Ally Owen Technology for Marketing
NAYOKA OWARE [00:00:14] Hello and welcome back to day one of technology for Marketing at Olympia, I am Nayoka Oware hosting for Disruptive Live, and I’m joined by the very beautiful Ally Owen, she is the founder of Brixton Finishing School and Hoxton United.
ALLY OWEN [00:00:29] Thank you very much for the complement.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:00:31] You’re Welcome, how are you?
ALLY OWEN [00:00:33] I’m really good, I’ve had a really good morning so far or afternoon I should say as well.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:00:37] Of course it’s an amazing event. Ally tell us more about Brixton finishing school and how you set that up, the genesis of it really.
ALLY OWEN [00:00:46] So I’ve been in the advertising and technology. Industry, about 25 years, I had quite a stellar career from a non traditional start, I started as a secretary and ended up running really large complex teams, first domestically, then globally, the kind of tech and media companies. But gradually I was becoming disillusioned with the fact that not all talent was represented. Now I live in London. One of the best cities in the world and also one the most diverse and it was really obvious to me that especially in our business if we are storytelling, then if you only have one type of people telling their stories? It gets a bit boring and If I’m going to optimise a business, I need invoices involved. So bizarrley as well. Katie Hopkins features in the story not known for her diversity but I was working at a particular media outlet that employed her and the money I was making was partly paying her salary. And I just had an epiphany and kind of very politely threw my toys out the pram and walked away and decided I wanted to create a way of disrupting the talent pipeline into the tech and advertising industry. And a year later, which was last year. We ran our first pilot which is kind of a 12 week course and we had some really quite big tech and advertising sponsors and we had 20 young talents who took the twelve week course with us full time, the sponsors ring fence roles from at the end and we only, we do like out weeks to 18, 25 year olds who being Euro diverse, female or working class. I don’t like labels. Pretty much everybody that is not underrepresented. That led us to win Britain’s best digital Skills of inclusion Program within our first year and this year we’ve now got 30 and we’ve just announced we’re launching two schools next year, one just for people in Euro diverse because that’s a massive group of unemployment. And then one another kind of even more beefed up, premium product.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:03:01] That’s amazing and you told me that you just reached a milestone, we are supposed to be celebrating something aren’t we?
ALLY OWEN [00:03:01] Was I? that was for two years.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:03:01] Its been two years, thats incredible.
ALLY OWEN [00:03:01] It’s been two years since I done it.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:03:01] Amazing so the tech talent crises, tell me more about it.
ALLY OWEN [00:03:02] Theres something called Brexit going on, which I think some of us are aware of. which is going to completely screw us over. From a tech point of view, when you actually look up the make up of our workforces, generally we’re not using that talent, home-grown talent at all. So London itself, if you’re a Muslim male, you’re probably 76 percent more likely to be unemployed than a white male. And actually, there’s lots of groups of people who are incredibly talented who have the right skills that due to various bias or maybe just fear, are not actually involving in our success that is talent is home-grown, it’s here that we pay our taxes to educate. It’s got a lot to give and would probably actually have really different and interesting viewpoints. After all, when you’re dealing in technology you have massive consumer bases potentially, but you’ll keep focussing on a very narrow set of what an employee looks like. You’re actually not future briefing yourself at all because they’ll be somebody will come along and actually bring it everybody whos’s the best on board and then you’ll be blown out the water. So my job is to disrupt that pipeline by creating a safe route in. So if you imagine theres university, theres everybody you know, which is normally people you played rugby with or someone like that. And then there’s Brixton finishing school. We act as a kind of probation period so the talent that comes out of us has been through a rigorous selection process, which is actually done. We’ve got about 13 big tech sponsers now. So we do a massive outreach campaign every year to try and find the talent so Clear Channel donate seventy five thousand pounds worth of outdoor to shoot our campaign. Mail online, Facebook stylist, we do a big PR campaign about 800 community groups. Really do go and talk to the groups, to be honest, I can talk to you every day when I’m on my street. I live in a council estate in North London, but it seems very hard apparently for some people to find people who arent like themselves, which has always been an interesting conundrum to me . Once we select them and they go through the process there’s so many checks and balances and being trained by the best in the industry. We’re really actually a wonderful entry level product at the end, so you’re trained in lots of digital techniques, ideation and also work readiness. So I kind of think a lot of all graduates from the school maybe don’t have a degree but go on to graduate schemes. Quite a few of our graduates have firsts but weren’t able to break into the job market.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:05:25] That does happen, and it is unfortunate.
ALLY OWEN [00:05:26] I’m sure. Did you watch? Amol Rajan’s How to Break into the Elite? Amazing BBC documentary basically shows that if you’re from a certain part of society, you can have two two and end up in the city, you can have a first and just not be cultural fit. so yeah, lots of ways we can really quite quickly improve our game.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:05:47] There definitely are ways in, for those who may not be able to start up their own companies like a finishing school like you have done how can they disrupt the pipeline and how can they get involved?
ALLY OWEN [00:05:56] I think if your company has a referral scheme, tell them to scrap it because your company isn’t completely diverse. You are only going to refer people, you know. I would challenge anybody to name 10 best friends they’re most likely to be the most like you, say if they’re the most like you, Then all they’re going to refer to you is more people like you. It becomes a ever decreasing returns of difference. So if you are going to do it, reward In a different way. Because I understand it cuts costs, but all you’re doing is getting the same cookie cutter cutter person.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:06:34] Exactly, its not very diverse is it?
ALLY OWEN [00:06:36] I also think being our ally. sort of do that, we have a real problem about going into local schools and them understanding the opportunities as well. No. As an industry, both tech and advertising, we have really poor outreach. Schools are broke and most people don’t understand that theres massive amounts of money to be made in this career.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:06:57] Plenty of money and thats my next question how do we make some money? One of my favourite topics.
ALLY OWEN [00:07:00] How do we. So for me, the best way a company can make money and this has been shown like McKinsey have shown more diverse companies is 36 percent more returns. While we’ve been on the board. I think it was 15 percent, that was Credit Suisse. For me, it just makes sense that if you’re optimising and I am quite a logical pragmatist for me to optimise my outcomes, i need to get the right talent on board and at the moment the structures we’ve got and the way we find talent are not optimising cash.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:07:21] Lastly Ally how do you stay relevant? are you on social media? how do you promote yourself? and market yourself?
ALLY OWEN [00:07:21] So please follow us on Instagram, because what you know is my students, when I graduate, I should say now run our channels, so we are at @Brixtonfinishingschool on instagram or @Brixtonfschool on Twitter. And im @Ally_m1. Thank you so much for having me.
NAYOKA OWARE [00:07:57] Thank you so much, its been an absolute pleasure speaking to you, and thats all we have time for today, you’re amazing work must tell you that. Thank you for watching. We will be back shortly. You can join the conversation and send us your comments, use the hashtag TFM19 and hashtag DrisruptiveLive, see you shortly.