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Learning Through Great Conversations by Tilly Roylance

What drew you to working at Hawthorn?

I found Hawthorn on my university careers page a few years ago, and two things really stood out at the time: the opportunity to experience different businesses and organisations at once, and the variety of the company team itself. I didn’t know the industry or what a typical day might be like, but I’d enjoyed working in a diverse, international cohort during my master’s course, and I was sold on the chance to work again with such a range of people and backgrounds. Since I joined in 2021, our team has grown and so has the variety of people to connect with and learn from.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The best thing about working in this industry is the easy access to interesting and entrepreneurial people. Regular face time with clients and journalists in different sectors has created so many unique opportunities to grill them on genuinely interesting topics – new applications for AI; cultural transformation in the Middle East; the mechanics of the energy transition. Being able to initiate and witness these sorts of casual interviews almost every day is a privilege, and I really like that conversations and connection are the real currency in our line of work.

At Hawthorn specifically, I appreciate the value that’s placed on autonomy. There’s naturally a big emphasis on collaboration – but equally, always room to think independently, take ownership of projects and push your own approach if it has merit. 

What’s been the most unexpected lesson you’ve learnt in your time so far at Hawthorn?

One key lesson has been the importance of reflecting on success. I think others would likely agree that it’s easy to get caught up with the next ambition when something goes well, without considering what worked or just feeling good for a while about the result.

At Hawthorn, time is dedicated to talking in person about our achievements and sharing lessons and tips when things go well. Recognition is always gratifying after a challenging effort. I think the learning has been to allow some time for this part and not brush it off so quickly.

What’s been your proudest achievement at Hawthorn so far, and how did it come about?

I really enjoy helping clients promote work that challenges their industry status quo in some way. One example was supporting a university with the launch of a first-of-its-kind research programme, aiming to completely reinvigorate the traditional approach to domestic violence detection and prevention in the UK. It was a very important and, in some ways, complex piece of news to pitch to journalists, who we found were just as invested in the news and keen to do it justice in their coverage.

Are there any new skills you’re trying to learn?

As some will know very well, I’ve been studying a bit of Spanish since last summer, which has reminded me how humbling the learning process can be. One of our assignments was to spark a spontaneous conversation with staff at our local Zara about clothing sizes which still makes me cringe. But it’s helpful to practise with a few Spanish speakers in the office (thanks Zoe), and hopefully one day it all pays off.

Emma Stanworth on growing through mentorship and paying it forward

What drew you to working at Hawthorn?

Coming from journalism, I was drawn to communications as a way of helping businesses cut through the weeds of business as usual and corporate jargon. Good communications uncover what the engaging stories are that will get people behind a vision.

How would you describe Hawthorn in three words?

Scrupulous, enterprising, bold.

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

It’s a constant work in progress, and things can get thrown out of sync by a client crisis, but having a partner and colleagues who are supportive, and understanding is a big help.

My friends, family and (often clients) think my job is about making sure a business is featured in the Financial Times, or a CEO is interviewed on the BBC Today Programme. But really, it’s about ensuring that our client’s message is heard by the people who need to hear it in a way that supports their business objectives. To do this I help clients communicate who they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing in an authentic way.

Why is mentoring important to you?

I owe a lot to my mentors – I’m still in regular contact with my school philosophy teacher, who introduced me to the ideas and theories I went on to study in my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

I’ve found that the act of mentoring, where experienced individuals guide and support others in their journey, is a powerful tool for inclusion and equity. In my career, the knowledge, skills, and wisdom that my mentors have bestowed on me, using their experience to help me fulfil my potential, has been invaluable. My mentors have not only helped me to navigate challenges, but they’ve also inspired me to reach new heights.

Tell a bit about your role as a mentor?

After experiencing the positive impact of my own mentors, I’ve always had a strong desire to pay it forward and assist others. This is especially relevant within our industry and the broader professional services sector, which can often seem inaccessible due to the variable and elusive nature of our day-to-day work.

After experiencing the positive impact of my own mentors, I’ve always had a strong desire to pay it forward and assist others.

Hawthorn provided me with the opportunity to become a mentor through its partnership with Career Ready, a charity our company collaborates with to offer career skills, training, and guidance to local sixth formers. The dynamic, startup-like atmosphere at Hawthorn enables us to seize opportunities to genuinely assist charities and clients in need of immediate support during critical times. For instance, I personally brought my 17-year-old mentee into our workplace, offering her invaluable exposure to the office environment and introducing her to my colleagues’ networks—an experience I hope will open doors for her as she explores her career prospects.

As a mentor, I find great fulfilment in actively contributing to the growth and success of others, witnessing their progress and accomplishments. Sharing knowledge and guiding mentees not only enhances their skills but also reinforces my own expertise. While I hope that my mentee has gained fresh insights and perspectives from my guidance, I have also experienced significant personal and professional growth through the process of mentoring her.