Rebels, misfits and innovators: 50Over50 – Susan Hallam

We think it’s time to recognise and celebrate the true talent in our industry, the creatives, technologists, founders and leaders that are really driving our industry and shaping society, who just happen to be over 50. 50over50 is a series of interviews, shortly to become a podcast, with our most influential and inspiring industry leaders aged 50 and over.  

Susan Hallam is Founder and CEO of UK digital agency Hallam, working with clients including the United Nations, Speedo, Saint-Gobain and the BBC.  In a career spanning more than 30 years, she has held senior marketing roles at BT and Capital One, as well as being a Senior Lecturer in Computing at Nottingham Trent University. In 2018 she was awarded an MBE for Enterprise and Innovation, was named as a BIMA 100 Leader, and was appointed Chair of Creative Nottingham.

What is the biggest mistake companies are making in their attitude to age today?

People don’t flat line when they hit a certain age. We can’t treat everybody in the older demographic as essentially the same, and that is as true for customers as it is for our employees.

What one thing are you proudest of in your career?

I’ve built an amazing senior management team.  I’m proud that I’ve hired great people in the early days when it was still quite a risk, but it paid off and now I get to work with some of the best leaders in the industry

What creative heights are you now capable of that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve at the early or mid-point of your career?

I’m far more reflective now, rather than jumping straight in at the deep end. I was too concerned with speed, and now I am more likely to draw on our collective experience to come up with more radical solutions.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your role today?

Nothing has really changed in that regard as I’ve gotten older. It is still all about meeting people, sharing ideas, taking action together.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

As the business has grown, it was a hard lesson to learn that my skills as an entrepreneur starting up a business are not necessarily well suited to steering the ship of what has become a large company. It was a big lesson to decide to appoint an MD in our agency who has responsibility for the growth of the business, and I just focus instead on what I love the best: the creative and digital industry itself.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self?

Celebrate more.

I have worked long hard hours to build the company, and there is always one more thing I want to do, one more mountain to climb. My advice to my younger self would be to recognise our team’s achievements, celebrate them, and recognise just how great we are. Once you’ve celebrated then get back down in the weeds, shoulder to the wheel, and get back to work.

What are you most excited about in your industry over the next 10 years?

Machine learning and artificial intelligence is transforming the digital industry. As digital professionals it is giving us a whole new understanding of our customers and their behaviours.

It is giving us new tools to reach our target markets. There is so much to learn, so many new opportunities, so many fresh developments.

What is your biggest regret about the industry today?

I regret the psychological and emotional manipulation of digital behavioural design, and the negative impact it is having on our lives.

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