With a 22-year long multidisciplinary career up her sleeve, Sally Oldfield is what we would call a leader in the creative industry. She has worked at some of the biggest creative houses, from Ridley Scott Associates to Winkreative to Rothco, and, over the years, she has honed her skills in many different areas of the creative business.
She started in production, moved to digital & web creative works (while web design and the entire industry were just picking up), and then moved into brand consulting for bigger corporate clients. As a result, Sally’s knowledge and understanding cover a wide range of topics such as content, digital delivery, brand consulting, and communications (to name a few).
This wonderful blend of experiences helped Sally understand the difference in perspective between employee and business owner, allowing her to provide a more nuanced view over what it means to run a business in this industry.
Today, Sally is the co-founder (with her business partner, Claire Corbett) of All Kinds of Magic - a new creative consultancy venture that helps businesses in the creative industry to expand to their full potential.
Why a Multidisciplinary Career?
At 24, Sally was the youngest APA-recognised producer at Ridley Scott, so why didn’t she keep going in the same direction?
She told us that the main drivers were curiosity and a desire to learn more and broaden her perspective. As she puts it “I had a zig-zaggy career, going sideways and then up, and repeating that multiple times”. As a tech-oriented person, Sally developed a love for camera and video going as far as training in camera-operating basics, which provided a solid foundation for further development in adjacent disciplines. This is what they call T-shaped skills, which describes someone who is capable in many things and expert in, at least, one.
In Sally’s case, each career move was motivated by both personal development and personal circumstances. Still, a great deal of help and motivation came from the Soundboards and mentors who provided support and encouragement along the way. Sally describes it simply but concisely - “Every time I said I don’t know if I can do that, they would say of course you can, we’ll be there if something drops.”
The Importance of Mentorship
Having a mentor has been consistent throughout Sally’s career, which is why she understands the monumental role mentors play in shaping one’s professional path. According to her, “businesses that recognize that they should offer that, those are responsible business leaders.”
Mentorship is important from an entry-level and should continue as one progresses in their professional development. Especially in the creative industry, where the pace is dynamic and most projects involve collaborative work, mentorship creates room for the so-called “stupid questions” from people who are continually finding their way in the industry and are doing their best to learn on the job. It also allows experienced people to understand and recognize where things are difficult for newcomers.
We should see mentorship as a way to unblock untapped potential and find new ways to get inspired.
How to Find the Right Mentor?
Mentorship can take many different shapes, it’s best not to hold on too tightly to what you think a mentor should be and actively ask and seek guidance from a broad range of people. Let mentorship evolve organically, sometimes you don’t even have to put a title on it. It’s also a good approach for business owners to put it in by design and allow any person, at any level, to become a mentor if they feel the calling.
“As you progress in your career, finding someone who is a couple of notches above, and perhaps in the same industry but different discipline is invaluable. They will offer a different mindset to what you do professionally, or they will bring inspiration which will broaden your intellectual capability“ - Sally Oldfield.
Challenges of the Creative Industry
All Kinds of Magic, the creative venture co-founded by Sally Oldfield, tries to resolve some recurrent issues that exist in the creative business.
She named a few for us:
A disconnect between Storytellers and System thinkers - these two groups of thinkers are equally vital for the success of the creative industry, but it can be difficult to understand each other and collaborate. Still, someone who understands both sides can facilitate smoother collaboration and help spark innovation.
Commercial Strategy - many creative businesses are not always fully rewarded for the value they bring, or do not have a good commercial strategy, so they end up working hard for a small return.
People Development - unlike the tech industry, where you need to keep learning on the job to stay relevant, the creative industry could do a better job of prioritising people education and development. Because this isn’t always a top priority, it’s easy to miss the full potential of an employee when it comes to strategy, brand awareness, engagement, and more.
We also asked Sally to share some of her wisdom with our readers in the creative industry, whether they’re just starting or are already veterans.
Her first piece of advice was to keep an open mind - “Explore and be curious about other disciplines . Try to absorb as much as you can from not only your direct manager, but also those in the periphery - don’t limit yourself to only learning from people in your ‘lane’ , and leave yourself open to learning new things, always.”
She also spoke about the importance of becoming a hybrid with skills from different disciplines and avoid becoming too much of a single disciplinarian. As Sally puts it, “don’t stay unfulfilled - make time for your own learning based on what interests you.”
2021 Trends in the Creative Industry
In the end, we asked Sally about some of the most exciting trends that start to take shape in the creative industry:
People’s willingness to start over in order to generate better results
More people going into start-ups because they got fed up of the old way of doing things
Freelancing becoming a working norm or choice and allowing people to focus on niche issues
People tackling pressure issues, using their creativity. The rise of the passion economy where people do things to support and promote a good reason and not just for profit.
The convergence of tech and creativity and the need to formally train people and to explain the full potential of both areas.
In conclusion, the creative industry can benefit a lot from people coming together from different walks of life and sharing their expertise in a way that’s easy to understand. As things start to change and people move away from the traditional way of doing things, we’ll start to see better ideas and interesting opportunities.