Media Parents Back to Work Winner 2017 Emma Sayce writes about being mentored by Shine MD Tanya Shaw. Both are attending Media Parents Returners Drinks next Thursday, 16th November. See the Media Parents watercooler for details.
Although I was looking forward to my first mentoring session with Tanya Shaw, writes Emma Sayce, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As a freelancer, I’m used to meeting people who are only interested in the next few weeks/months of my life, and in what I have to offer them. I had researched Tanya’s background enough to know that she has seen the industry from many angles and has risen to the top while juggling motherhood (see below). Via the Back to Work Scheme I had also drawn up a Back to Work Plan, with short- and long-term aims, and a list of contacts I planned to make.
One of the first things Tanya said – a top tip for anyone returning to work after a break – was “choose your jobs carefully. If you accept a job that entails working really long hours and makes logistics at home difficult, you’ll end up thinking TV and parenthood don’t go together. But they do. It’s a case of finding a way of working that is sustainable and won’t exhaust you.”
My Back to Work Plan is based on building up the work gradually. Tanya recommended using Edit Producing as a way to move around companies until I find a ‘home’ to settle in and push on to the next stage of my career. Companies have very different work cultures, with some being more genuinely supportive of working parents than others.
At Shine there is a wide array of flexible working arrangements for staff. They are trusted to decide when they work and when they can afford to take time out for family. It’s not a case of asking permission. Tanya has seen people working in different ways as she’s journeyed through the industry. Reduced hours, extra holiday, part-time – they’re all possible. And stick to whatever you’ve negotiated – for example, an early finish one day a week – you’ll earn your colleagues’ respect for doing so. Tanya said she often works outside normal working hours, but has a policy of making clear that she does not email replies at these times, to help promote respect for peoples’ lives outside the office.
Much of this tallied with something I’ve found since returning to work – that the attitudes and personalities of the people I work for matter a lot more now. It makes all the difference when you know you can rearrange your hours in order to attend morning assembly and watch your daughter mumble her way through ‘Nelly the Elephant’ without worrying that you might be judged.
“Once you find a work environment you’re comfortable in”, Tanya advised, “initiate those conversations about what you want to do in the longer term. In the TV industry, you have to make your intentions and ambitions clear. Think carefully about what your ambitions might be. And if you’re not sure, do some research to help you decide!”
I have to admit that, before I had children, my main criterion for taking on a project was the subject matter. Now, as a parent, I’m starting to think more long term and more strategically. And more laterally. Talking to Tanya, her overview of the industry made me realise that there are other career avenues in TV that could be worth exploring.
In addition to great advice and a lot of encouragement, Tanya was kind enough to look through the list of contacts I intend to follow up, comment on it, and offer to make some introductions. She left me with a lot to do and to think about before our next meeting. And now that I know what to expect, I’m looking forward to it even more!