30 Under 30 A Decade On: Stefan Burford

30 Under 30 A Decade On: Stefan Burford
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

B&T’s 30 Under 30 Awards are well underway. On-time entries close this Friday … but if you want to put your absolute best foot forward, get your entries in quickly!

For those who don’t know, B&T‘s 30 Under 30 Awards are widely regarded as the leading showcase for the best and brightest young talent working across marketing communications.

In honour of our upcoming awards, we’re taking a look back (10 years to be exact), to see where our 2011 winners are now.

Today, we’re chatting with Stefan Burford.

Back in 2011, Stefan had just been appointed as chief strategy officer at UM. Now, he’s the global chief strategy officer at Initiative.

Read more about Stefan below.

Stefan burford

How did you feel winning a B&T 30 Under 30?

I remember feeling super proud of the achievement and grateful for all the opportunities working in Australia had given me.

The warmth, encouragement and mentorship you get in Australia is just incredible.

You have organisations like the MFA running fantastic training sessions, university partnerships, competitions like Cannes Young Lions and publications like B&T giving a platform for younger people to shine.

The experience definitely taught me the importance of staying grounded, as awards are an important stepping stone but you figure out it’s the work that you do for clients that matters and awards are an amazing cherry on top.

Do you think you winning has affected your career at all?

The award gave me a level of exposure in the industry and good validation that I was on the right path but it also probably helped with my confidence which would have a much longer lasting impact.

As a young person in this industry you have a huge amount of pressure to progress and succeed alongside lots of day to day responsibility so you need both great support and instincts to navigate it all.

I believe trusting your gut is so vital in making the right career choices as career paths aren’t simple straight lines they are complex zig zags.

What’s your favourite part about the industry?

It still blows my mind that we can shape the future of some amazing global brands just through the power of ideas.

I believe great communication ideas can be transformative and give brands a real advantage so it’s very important to stay passionate and focused on this.

We are in an era where we need to carefully balance the technical and the magical and in my view it is the strategist’s role to guide this.

What do you think needs changing?

The industry has improved in so many areas; inclusivity, flexible working, mental health etc to name a few and I think a continued focus on development and learning is more important than ever.

The world is moving so fast and capabilities are changing all the time so we owe it to our people to keep them fully educated on what’s possible now and in the future.

I always encourage the team to get out there and proactively work out their knowledge gaps and work together to fill them.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

It was a big moment for me when I was offered the job of Global Chief Strategy Officer at Initiative in 2016.

I have always loved advertising and when I first joined the industry I would obsessively read the trade magazines thinking ‘wow one day I’d love to be in those jobs’ then tried to set myself on a path to achieve it.

I know a lot of people who say they “fell into this” but I always worked bloody hard at it…I took every internship, worked on every pitch I could and took every opportunity to work with the most talented people and to see that result in this fantastic opportunity was incredible.

If you weren’t in adland, what would you be doing?

Probably a writer of some sort, I have just finished a project with Jonah Berger (author of the bestseller ‘Contagious’) and loved every second of it.

The focus, dedication and patience you need as a writer fits perfectly with the strategy skill set.

The experience has also shown me that doing something outside of your day job allows you to break your own mental routines and makes you a better strategist.

It is all about using your brain to work on different problems and working hard to refine and stitch those together into a compelling narrative – that is really energising and fun.

Ultimate travel destination?

I am so lucky to be able to travel around the world for both work and pleasure but Queenstown in New Zealand is still really hard to beat.

It is a lakeside paradise – being that close to nature, those amazing mountains and that fresh air can’t be beaten anywhere in the world.

What’s a hidden talent you have?

I have so few talents that they are rarely hidden but I am pretty obsessive about all things movies and always do well when it comes up in a pub quiz.






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