Fold Woman: Isabel Massey

Fold Woman: Isabel Massey
August 13, 2018 The Fold

On her childhood: I lived in Luxembourg until I was six and went to an international school out there. It was a real melting pot of different cultures. When we moved to the UK and settled in Kent, I remember finding it strange that everyone in my class spoke the same language. I’m a middle child; my eldest sister works in law and my youngest sister works in finance. We’ve taken different paths but we’re extremely close and all share an insatiable curiosity and passion for exploring the world. I studied Hispanic studies and film at Nottingham University, mainly because the course allowed me to spend a year in Granada and Valencia. I got a First despite my terrible Spanish. What I lacked in skill, I made up for in enthusiasm.

On her early career: Fresh out of uni, I went into advertising – initially working for Carat and then Vizeum, two marketing agencies owned by global media group Dentsu Aegis Network. I was given a lot of responsibility early on, planning media campaigns for the likes of Coca-Cola, Pernod Ricard and P&O Cruises. It was a steep learning curve. I used to fret over every mistake until one of my bosses said to me: “Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Will it matter in an hour? Will it matter in a day, a week, or a month?” That stuck with me and helped give me perspective. Chances are you’ll get things wrong in your career – identify the mistakes that matter.

On her current role: I was running a training course at Vizeum on what clients want – then it hit me that I’d never actually worked for one. I wanted to get under the skin of a business so, in 2013, I joined drinks giant Diageo on secondment. The placement was meant to be for a year but I loved the work and gelled with the people, so I stayed on and ran Diageo’s Media & Futures team across Europe. I could see there was a big opportunity for the company to expand its digital marketing footprint so, in 2016, I became Diageo’s first ever global digital director, heading up a team of 25. I’ve always tried to think of job specs as suggestions, rather than facts. If you can broaden or shape your own role, don’t hold back.

On her regrets: When I joined Diageo, I became part of the European marketing leadership team and I felt completely out of my depth. I was surrounded by all these smart people and I had a serious case of imposter syndrome. I thought that having an open, honest conversation would impact my career development, so I stayed silent. Three months in, I admitted to my boss that I didn’t think I was up to the job. He said, “What are you talking about? You’re doing great.” I wish I’d spoken up sooner instead of letting anxiety eat me up.

On staying sane: I’m based at Diageo’s head office in Park Royal but I travel a lot; I’ve been to Bangalore, Singapore, New York and Mexico City this year. Given the chance, I’d work 24 hours a day so I’ve had to become more self-aware and learn when to stop. At the end of 2016, I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of taking up spin cycle. She bet me a magnum of champagne that I wouldn’t make it past 10 sessions. There’s nothing like a challenge – and a bottle of fizz – to get you motivated. I’m now hooked on Boom Cycle and go three times a week. It’s made such a difference to my mental health and wellbeing. My body looks better, too.

On her go-to style: You’ll always find me in a bright, bold dress and heeled boots. People say they can spot me a mile away because of my signature style and long platinum blonde hair.

On her power suit: The more important the meeting, the more I tend to dress down. So my ‘power suit’ could be leather leggings, a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and Converse trainers. I guess I’m making the point that I shouldn’t have to dress up in my job to be taken seriously.

On her style icon: I’d pick Holly Willoughby for being so versatile and accessible. She has fun with her outfits.

On her role model: There are some amazing women in my life who are strong, creative and have great bullshit meters. I’ve always looked up to my older sister – she knows what she wants and she goes for it. By trying to emulate her, I think I’ve become a more courageous person.

On her advice to other women: 1.) Always stay true to yourself but respond to your environment. Know when to dial yourself up or down. 2.) You can only influence others if you have passion and perspective in equal measures. 3.) During your career, there will be challenges that feel mountainous. Find people who have already moved those mountains or climbed to the summit and ask them for help.

Interview: Kate Bassett

Photography: Harry Borden

Accessories: Isabel’s own

Shot at Diageo headquarters in Park Royal, London

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