Sarah Comerford featured

Inspirational Woman: Sarah Comerford | Client Services Director, Purple Creative Studio

Sarah ComerfordSarah Comerford is an award-winning tech-director of a creative agency on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales.

She joined Purple Creative Studio in September 2013 as the only female in the company and has paved the way for other young female professionals. She’s passionate about equipping others to be digitally-literate and has invested a significant amount of time in mentoring women, young people and training small businesses.

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

I am the Client Services Director at a digital agency based in rural North Yorkshire called Purple Creative Studio.  I have been with Purple for over six years and have loved every moment of it, when I started with Purple I was the first female to join the company and we now make up 40 per cent of the company.  My role involves a lot of project management as well as digital marketing, which I am incredibly passionate about. I oversee and implement marketing strategies for a wide variety of companies in a range of sectors and look after the internal HR, policies and workflow management for all staff members.  My role has evolved a huge amount since joining the team in 2013, and I can’t wait to see how it will develop in the future.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

No! I am extremely grateful that my career journey has been incredibly eclectic. I have worked at a number of different places and each one has given me valuable skills which I use each and every day.

My first job was at 16 in a wedding dress shop where I sewed beads on wedding dresses.  At college and university, I worked in a number of different environments: a nightclub; the Co-Op; a surf shop; a hairdressers; and a jewellers.  Each of these jobs taught me how to deal with people – a skill which I consider to be my strongest asset.

Before working where I am now, I worked in marketing at The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

This is quite a difficult question as I can think of lots of mini challenges over the years that I have faced, overcome and learnt from.  However, I think one of my biggest challenges was working for a bully when I was a lot younger in a previous role. It took me a long time to realise it was bullying and an even longer time to stand up to it, but I am incredibly pleased that I did and I think that small moment of standing up for myself was a real turning point in my career.  I am not a confrontational person and I found approaching that person incredibly difficult, however, once I did, I realised that the floor didn’t swallow me up, I took back the power and if I bumped into that person today I would thank them. That might sound strange but they helped me become stronger and have helped me find my own management style over the years as I often think back to that time and in a situation I try and do the opposite of what they would have done.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In 2019 I was very kindly nominated for the Women in Technology Mentor of the Year Ward in London, which I won! I have never been more surprised and shocked in my life as there were so many inspirational women in the room and to be nominated alone was just wonderful! I am also proud of the wonderful team that we have built and sustained at Purple, we have a wonderful team that can embrace new challenges and create beautiful and brilliant solutions for our clients.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Quite simply the people around me!  I have worked with wonderful people in this role and in previous roles that have enabled me to grow.  I love and believe in the phrase: “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon”. I have been lucky that I have always been allowed to make my own mistakes, and then work out how to fix them, a far greater lesson than being micro-managed and I believe this has really helped me over the years.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

Read blogs, watch videos, use Code Academy and try to get as much experience as possible.  When we interview for new people to join our team I am most interested in seeing if they are passionate about the sector, I want to see that someone has attempted to build a small website for their mum, or a friend and had dabbled in using technology and playing with creating apps.  To me, this is more important than qualifications.

I am sure we have all read the same old statistic a million times that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The industry needs to make people realise that qualifications are not as important as passion.  The industry is so fast paced that qualifications can simply not stay up to date, so being creative, making something and creating something and learning yourself is more important than qualifications in my opinion and we need people to realise this.


The social media renaissance – what part do we have to play?


Anyone who has watched The Great Hack on Netflix (and if you haven't, I highly recommend that you do) would be forgiven for claiming that the age of social media is dead whilst frantically deleting apps and social media accounts from their phones.

Whilst the reputation of social media has taken an utter hammering in the press recently with headlines focusing on the mental health implications, the negative impact of influencers and the examination of how social media is having an impact on political democracy (wow this got deep fast I hear you say), we need to question what that means for those of us who use social media to promote our businesses and ourselves online.

Is this the end of Social Media?

In a nutshell, no. Social Media is fighting a battle where we as users no longer trust it.  The You Gov-Cambridge Globalism Project recently found that 83 per cent of Brits have little or no trust in platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We question how our data was being used, and after a number of global outages affecting Facebook and their other services, such as Whatsapp and Instagram, we’ve been made aware of how big the Facebook monopoly is.  However, to abandon Facebook now would also mean leaving Instagram and Whatsapp which is how the vast majority of people communicate.

Social media and our mental health

Social media platforms are becoming more aware of our mental health and there have been many reports which outline its negative effects.  In my opinion this is something they have needed to acknowledge for a long time. It started last August with the roll out of the activity dashboard to help users track time spent on the platform (have a look if you haven’t already, it is truly petrifying!) and the statement that Facebook wants people's time on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring.

Instagram recently have been rolling out a new feature that hides likes from followers on posts and has also brought in Automated Comment Warnings to try and make people think twice before posting hateful and hurtful comments on posts.

Being digitally genuine

With the social media outlets doing what they can to change user experience, how can we as users change to positively impact those we connect with personally and professionally. The main thing to focus on is transparency, people are conscious of who they are interacting with, they want to see real people doing real positive things in their communities, and consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that uses human communication.

This renaissance that social media is going through is an opportunity for us to stop using social media for doorstep selling, step out from behind that corporate logo and show the people who and what makes your business great.  Embrace Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, Snapchat and start demonstrating how your business protects the environment, cut down on plastic, support a charity event, volunteer, raise money, be brilliant, honest and open people and change the world (and your social media platforms!)

Welcome to the community

Facebook was always set up to create and connect people with their communities, in fact, I remember when you needed a university email address to sign up for Facebook and that is what they are wanting to bring it back to - online communities.

Facebook has said that they want 1 billion people in groups by 2020 and they are promoting groups based on passions to its users.  This is a wonderful way to connect with like-minded people that need your products and services.  Groups should be a democracy with multiple admins and moderators and is not a one-way platform for selling, but a way to increase awareness and loyalty around a subject your clients/ friends are passionate about.

Social Envy

We all need to stop comparing and berating ourselves, whether that is personally on social media or with the business accounts that you run.  Every single social media network and business is different, so don’t compare yourselves to your competitors and use what works for you, whether that be Reddit, Pinterest, Polyvore or LinkedIn.  Embrace what makes you different, find what platform your audience is on and focus on genuine honest and real relationships and engagement.

So social media is evolving and taking big strides to put user-wellbeing at the heart of the its ethos, hopefully this will result in a happier and more meaningful space for us all.

Sarah ComerfordAbout the author

Sarah Comerford is the Client Services Director and Purple Creative Studio, a digital agency on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. She recently won Mentor of the Year in the Women in Tech Series awards.