other people and get to grips with what they do.

Sona PatelAbout the author

With previous experience working for an industrial design company and also an ad agency, Patel has worked in many male dominated environments, experiencing gender discrimination first hand and being forced to break the mould to become a successful women in business. After being constantly told that women are ‘bossy and emotional’, yet males are ‘strong and opinionated’ – Patel knows that the road to changing people’s stereotypical views on women in the workplace would be no mean feat.

The impact that Sona’s arrival had on the agency three years ago prompted the finance team being brought to London and a wider restructure. Working in tech has now been a different experience for Sona, as one of rehab’s core beliefs is to champion diversity in the workplace. Sona was able to expand her expertise and was listened to as a senior female.

Her role at rehab doesn’t just sit with finance, she’s encouraged the team not to just stay in their lanes and to break the boundaries of their normal routine, whilst also helping to mentor more junior females within the agency. Having to learn about rehab’s offerings has led to her increased interest in tech, and also helped develop an understanding of what it takes to be listened to as a woman at a senior level.