Lucy Carver is the Director of Sky’s Bigger Picture; responsible for Sky’s sustainable business strategy including overseeing Sky Academy (Sky’s initiatives to unlock potential in young people) and Sky’s Rainforest Rescue with WWF (saving one billion trees in the Amazon). Making Timewise’s Power Part Time list in 2015, Lucy tells us why she decided to work part-time and how she manages to sustain a healthy work-life balance.
Could you tell us about your career and how you came to your current role of Director of the Bigger Picture?
I started my career at Unilever in the marketing department. I joined on a management training programme, which gave me a brilliant crash course in business and I later moved to L’Oreal to continue with my marketing career. I moved to Sky in 2005 to run Sky’s nascent arts sponsorships and lead the marketing launch of Sky Arts, before moving into the Corporate Social Responsibility team in 2007. This was a pivotal time when leading companies were making the crucial move from ‘CSR’ to sustainability – the belief that business must make a positive social impact within and from the core of the business, not just contribute philanthropically as an ‘add-on’. Having become Director in 2009 I’ve been thrilled to lead Sky as we’ve pioneered sustainable business practice.
Under your leadership, Sky developed Sky Rainforest Rescue with WWF to help save 1 billion trees in the Amazon – an impressive feat amongst many outstanding achievements on your CV. What has been your proudest achievement to date?
I’m really proud of a lot of work that brings Sky’s positive social purpose to life. As with all great work, you’re only as good as your team and I’ve been lucky to work with some hugely talented people, both at Sky and our partners – together we’ve really focused on developing, launching and leading initiatives that made it possible for millions of people to either get involved and make a positive difference, or unlock their potential. Some highlights from my point of view have been the launch of the Sky Arts (now one of Sky’s main channels), Sky Rainforest Rescue with WWF (which over the course of 6 years, helped save 1 billion trees in the Amazon and helped raise awareness of the issues of deforestation here in the UK), being part of Sky’s 8 year partnership with British Cycling (which has got more than a million people cycling more regularly) and Sky Academy (which has so far built the skills and experience of over 350,00 young people since launch 3 years ago).
Sustainability and driving positive social impact are buzzwords for big corporate brands, in fact Sky is now widely recognised as a leading company in global sustainability – how can start-ups incorporate best practises and consider their environmental and social impact when scoping out their business plans? Do you have any tips/advice?
Everyone has the opportunity and the power to make a positive impact. It’s a good idea to start by looking very closely at your core business model and proposition and to think about what impact you have on the wider world, in all respects. You can then start to understand what you might need to change in order to meet your own expectations in being a responsible business (i.e. waste management, responsible sourcing, energy management and so on). Then once you’ve got a solid foundation the really exciting part comes when you can think beyond this and see the opportunities to make a positive impact on the world that align to your business’ specific strengths. If you’re starting from first base, seek out big organisations like Business in the Community and specialists like Forum for the Future, Hubbub or Futerra to help inspire you. Don’t forget to read ‘Green Giants’ by Freya Williams – a new manifesto for sustainable business.
As a senior woman within your profession, what advice would you give to other women looking to progress within your field?
In terms of sustainability; work for a company and people you admire, be clear what the material impacts of that business are and where you can make systemic change, then dive in to make positive impact happen. Work hard, have fun, and do your best work every time. I do also think you need to be conscious about your plan for your progression and own that – think hard about where you want to be in 10 years’ time, even if there are multiple paths for you, then work backwards to build the skills, experience and network to get there.
Who has inspired you the most? Do you have a role model?
I don’t have just one role model. I’m a magpie in that I’m always people-watching and looking to ‘steal with pride’ in how people conduct themselves in business and get great work done. I’ve huge respect for people that show bravery, resilience and integrity as core values. How you work is as important as what you produce and to me it is often the difference between good and great.
Sky Academy aims to ‘unlock the potential of young people’. What do you think are the big lessons/learning’s we should be passing on to the next generation?
The world is ever changing and innovation in order to solve complex challenges and make the most from opportunities will be key. Skills like creativity are so important to us all in finding solutions to problems, identifying opportunities that haven’t been found yet and will only be more so in the future!
Could you explain your role at Cockpit Arts, how this role came about and tell us what they aim to do in terms of supporting design-makers in their businesses and design?
