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  • Writer's pictureAllBright Debra


Over the winding swathes of my career I have been lucky enough to experience the benefits of being mentored. One in person in particular - Hamish Macdonald – was unquestionably barking mad, a creative genius, hilarious, lovable and totally unreasonable, all in equal measure. He was, and will always remain, someone I feel privileged to have worked with, because apart from the crazy shit that went on (it was the early 80’s in the advertising industry), he took the time to listen to me and see me for what I was and what I wanted to achieve. I came from a fairly ordinary working-class family in South-East London, and as he said with an exaggerated posh accent and a twinkle in his eye, he ‘went to a minor public school’. However, our divergent backgrounds didn’t seem to matter, and although not a formal mentoring process (I don’t think we’d even heard of that word back then), he not only supported me in my ambitions to ‘be more than a secretary’ he positively hurled me forward and challenged me to step-up and put my abilities where my mouth was. And my mouth was pretty big!

I’m fully aware that this unusual experience (for the 80’s) had a massive impact on my career. The game-changer came in a single moment when he shoved me forward to do a job whilst simultaneously stepping back into the shadows. He really put me on the spot and in the spotlight, and I took courage from his almost blaze faith in me, proving to myself and many doubters that I had what it takes to deliver. The whole thing boosted my confidence to previously unimaginable levels and sadly for some I’ve never looked back😊

Having taken so much from my own experience, I have over the past few decades felt compelled to pay it forward, and I’m proud to say that I have had the opportunity and privilege of being able to support and mentor some very talented people. I’ve gotten huge satisfaction from seeing them fly very high, and from a professional perspective nothing has been more exciting than spotting potential in someone who very often can’t see why they are so special themselves.

To the present day, and I am a full of admiration for the Fast Forward 15 mentoring programme. Fay Sharpe and her regular Ambassadors have worked incredibly hard to establish it at as a gold standard for supporting aspiring young women in the events industry. Despite a long career in events I was dumb-founded when the stats sank in that despite 70% of women making up the work-force only 10% earned a position on a company board. FF15 isn’t a vanity project or a gratuitous set-up either. The entry process is very rigorous, with between 300 to 400 young women applying every year and there’s only space for 15, so it’s pretty competitive. It’s also not a strong-hold for bitter, unfulfilled females, but a positive, inclusive, visionary organisation that is garnering the support of many very senior and prominent industry men; who are not only acknowledging some of the issues being faced but coming on the FF15 journey with us.

I have loved working with my two wonderful mentees during what must be one of the most difficult times for the events industry, and I have learned as much from them in this well-structured programme as I have from supporting them. It’s a very reflective process and it’s a hard fact that you can’t be advising someone on how to do their career, if you’re not taking your own advice! So, another year turns and a new cohort steps into the FF15 process. I wish both Mentors and Mentees all the very best and give my thanks to Fay for her vision and commitment.


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