Ten Years On From The First 30 Under 30: Nikki Stammers

Ten Years On From The First 30 Under 30: Nikki Stammers
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Meet Nikki Stammers. Nikki is responsible for developing strategy to create work that connects with people to achieve business goals. She has a dedication to combining insight from human behaviour, brand, culture and technology to create digital products, experiences and comms that answer real needs through ownable ideas. She’s also mum to 5yo Isy & 2yo Sonny.

As part of our celebratory content series marketing 10 years since B&T‘s first ever 30 Under 30, we tracked down Stammers to find out what she’s up to now. If you missed the others profiled in the series, check them out here.

Nikki Stammers

Then: Engagement planner, Whybin/TBWA/Tequila

Now: Strategy lead, Karmarama (London)

Nikki joined Karmarama as a strategy lead in 2017. Before joining Karmarama, Nikki was a creative strategist at global marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi for 4 years, working on brands such as UBS, Danone, Mumsnet, National Trust, Lloyds Banking Group and Sony Xperia during her time there.

Prior to joining DigitasLBi, Nikki worked at some of Australia’s most awarded creative agencies including Naked, Whybin\TBWA\DAN and The Monkeys, and was a founding member of Australia’s first ever social media consultancy in 2008. She has worked with clients including Nivea, Visa, Pernod Ricard and Intel. 

What did it mean to you at the ripe age of 27 that you were chosen as one of B&T’s 30 Under 30?

One of my guilty secrets in life is that I’m always seeking affirmation. Never is this truer than in my work. More than any other group of people in advertising, planners suffer from imposter syndrome. Being picked gave me a greater sense of legitimacy. That I was making waves – at least in our little pond – and (some) people (objectively) had noticed. Basically, it’s a bit of a friendly hair ruffling – ‘you’re doing good, keep going’. I am getting better at surviving without the pats on the back these days. I’m still here and I’ve learned how to quieten that self-doubt believe in myself.

How do you think being nominated affected your career, if at all?

It’s a funny thing. Getting any kind of award or nomination of this kind is the only time (for me anyways!) you can liken yourself to a great author or director – in this industry people don’t spend as much time dwelling on past achievements as they do trying to weasel out of you ‘what’s next’. Being featured – and having your career to date summarised down to a pithy paragraph written in the past tense – really focuses the mind on where you have left to go. That’s exhilarating and fires you up for the next challenge. I’m not knocking the need for a bit of self-congratulatory reflection by the way. I also believe we should take the time to acknowledge our own achievements.

Specifically, the thing about 30 Under 30 is that you also get real transparency around who your competition might be. This is immensely helpful in a market that thrives on ‘hype’ – self-created or otherwise. It’s very humbling to see yourself amongst people you consider far brighter and more accomplished than yourself – good for the inner ‘doubter’ and ultimately my self-esteem.

What’s been the biggest change to your life since then?

Having to demote my own needs and career ambitions to make way for my family! Until I got married and had children I’d happily pour all my time and energy into my work. It was this in addition to wanton disregard of anything that resembled a personal life outside of the office (my husband, then boyfriend would often come to the agency bar for a drink) that seemed to be required to really pursue creativity at its hardest edge. This is particularly true when you’re trying to do things that haven’t previously been done, with tech for instance. This is also true when you’re coming up through the ranks.

Now I strive for a version of harmony between my home life and work. Nobody can really have it all, no matter how staunchly feminist you are. Also, I believe you should always ‘keep a bit back for yourself’. Your ideas, passion and energy are precious. You should think hard about what’s in it for you when you hand that over. Remembering there has to be an exchange and you do have the power to say ‘no’.

What words of wisdom would you have shared with your 27-year-old self back then knowing what you do now?