Cockpit Arts is a brilliant social enterprise which acts as a business incubator for craftspeople. Cockpit Arts is 30-years-old this year and a great example of how utterly brilliant the UK is at valuing and nurturing creative businesses. I find the craftpeople who have studios at Cockpit really inspiring and love how the Cockpit organisation nurtures, develops and supercharges them. I became a trustee after Arts and Business, part of Business in the Community, put me in touch. I’d highly recommend being a charity trustee as a way to contribute whilst also growing your own business skills – the website Nurole is a good place to look at trustee positions.
You were named by Timewise and Management Today in the Power Part Time list in 2015. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your decision to work part-time and how you best go about managing this? Also, if you were going to give one piece of advice to someone considering going part-time what would it be?
I went part-time after the birth of my eldest son, and with 2 boys aged 5 and 3 I remain working 4 days a week so I have 1 day a week to spend more time with them. How do I make it work? I try to set myself clear boundaries; I work very hard the 4 days I’m at work and really throw myself into it; then the rest of my time is for my home life. In Sky I also work for a company which has a public commitment to its leadership team becoming 50/50 gender balanced which means flexible working is not just enabled, but actively supported and encouraged – that makes a huge difference. Companies who don’t do this are missing a trick, and if yours doesn’t I’d just recommend you ask for what you need to make your life work best; don’t ask, don’t get! The other tip I’d give is to accept that your work and home life merge at times – technology can be our friend as working parents; an iPhone means I’m always responsive, always plugged in. I’d highly recommend the book ‘I know how she does it’ by Laura Vanderkam and have given it to various women in my professional life – brilliant tips from a time management expert on how to thrive at work and home, the author having studied the habits of working mothers at the top of their fields.
What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
Regarding my career, I’ve received lots of advice from trusted colleagues, bosses, friends and mentors. Two pieces of advice that particularly shaped my attitude to work from an early age were from my father who reached the top of his profession as a Royal Marine. ‘Listen to and trust your gut – it’s borne of what a person has learnt both intellectually and from practical experience’. And also, ‘Be brave. If you don’t feel brave, pretend to be until no one can tell the difference’ – a really interesting one to me about consciously adopting a positive behaviour until it just becomes authentic.
It’s all about that work-life balance! How do you juggle being a working mother with two boys and being a trustee to Cockpit Arts? If you have any free time, what do you like to do to unwind?
I’ll be honest, it’s no picnic – but the rewards outweigh the stresses. How do I do it? I work for a company I believe in, I have a brilliant support network at home in a husband with whom I share every part of parenting, and a brilliant nanny (I’ve found getting your childcare right for whatever your personal needs is a sanity saver). To unwind, I hang out with my boys, or consciously put my head into a different space by binge watching TV box sets, going to art exhibitions or to the theatre as well as regular dinners with my girlfriends. I’m also really trying to practise mindful breathing every day – it’s quite magical!
Do you think the way we dress and present ourselves in the workplace can have an impact on our career?
Absolutely, yes. Great clothes are a joy and they frankly make my life easier – if I buy a good dress I don’t have to worry about how I look; I know it’s going to work and suit me and reflect the image I want to portray. Very often you have a short amount of time to impress on people what you want to convey – and great clothes are a big part of that.
Do you have any go-to styles for your 9-5 wardrobe?
Dresses, dresses, dresses. I really do love The Fold’s – they flatter, look stylish without being slavish and are really well cut. I also like smart flat shoes as much as heels (as I’m highly restless, I like to be able to move very fast!), a really good handbag (though as a working mum I recently found a toy dinosaur in mine; not so chic) and classic jewellery.
And finally, what are your favourite pieces from The Fold’s AW16 collection?
Well, I’m basically wearing The Fold on rotation at the moment so that’s a hard choice! I love the Camelot in Forest Green, I bought it at the photoshoot and have worn it on rotation ever since! I love the slightly industrial look with the leather piping teamed with the A-line skirt.
Since, Lucy has just moved into a new role as Director of Integration at Sky, helping to supercharge the integration of Sky in the UK with Sky in Germany and Italy; more positive change!
Photography: Kylie Eyra
Accessories: Lucy’s Own