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Recharging and growing by Charlotte Juckes

How did you feel about the opportunity to have a Sabbatical? What did you do with your Sabbatical?
I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to take a one-month, paid sabbatical. It’s a generous way for the company to thank you for five years of service and to provide individuals the opportunity to take a proper break, reset, and return fully refreshed. It’s a fantastic perk that I know many of my clients and friends are envious of!

As an avid traveller, I knew I wanted to use the time off to get away. Unfortunately, my sabbatical year landed in 2020 when, as we all know, travel was somewhat non-existent. Hawthorn kindly allowed me to push it into 2021. Although my original plans of travelling across America for a month were curtailed by the still-in-place US border restrictions, I was lucky enough to spend time in Mauritius and Seville. I also went with a friend to a retreat in the UK, where we practiced yoga, had lots of fresh air, and created some (questionable) pottery.

Overall, the sabbatical was a brilliant opportunity to take a month to have some adventures, explore, rest, play, and reconnect. The kind of work we do and the nature of the 24/7 news cycle means we work at an incredibly fast pace. This excitement is part of what I love about the job, but on the flip side, it can be pretty hard to fully switch off. After a month away, I came back feeling energized, inspired, and ready to take on the world!

What makes working at Hawthorn unique? How have you managed the continual change that you’ve experienced being part of a fast-growing business?
I joined Hawthorn back in 2015 as an intern fresh out of uni. At the time, there were eight or so staff members, all working in a tiny room with a single conference call line and a meeting room that we shared with another company (occasionally leading to awkward moments as a result). It was hard work, scrappy, and a lot of fun. Fast-forward to today and Hawthorn has nearly 10x the number of people working here and is one of the most exciting consultancies in London, working with some vast and industry-defining clients.

We’ve certainly been through some fundamental shifts through that time, and I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of being part of a fast-growing business – something I’ve drawn on when working with entrepreneurs and business leaders. It hasn’t always been easy, but ultimately, navigating the difficult moments is where I’ve learned the most, and I’d much rather be challenged than bored.

As the business has evolved, it’s been essential to maintain a “go with the flow” attitude, embracing the opportunities that come from constant change and not being too precious to pitch in wherever needed. At the same time, you must stay true to the values and core beliefs that define a company. In Hawthorn’s case, these are ambition, an entrepreneurial spirit, intellectual curiosity, and a focus on impact over process – all of which hold as true today as they did in 2015.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to work at Hawthorn?
Enjoy the opportunity to learn about some diverse sectors and issues (I’ve worked on everything from cosmetic surgery to private equity to luxury fashion) and ask as many questions as possible. Working in strategic communications, we have the opportunity to see behind the curtain at the highest levels of a business, and we get to know about the stories defining the news agenda before they break – something which is appealing to anyone with a sense of curiosity about the way the world works.

Don’t forget to have a sense of humour! Our work is strategic, fast-paced, and frequently has far-reaching impacts, but the nature of communications means there are often some very funny moments along the way. Be passionate about the work you do, but don’t take yourself too seriously – have fun with it!

What has been your most memorable experience with Hawthorn?
I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely with Hawthorn: to South East Asia, the U.S., the Middle East, Africa, and across Europe. Those trips are always special and a real opportunity to learn, particularly when you’re working with local teams from very different cultures.

I’m also hugely proud of some high-impact projects we’ve done that have contributed to tackling the gender imbalance in UK entrepreneurship. I’m hugely passionate about gender equality, and it’s been brilliant to play a small role in supporting more women to start and scale businesses. 

Pushing my boundaries to grow professionally and personally by Suezelle D’Costa

What drew you to working at Hawthorn?
In 2018, I moved from Mumbai to London, and was lucky to find a job in public relations. However, my focus was not on crisis and reputation management anymore — something I hesitatingly put on the backburner while I diverted my attention to finding my feet in a new country. But three years later, when I came across Hawthorn, something clicked, and I finally felt like I could resume my career from where I left off in India.

I’m fascinated by the link between reputation and a company or individual’s success, and the impactful role communication plays. From my early interactions with Hawthorn, I got the impression that this is very much within the company’s sweet spot, and I was instantly drawn to it. I was (and still am) impressed by our people and the opportunity to learn from them all.

Here at Hawthorn, we don’t only have people who have been part of the communications industry for most of their careers, but also people who have crossed over from other professions. These include former journalists (print, broadcast, and radio), bankers, barristers, as well as those who have worked in UK Parliament. Why would I miss an opportunity to work with such a diverse and talented pool?

What makes working at Hawthorn unique?
There are two things that really stand out for me. One is the approach we take to addressing our clients’ needs i.e., we refrain from jumping in with recommendations but thoroughly assess scenarios before advising our clients. Second, is the encouragement to build our own networks. On a personal level, working at Hawthorn has pushed my boundaries, presenting new opportunities for me to grow both in my role and as a human.

Describe Hawthorn in three words?
Energetic, hard-working, and inspiring.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
This is something a woman I admire very much said to me a little over a year ago. She said “Don’t look at being from another country as a negative, or a flaw. You have what most of us don’t: experience working in different markets, with people of different cultures.”

This advice gave me hope and strength.

