At the inaugural NDA Heroes, Dianka Bohuslaw, Manager, Client Operations at Xandr, followed up her Adtech Collaborative Champion award with the overall All-Star Hero award. We sat down with Bohuslaw to see what the wins mean to her.
How did it feel to win the Adtech Collaborative Champion award?
It felt amazing. To be honest, I was shocked. I was so happy that I was nominated – I couldn’t really believe that! Then I was shortlisted, and it was like, “oh my god, I’ve been shortlisted”. I posted on LinkedIn asking people to vote for me, and I can’t believe that they did. There were so many incredible people nominated for the same award, including two of my colleagues. I know how fantastic they are, so, when my name was called, it was a surprise.
In the role that I do, we don’t get a tonne of recognition, especially out in the industry. I don’t have a commercial role, or a new business role. So, I think it’s amazing to be recognised, and I’m proud, really humbled, and still a little bit in shock from it all. I was carrying my trophies home last night, and just kept looking at them in disbelief. I’m proud to be part of an event that recognises those unsung heroes that don’t get recognised all the time. That’s really cool, and I’m absolutely honoured.
And what about the overall All-Star Hero award?
I didn’t even know it was happening for a start. I was having a drink, and standing there still beaming from the first award. Never in a million years did I think it would be me again. And, on the night, my emotions spoke for themselves. I was very emotional, and proud. I was in shock, but it felt incredible.
I couldn’t believe that, out of all of those people who do amazing things all the time, I was chosen. There aren’t enough good words to say how I felt. I was overwhelmed.
Having that attention was weird as well – I’m not used to that feeling at all. Going up and receiving an award and thinking, “do I deserve this?” I just feel like I’m being me, doing what I should be doing in my role, and doing things that loads of other people are doing. Honestly, I’m truly humbled and grateful for the opportunity, and the recognition. Just super happy.
What do you think contributed to you winning the awards?
My role is super collaborative day-to-day. Collaboration is key, and that’s how I feel in my role. I work with so many different teams. But I think the main reason for receiving the awards was for stepping out of that role, and seeing what else I can do.
Mental health is super important. I’m a mental health first aider, and I’m a mental health and wellbeing champion in EMEA for my company. So, I think it’s probably the work I’ve done there that’s contributed to the awards. I could just do my day job and go home, but it’s about the extra things and that’s a passion of mine. That’s probably the reason for it.
How are you going to use the awards as a platform going forward?
I feel like the sky’s the limit. I’ve got these awards, and some of the work that I’ve done has been recognised, which is great. I’m just going to use it as motivation. I never feel like I’m doing enough, and I think a lot of people feel the same. We always feel like we could be doing more. So, it’s just a case of using it as motivation to keep going when the going gets tough in the knowledge that my work is making a difference to people. I’m just going to keep pushing on and seeing what else we can come up with as a team for our workplace and for the industry as a whole. If we can collaborate more, I think that would be really cool.
Funnily enough, I just became a NABS [a wellbeing charity for the advertising and media industry] ambassador. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and had on my radar, but I’ve never really found the time. In the last few weeks, I was thinking that I really needed to do this. I promote NABS personally anyway, because I think they’re amazing. Now that I’ve had the induction call and these awards have come as well, I have an opportunity to spread the word a bit more and advocate for mental health and wellbeing as an official ambassador.
Why is your work around mental health so important to you?
I’ve always thought it was important. Everybody has mental health in the same way they have physical health. The stats are crazy. One in four people will suffer with their mental health at some point in their lives, and I’ve always thought about it.
Prior to working at Xandr, I worked in education. I was at the London College of Fashion before, and worked in academic support. I worked with a lot of vulnerable students, and saw people on a daily basis that were struggling with their mental health. I’ve had my own struggles as well. I’ve been through grief and other personal things. And seeing people suffering and feeling like they’ve got nowhere to turn, and no one to talk to, really struck a chord with me. So, I thought, “what can I do about this?”
I signed up to become a mental health first aider. That was a two-day training course. Then, when I joined Xandr, I carried that through, and it was actually something I mentioned in my interview. I knew the company was quite keen on putting mental health and wellbeing at the forefront, so I thought it was great. I remember saying to our diversity and inclusion leader at the time, “I’ve got this mental health first aider certificate, I want to put it to use”.
The word then spread that I had that role, and that I was there for support and to listen. From there, it built out a little bit to me becoming a mental health and wellbeing champion. Then other initiatives came out of that.
So, it was a mixture of things, but I just think it’s so important in general. It can’t be ignored. I want to do anything I can do to help.
How did you find the awards night?
I thought it was really cool, and I loved the relaxed vibe. Full transparency: I’d never been to an award ceremony before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I went in with an open mind and was just looking forward to the whole experience.
When we arrived, the atmosphere was great, and people were super friendly and introduced themselves. I was also there with three colleagues, so having their support made me feel a little bit more comfortable. I was nervous meeting new people who are quite high profile in the industry. Sometimes it’s like, “do I fit in? Should I be here?” But I felt super comfortable, and I thought it was all really awesome.
The fact that the awards came around quite quickly was great, because it eased any nerves that might have been floating around. And they were really to the point. I’ve heard about other awards that are a bit drawn out, or in really formal settings, so they’re a bit stiff. But this was very relaxed. Then, obviously, I was on cloud nine – overwhelmed, shocked, emotional, and super happy.
After the ceremony, we stayed until pretty much the end, and had a great time with the DJ and drinks. It was cool chatting to people, and so many of them came over to congratulate me. It was just a really great atmosphere. And, considering it was the first NDA Heroes awards, I thought it was brilliant, and I’m extremely proud to have just been part of it.
As a “hero”, what piece of advice would you give to others?
Advocate for yourself. If these had come around a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have asked people to vote. I probably wouldn’t have told anybody, and would’ve been very shy about it. I would’ve felt a bit embarrassed about promoting myself. Self-promotion is something I find difficult. But, this time, I thought, “you know what? If I’m doing good work, and someone has taken the time to nominate me for something, I should take that and go for it”. This is what can happen and this is what can come out of it.
People don’t realise that the work they do in their actual day job – or for mental health, diversity, equity, and inclusion, or the Women’s Network, or whatever work it might be – makes a difference, no matter how big or small any action is. If everybody works towards those small actions, it creates one big action and then the effect is massive. The industry already does a great job but, if we can all work together, we can do even more.
Anything is possible. This has proven it to me. I didn’t believe in a million years that I would be coming home with two awards and I have. And I think that’s definitely possible for anyone, no matter what role you’re in or the stage of your career.