This Is Me: Vicky Stickland

Brandwave commercial director Vicky Stickland chats about how being a pain can make your dreams come true and how sometimes silence is stronger than debate 

Interview by Anna Langer

If you’re good at what you do, you love what you do and you can hold your own in the boardroom, then any female can have an amazing career in the boardsport industry.

When I found out about Brandwave, and the creative services it offered specifically to the action sports market, I knew that that it was the only place I wanted to work. So I got in touch with Dan, Brandwave’s founder, and begged him for a job. I offered to work for free, and didn’t stop nagging him until he eventually gave in and offered me an internship. Just over three years later and I’m now the commercial director of the company, I get to work all over europe, managing and developing global campaigns with some of the most prestigious brands in the industry, and I genuinely still feel lucky to have the job that I do. I also still have the first email I sent to Dan, telling him why he should hire me and what I could do for the company, which makes for pretty funny reading now.

For me, theres nothing quite like the sense of freedom that comes from playing and participating in any sport, and boardsports just epitomise this. With boardsports you really do get out what you put in, the learning curve is steep but you can always improve. Of course the social aspect that comes with boardsports; the friends, travel, and the parties are also great too.

I’ve been into surfing since I was kid, my grandparents used to own a house and a sweet shop in North Cornwall – so we would spend all of our summers surrounded by sweets and surf. Probably the best combination imaginable for my brothers and I when we were growing up.

Since starting at Brandwave I’ve had a go at SUP, wake boarding and windsurfing. When the conditions or weather is good we always try to finish up a bit early and get out of the office and onto the water on any type of board going. I think surfing will always be my number one love – we’re moving the office even closer to the beach in the next month so the plan will be to spend most lunchtimes and time after work down there. It’s hard to find anything to complain about at work when we’re able to get out on our boards, it’s also amazing to be down at the beach with the whole team. Surfing with Dan, Brandwave’s founder, is like surfing with my own personal instructor, which is amazing when I’ve still got so much more to learn.

I genuinely can’t think of anything I’d change about the boardsports industry, I consider myself lucky to work with and for some pretty inspirational people. A lot of people I encounter during my role have achieved amazing things in their lives and careers. This makes them great people to work alongside because they genuinely love what they do. Anyone that’s managed to make their main passion in life their job is generally a very happy person to be around – which makes for a great working life.

Being around inspirational people most of the time definitely makes me feel like I have to up my own game. I always like to have some sort of challenge to work towards, I ran a half marathon last year (with too little training), danced in the Olympic Opening Ceremony and I’m swimming the Solent this year. I’d love to say that one day I’ll do an Iron Man or something, but that’s unfortunately a rather unrealistic goal for me!

I’ve learnt over time that silence can often be the best way to deal with machos.

I wouldn’t say that being a female in the industry is generally any different to being a male in the boardsport industry. If you’re good at what you do, you love what you do and you can hold your own in the boardroom, then any female can have an amazing career in the boardsport industry. Although we’re definitely quite outnumbered in the industry. I don’t know the exact stats or figures on the under-representation of women in the boardsports industry, but I do know that at all the main action sports tradeshows in Europe, there’s thousands upon thousands of attendees… But there’s never a queue for the woman’s toilets!

My role, managing campaigns for brands in the industry, can be frustrating at times, if I don’t feel that women are being properly targeted, considered or represented. On a few occasions I’ve received an amazing brief for a marketing campaign aimed solely at women, and I’ve started planning and developing a campaign that I believe will have a real effect on women, engaging and influencing them to get involved in sport. Then budget get’s cut or top management get involved and the campaign message get’s diluted, or worse still the project get’s cancelled all together. It’s a shame that the importance of woman as a primary target audience is often underestimated by brands.

Although with under-representation comes opportunity. There’s therefore definitely space in the market for more female focused brands, with female designers, board members and marketeers, selling to a female audience. We just need a plucky female to get out there and make it happen…

The guys in the Brandwave office know they wouldn’t get away with any machoism, but unfortunately, when working with external companies I have occasionally experienced it. As much as machoism is frustrating and ridiculous in this day and age, I actually quite enjoy the challenge of trying to turn the opinion of such men, both of me personally – and my ability to do my job, as well as of woman and our importance within the industry and business in general.

I have to travel to meetings abroad to present to the sales and marketing teams of many action sports brands, once I had to travel with a guy who was also presenting, who spent two full days telling me about the cars he drove, the money he earns and just generally about how fantastic he was – all whilst trying to put me down in front of the client and attempting to prove that he had more right than I did to present at the meeting. In life it would be easy to just walk away from a man like this, in business I just have to get on with it. I dealt with it by delivering my presentation so well I got asked back to present again (he didn’t). I also made sure I called the office to tell them all how much I appreciated how lovely they all were…

I love a good debate and am more than happy to share my opinions with others. However I’ve learnt over time that silence can often be the best way to deal with machos. Generally what machos are looking for in life is a reaction; I can take pleasure in ignoring them and continuing with my own agenda and perhaps showing them for who they really are and making them look stupid whilst I’m at at.

What do I wish someone had told me as a little girl? To stop fannying around on a body board and get onto a surf board sooner, I wish someone had told me to listen in Spanish classes and I wish someone had told me to keep my early 90s shell suit – that a shell suit will always be worth having in life.

I wish that everyone would live their lives to the full – and make the most of what does it for them. Personally I love travelling and want to see the world. But who am I to say that’s right for everyone? Some people have an irrational fear of flying – so that would make it a bit harder/less appealing!

I think it’s important to dream big, as a saying it’s almost overused but I like to think that I’m a good example if you want something in life badly enough, then you’ve just got to go out and get it.

I’m on of the ‘lucky’ ones that looks forward to going to work on a Monday morning, but we all have the opportunity to set our own luck in life and I guess at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

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