This interview is brought to you by Doug Millen from our Fetch Community Ambassador team in Sydney.
This week I interviewed the radiant Louise Alley, BBC communications extraordinaire and lover of Sydney’s inner west community. Her time with the BBC had me interested as to how she’s managed to stay there so long – and then she revealed a little about what it’s like on the inside. In the true style of a professional on maternity leave, here are some wise thoughts she shared before she ran off to plan a little one’s birthday party.
Name: Louise Alley
Works: Head of Communications, BBC Worldwide Australia
Tell me about the most important thing in your life.
He’s 77cm long, weighs 9.9 kg and is called Benjamin. His Dad’s not too bad either.
Wonderful! Has that always been the case? How have things changed?
Well, it’s not as easy these days to get the backpack on and head off on an adventure – I guess before I had a baby travel was something I prioritised. Career-wise, I realise I spent my twenties worrying too much about climbing the ladder and comparing myself to my peers.
If a graduate asked my advice now I’d tell them not to care that their friends might be managers at 25. Find something you love and offer to make the coffee.
You’ve told me that you started your career at the BBC – how did you find yourself there?
I was 23 and had a temp job in London at BBC Worldwide’s magazines division. I was only supposed to be there for four days, but I heard on the grapevine about a job working for the Director of Communications and got that. I then worked in corporate communications and in publicity for BBC Books. I spent my last three years in London as a press officer in the international TV team, promoting titles like The Office and Absolutely Fabulous to the BBC’s global audiences.
When you were starting out, how did you find your feet?
I had very patient managers! There’s quite a collegiate sense in the company with a good deal of knowledge-sharing. And clearly a good deal of very forgiving people, given how many of them I still work with. London was an incredibly upbeat, optimistic place in the late 1990s (at the risk of sounding about 200). It was also really uplifting to work on programmes and with people I’d grown up watching in New Zealand.
A lot of people shift jobs and even careers every few years, but you’ve stayed with the one organisation for quite some time now. Why is that?
It’s a company that has given me a great breadth of experience across comms, and in two countries. I’ve had roles in corporate and internal communications, public affairs, and brand publicity and my role now incorporates all of those.
Some colleagues have carved out their entire careers from the BBC – it’s a hard place to leave.
In London, in particular, you could easily do twenty different BBC jobs within your career span, but things are currently pretty tough in the UK and more and more of our colleagues are looking longingly towards the Sydney office. We had to hold onto our hats when we advertised my maternity cover!
Your work covers a lot of ground. How do you keep your mind and life organised?
Someone wise once told me that if you turn up to your job every day feeling 100% confident that you can handle it, that there’s nothing you can’t deal with, then you’re probably bored.
I’m reassured by a bit of professional uncertainty sometimes. And, um, yoga.
You’ve worked on some big projects with the BBC. Can you share with me a major lesson you’ve learnt, and how that came about?
In London, it felt really easy to tell territories how to promote ‘our’ brands and titles. Moving to Sydney and working in-market was a huge lesson. I’m better at taking into account the realities of individual markets, as well as the cultural nuances that shape our partners’ audience outreach. But there’s still sometimes a squeeze between company expectation and client priority.
How do you stay connected with what’s going on in your professional world?
Well, the media has always loved reporting on itself so since I’ve been on leave it’s never been hard to find the news. Social media-wise, I think LinkedIn is responding more intuitively with relevant content, but it still seems that most people are using about a tenth of its potential.
I don’t miss spending my evenings on the phone to London, or dealing with emails that start flooding in at 6pm, but luckily my favourite part of my job is something I can still do from the sofa. It’s fantastic just enjoying the telly, and not worrying about ratings. Well, not too much.
What’s your favourite thing about Sydney?
It’s big enough for there to be something for everyone, small enough that you can still run into people.
Unlike a lot of places you have heaps of options once you leave the CBD. There’s so much life in neighbourhoods like Glebe, Potts Point and Leichhardt. I moved to Newtown because it reminded me of Camden in London (fewer junkies though) and I love the mix of high-density with green spaces. And there’s a club at the top of our street doing Star Wars Burlesque at the moment. What’s not to love?