I’m really proud of that girl and the strides she made. She worked bloody hard and had a point of view worth hearing. I’d tell her she has permission to be more assertive – and to stop waiting for permission to share that. I’d tell her she was doing the right thing by moving around lots, following a less trodden path with trying to create a start-up; people are endlessly interested in times you’ve taken that kind of leap. Plus, you learn loads and make great friends! I’d tell her to worry less. To keep having fun. I’d also tell her to put pride to one side ask more questions, question everything.  To pester the senior people around her for one-on-ones to get them to take you through work and explain their thinking or enlighten you on their process. It’s these conversations that often open up chance opportunities, create bonds between people and get things happening!

 What are you most proud of?

Being a working mum and wife that can move (often limping, but still) between those roles and find each fulfilling. It’s a privilege to be able to live a life where all of those strands can co-exist. But we are allowed to admit it’s hard. Really hard. There’s a lot of compromise and a constant reshuffling of priorities and negotiation. Only now – my youngest will be three in April – have I started to find pleasure in all of these things again. Somewhere in the hinterland between I’ve also found my own identity again… I think. I’ve still got a sense of humour too – my laugh may even have gotten louder with the years that have passed.

On pride, I do believe it’s something we should feel every day. Retaining your integrity is not always easy when you’ve got bills to pay. I always try to take pride in the stuff I say ‘yes’ to and the stuff I say ‘no’ to. Those decisions define you. Whether that’s deciding not to answer emails when you’re with your kids on a Friday or saying ‘no’ to working for that client whose world views fundamentally oppose yours. They allow us to tell stories back to ourselves about what sort of a person that makes you. When you become more senior other people may look to you and model their behaviour from you. Whether that’s because you’re a parent or in a position of responsibility in an agency – I think having integrity is the most important trait you can demonstrate. It’s also fundamental to healthy self-esteem.

What do you see as the biggest challenges that face young people in advertising, marketing and media these days?

At the moment the industry is going through a lot of consolidation. At the start of your career especially, I think it’s better to seek out agencies that have an independent spirit – it gives you much more opportunity to define your style and learn. Due to resources you often get given stuff way above your pay grade, so it’s a better place if you feel up for the challenge and want to go outside your comfort zone. It’s a much steeper learning curve and you’ll make bigger strides in your thinking and career. The other more creeping and insidious challenge being fueled by broader socio-political factors is becoming too isolated and parochial in your thinking.

As a side note, I’d say we have an unhealthy obsession with age. A lot of people let their youth hold them back. Although I’m a firm believer in earning your stripes, particularly as a planner and strategist – your relentlessness, enthusiasm, naivety and fresh take will get you very, very far. 

Conversely, what’s the biggest opportunity for those under 30 now?

I’m not sure it’s limited to being under 30 but as somebody pre-kids I’d say the ability to travel with your work. If you’re going to work for someone else take full advantage of how connected the advertising industry is globally. Employers see it as a massive plus if you’ve lived and worked outside of your own little bubble.

Also, take advantage of the rapid change, flux and consolidation of this industry – don’t be afraid to try your hand at a couple of different roles. You can be a brand planner and a UX strategist. People will value entrepreneurial thinkers who can solve problems in interesting ways. So always give yourself time to scheme and follow up on your madcap business ideas even if they fail.

What can the industry do better to attract and retain young talent?

To thrive, as an industry more generally we need to make sure people from across society have a voice and a place to do great work in a way that works for them. I’m calling for more diversity overall. Whether that be age, the gender you identify with, sexual orientation, the colour of your skin, your family arrangement, your accent or your upbringing.

Karmarama is stand-out in its flexible working policy for parents and Accenture offers shared parental leave. Karmarama’s Kadet scheme for graduates is committed to eliminating unconscious bias from the recruitment process.

We also need to remember who we’re creating advertising, products, experiences and communications for. We need to make sure as an industry our practices are as progressive as the work we’re creating for clients.

Entries have now closed for B&T‘s 2019 30 Under 30 Awards. Thanks to the 300+ individuals who entered. Our judges now face the impossible task of assessing all entries and deciding who should be crowned this year’s 30 Under 30. The shortlist will be released Tuesday 26 March. Tickets for the award night on Thursday 11 April are on sale now. 

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