To all those suffering from crippling impostor syndrome, Chief Experience Officer at Digitas UK Jane Austin wants you to know that you are not alone.
Jane has recently been appointed to take on this new challenge at Digitas, and we can already see she will fit the role incredibly well. Inspired by industry figures such as Cindy Gallop, Marty Cagan and Lauren Currie, Jane loves to joke about how unemployable her master's in philosophy made her, and has plenty of words of wisdom about finding your own confidence and forging ahead in your career.
If it's true that the best leaders are the most relatable, humble and kind, we know Jane is on the right track to leave an everlasting mark in the history of her agency. Today we are Getting to Know Jane Austin, Chief Experience Officer at Digitas UK.
Tell us a bit about your role!
I’ve not started yet - but I imagine it will be very like my roles in startups - growing the team, supporting people to do great work and helping organisations focus on giving their customers a great experience.
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
I had (and still do but I’m fighting it) terrible imposter syndrome. I was always very shy about putting myself forward, but each time I did, it got easier. I was also aware that ‘you’ve got to see it to be it’ and as an older woman I should try to be a role model. So instead of being shy and retiring I thought ‘I’ve got as much right to be here as anyone.’ I’ve been inspired by the amazing Cindy Gallop.
It's been a long and circular route to get here. Pretty much straight out of uni I set up my own little agency. We won a few awards but we didn’t make any money at all. I was a terrible business woman and felt very shy about asking for money for my work. We eventually got acquired by an agency that got acquired by a bigger agency that got acquired by a bigger agency and so on - and the final agency was LBI, which became part of Digitas. I then left to work in product organisations and startups for many years, and I’m now back almost where I started, at Digitas. But now I’ve got so much more experience in how to build amazing products and I can’t wait to start doing this for clients.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
I have a masters degree in philosophy which rendered me pretty much unemployable but it has given me the ability to think deeply about things and to see many sides of a problem. I then taught English as a foreign language for a few years traveling the world. This gave me the ability to explain things simply and not take cultural constructs for granted.
I came back to the UK and taught english to refugees. The place where I was teaching invested a huge amount in an ICT suite and learning CD ROMs (remember CD ROMs!) Unfortunately these were terrible and so this was when I discovered there was such a thing as ‘usability’. The college I was at also offered coding and design classes and as a teacher I got to take them for free, so I learned how to rebuild those CD ROMs for my students, and then eventually used this as a portfolio piece to do a postgrad in design.
I think this background in thinking deeply, in caring about users, explaining things simply and caring about the end experience has been the perfect background for the role I’m in now.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
I think my biggest win is coming to work at Digitas, I’m pinching myself that I’ve got such an amazing job with such a brilliant team.
Probably my biggest loss was the early days, as I said I felt very shy about asking for money for my work, and I really undervalued myself and my agency. It was a confidence thing and I’ve worked a lot on my confidence and self-belief since then.
What’s your secret to remain inspired and motivated?
I love reading, going to conferences to see how other people and teams are working and finding out what I can learn from them. I also love taking part and watching user research which allows me to see firsthand the impact of my work on people’s lives. When I was at the Government Digital Service I saw how our work was really helping people and that became such an important motivation to me.
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I love Cindy gallop. Marty Cagan is also one of my heroes. I also love Lauren Currie and her programme called ‘Upfront’ which helps build confidence. She really helped me think about why I was having imposter syndrome, and how to fight it and get the confidence I needed to grow in my career.
How has COVID-19 affected you?
I’ve missed my friends and family terribly during it, but I have loved the impact on remote working. Something that seemed untenable a couple of years ago is now commonplace. I think this will have such a positive impact on people's careers and lives.
What is your biggest hope for 2021?
I hope that people and politicians start taking climate change seriously and doing something about it. Or maybe I’ve just been reading too much post-apocalyptic fiction recently...
What is your one piece of advice to aspiring creative professionals?
Confidence! Get out there, sell yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, don‘t worry about people liking you, you don’t need to be liked, you need to be respected.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I’ve just moved to Kent and I’ve really got into gardening. I also love spending time with my family, dogs, cat and chicken, playing the piano- and reading post-apocalyptic fiction.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
Nothing, absolutely nothing except chilling out and reading, gardening and getting better at the piano.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
‘The Lean Product Playbook’, anything by Marty Cagan, especially ‘Inspired’, Lauren Currie’s blog and email newsletter and the Leading Design conference.