By Karen Dewey, CEO and co-founder, Lumi.Media.
After decades working as a television producer – making all genres of content from factual documentary to reality and live events – I never thought when I reached my fifties that I would pull out the rug from under my own feet. But I said to myself "I can and I will" – and I did. I entered the completely foreign world of tech and business to become the co-founder/CEO of a digital SaaS platform. I had no previous leanings toward entrepreneurship; I simply saw an opportunity. I thought there must be a better way to support the creative process – a way which is fundamentally iterative, collaborative and dynamic. Linear content systems couldn’t cut it. And traditional whiteboards are office-bound and quickly outdated. So, I teamed up with my co-founders, both experienced software architects, and built Lumi.Media.
Leaping, after three decades, into a whole new venture. Like many people aspiring to rise up in business, I had moments where I was overwhelmed by the new challenges and frustrated with myself about having stepped so far outside my comfort zone.
I had a few sessions with a business mentor for executive support. I kept asking questions and then one day I said to the trainer, “I've got it. I know what I've got to do. I've got to just find myself a CEO persona and use it. I've got to act like the best CEO – take on all those characteristics." Fake it till I make it. And he said, “No, no, no! It’s much simpler than that. All you've got to do is commit. Commit to being there, commit to being you, commit to bringing your best every day.” That was an eye opening moment for me and I strongly encourage other women working in the media and creative industries to relax the self pressure. Understand there are a lot of things outside our control – simply focus on showing up and giving it your best.
With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that there is a crucial difference between saying I can and I will.
I had trouble committing to the second part. It was like making a promise I couldn’t keep. But now, I often say both phrases to myself with equal commitment: I can and I will. I’m committed to keep turning up and giving it my best effort. I once worked in an environment where I was the only woman in a creative team of 12 men. It was a great team, but on one particular occasion, we disagreed. Well, I disagreed with all of them, and they all kept looking at me like I’m a reasonably agreeable person, why wasn’t I agreeing? Eventually, our boss said, “Karen, you are the only person who disagrees.” I replied saying “I know”. And he again said, “but, you’re the only person who is disagreeing.” And I said “I know and I’m also the only woman in the room. So, do I speak 12 times louder to represent my half of the population? Because the decision will not be better if I cross over and be persuaded by you all. The more constructive position for me to take is to represent my view equally to yours. That will give us a better result because that’s what I should be doing.” They were all very respectful of that and it made them pause and think. Diversity of view, gender, age, background, culture and experience is crucial.
As female leaders and aspiring future leaders, we need to have the confidence to bring our own unique perspective and speak up. When I speak, I bring the perspective of a mother, a daughter, a sister and a mature woman.
And that’s how it should be
I shouldn’t try and adjust my perspective to somebody else’s position. I should make sure that we have a diverse range of perspectives so that the best decisions can be made. Lumi.Media is a much stronger company because everybody has a view. A consultative, collaborative approach is crucial to not only represent the audience or end-user but also for creativity and finding new solutions and innovation. It is also time that we throw away the stereotype that as a woman in your fifties and sixties, you can’t start a company or take on a much bigger role. Whenever inspiration strikes or you’re driven with a passion to do something different – or spot a gap you can fill, or a role opens up that you know you were born to do – don’t hesitate. With confidence, go for it. Tell yourself "I can and I will!"
Karen Dewey is the CEO and co-founder of Lumi.Media, digital SaaS platform enabling dynamic content production.