In conversation: Lindsay Pattison and Nicole Meissner
Championing gender diversity
WPP’s Chief Client Officer, Lindsay Pattison, and Chief Technology Officer, Creative and Production Technologies, Nicole Meissner, discuss initiatives focused on championing gender diversity, career paths and the benefits of the WPP network.
Lindsay Pattison, Chief Client Officer, WPP:
When I was younger I definitely underestimated how much people buy into people. When you’re young you think it’s all about the work, but actually it’s whoever is presenting, talking about the work or doing the work that matters. It takes time to understand that.
Nicole Meissner, CTO Creative and Production Technologies, WPP:
That’s a really interesting point. I’ve realised over the past two years, despite being in a technology-focused role, that it’s not necessarily about the best piece of tech but the person behind it – the human layer on top of the technology which makes it special.
I’m curious to hear whether you’ve seen any significant change in workplace culture over the past few years?
LP: I think that one thing which has got better in the workplace is people supporting each other and it’s definitely something I actively do.
I’m involved in a whole host of initiatives, including Walk the Talk which I developed when I was at Maxus and which has now been rolled out across GroupM and WPP.
It works under various guises, Wunderman Thompson call it Pass It On, Grey and Ogilvy call it Shine but it’s exactly the same programme. It’s a two-day programme designed to bring women together to reflect on any internal barriers they may have and equip them with allies, tactics and opportunities to help them succeed.
One of the key things about the programme, other than it being an amazing opportunity to actually spend time thinking about yourself, your career and your life in general, is that it’s a great opportunity at a WPP level to connect with senior women across the company and it helps women form strong networks. After spending two days in a room of inspirational women you leave feeling you could take on the world and win anything.
Despite being in a technology-focused role, I've learned that it’s not necessarily about the best piece of tech but rather the human layer on top of the technology which makes it special
NM: In the tech space there’s a programme called Girls Who Code which is quite popular in the States and which I would love to bring to Europe as part of WPP. I think there’s a lot to be found and nurtured in terms of female talent in IT and e-technology.
Technology is only ever one part of a solution, there are people involved, emotions. Looking at holistic solutions to problems is what programmes like Girls Who Code encourage. This is becoming more widely accepted and will bring more females into technology companies and hopefully drive progress.
LP: Speaking of progress I’m interested to hear about how you progressed into your role?
NM: I started at WPP about four years ago when I joined Hogarth, WPP’s production agency, from a non-agency background. Before WPP I focused mainly on incubator-type work which led me to the US and I ultimately started a whole load of tech companies.
Walk the Talk is an amazing opportunity to spend time thinking about yourself, your career and your life in general. It’s a great opportunity at a WPP level to connect with senior women across the company and helps women form strong networks
When I was trying to decide on what my next career step might be, I started talking to Hogarth and thinking about how interesting it would be to start building tech solutions to broader advertising challenges. After my initial period at Hogarth, I became involved in wider network pitches which meant I got to work across the WPP network. I joined as Chief Operations Officer for Hogarth, then became their Chief Digital Officer, then at the beginning of this year, I moved into a WPP role under Stephan Pretorius’ leadership.
How did you progress into your role?
LP: I joined nine and a half years ago to be Maxus’ first CEO. I definitely joined Maxus because Maxus was part of GroupM and GroupM was the largest media company in the UK. It had a great reputation and, in turn, GroupM was part of WPP. I always joined with a view to being part of a larger network. Maxus felt like it was a start-up brand with the support of a network behind it.
We started winning business very quickly with GroupM and trebled the size of the agency. We got momentum, I surrounded myself with the right talent and the business grew incredibly quickly. My advice is always to be brilliant at your core job and then surround yourself with the right talent and then you can lift your head up and do more things.
I took on a global strategy job which then turned into global CEO role. It has been fascinating to have the opportunity to connect with people around the world. In fact, I think the main thing which has been so beneficial to me in my time at WPP is to spend time with the most amazing colleagues and having so many opportunities to connect with people and collaborate.
23 January 2019