Suezelle in action with her choir group

Are there any quotes you live and work by?
You don’t need more time; you need more focus.
Fewer projects. Fewer commitments. Fewer obligations. Fewer responsibilities.
Carefully choose what you commit to, then go all in.
Shane Parrish, curator for the popular Farnam Street Blog

What advice would you give to someone looking to work in another country?
Don’t be afraid to respectfully point out the parts of conversations you don’t understand because of cultural differences. Believe me, your colleagues will appreciate the reminder and take you along. It’s also important to keep an open mind and value the local culture.

Building confidence through helping others

I began my life at Hawthorn as an Intern transitioning straight from university. Hawthorn was in its very early years. On my first day I joined a team of 15 and now with around 70 colleagues I’ve seen Hawthorn go through many different stages of growth over the past seven years.

What makes working at Hawthorn unique?

Despite the huge changes that the organisation has undergone, Hawthorn has maintained some of the qualities that I enjoyed when I first joined. No matter what level, from intern to CEO, everyone is encouraged to be creative and contribute their ideas and perspectives. Influencing the strategy and building relationships with clients, journalists or other stakeholders isn’t reserved for the most senior team members – Hawthorn encourages everyone to develop connections and take ownership of tasks and responsibilities.

What has been your most memorable experience with Hawthorn?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel with clients. These obviously stand out as great memories with Hawthorn, whether it’s Didcot or Sao Paolo. My first experience was as an analyst, and I travelled solo to Zambia to see a client. It was daunting but shows how younger people in the organisation are trusted and empowered to be independent and own client relationships.

Another, more recent highlight was visiting our client, Suzano, in Brazil last year. Visiting their offices, factories and farms, and spending time with the communications team and members of the executive committee, including the CEO, really helped us get under the skin of the company and better understand its people and culture. As we started working with Suzano during lockdown, separated by a global quarantine and thousands of miles, building that client relationship in person was invaluable.

Tell us about your hobbies / how do you like to spend your free time?

I love making the most of everything that makes London special. Discovering new restaurants, going to gigs, sitting in pub gardens, visiting markets and parks. When I need to clear my head, I’m doing anything active and outdoorsy whether that’s running, hiking, playing netball and cycling (which came in handy during our Hawthorn team cycle from Pisa to Rome last year).

Why did you decide to become a mental health first aider in the workplace? Why is it important?

Many of us spend more time with our colleagues than our friends and family. Yet talking about our health is still often a taboo. This goes for our physical health, but especially for our mental health. If someone is physically ill it’s generally easy to see what’s wrong, but it isn’t so easy for mental health and many people don’t feel able to speak up when they are struggling.

Our industry is dynamic and fast paced and that’s what attracts many to the sector, but it can also be demanding and comes with its fair share of pressure. Understanding this from first-hand experience is what inspired me to become a Mental Health First Aider and volunteer myself, as a first port of call for anyone who wants to talk about any issues however large or small.

What have you learned about yourself?

Being a mental health First Aider doesn’t mean I’ve always found having challenging conversations easy. Like many people, I felt unsure how to approach a friend, family member or colleague who didn’t seem themselves or was going through a tough time. One of the reasons I wanted to become a Mental Health First Aider was to learn how to approach topics that felt outside my comfort zone.

I now feel much more confident simply asking someone how they are, and I understand that it can be ok to probe. It’s been so valuable, and I don’t just use this in my official role as a Mental Health First Aider, but in everyday situations with my friends and family.

Working in another country and not losing yourself in the process by Salonee Gadgil

What was it like moving to London and starting a career here?

I moved to London eight years ago from Mumbai, not quite knowing whether it was going to be a summer fling or a life-long love affair. I was told London would be a hard place to find work, but I’m a bit of a hustler and applied for around 50 jobs in my first three weeks. As luck would have it – and I believe luck has a role to play – I ended up with an interview at Centaur Media and landed my first job.

Workwise, I fitted in from day one. But the work itself is never the hard part when you move to a different part of the world, it’s getting used to all the fluffy human stuff that takes time, effort, thought, and (in my case) a therapist.

When you first arrive in a culture it’s very tempting to change so you can fit in better.

Salonee Gadgil Director, Head of Digital

What advice would you give to someone looking to move to work in another country?

When you first arrive in a culture it’s very tempting to change so you can fit in better. It’s a bit like going back to middle school where you feel like you must dress, sound, act, eat like those around you. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to embrace the new culture you have chosen to move to, but don’t lose all of yourself in the process. Your background and the fact you come with a different cultural perspective is an asset to your new workplace.

What drew you to working at Hawthorn?

Intrigue. Hawthorn is a quirky place, and I mean this as a compliment. Early in the interview process, it became apparent to me that it is full of very intelligent people with strange niche interests, colorful backgrounds, and atypical career paths. I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in, and exactly how my role would evolve, but I knew for sure it wouldn’t be boring.

How do you explain what you do to your family and friends?

The honest answer is I don’t try too hard to explain what I do. Most of my family and friends think I’m a writer, which is true; and that I write for corporates and brands, which is also true. But they think I am only a writer, which is not true. I started my career as a copywriter and then worked in journalism before I moved to communications, so words are at the center of my craft and where I get a lot of my creative satisfaction from. In a funny kind of way, I am attached to being defined as ‘a writer’, and a little make-belief never hurt anyone.