“If we want to hear a diversity of voices, the place to start is putting your own voice out there, your content, the world as you see it. If you don’t fill the void, someone else will.” – Women of the World Festival, London, January 2016.
In truth, I’ve probably always wanted to be a journalist. Obsessed with the written word from an early age, gorging on novels when I should have been playing outside, I spent three heavenly years studying English Literature and Language at Leeds University. My post-university career has been a bit of a mixed bag of roles, from marketing gym memberships, the Ilkley Literature Festival, and Otley Community Arts Centre; to working on development projects in rural Thailand and Peru; then lately working on energy policy in the UK and in Brussels.
The common thread through these roles however has been a love of the art of communication, sometimes constrained by the straightjacket of bureaucratic civil service reports and consultations, and other times liberated, writing web copy for small grassroots organisations and playing with wit, language and visuals in the new world of social media.
At the ripe old age of 30, I reached a cross-roads in my career – either keep climbing the civil service ladder (a sure-fire route to job security, respect and a pension) or take a bold leap now to explore those unsatisfied curiosities that tug at the back of your mind of another route, another career, another life… I’ve recently plunged into the latter option, quitting my job at Ofgem to work as Campaign Manager for an NGO, with my near term goal to forge a career in communications in the international development sector (not so well known for its groundbreaking copy, not yet anyway).
“After all, for all its flaws, the technological revolution our generation is encountering has opened up the space for citizen-led content in a more democratic way than ever before.”
My long term aspiration however would be to become a journalist, writer, thinker on the range of topics I have experience and opinions about, including not only international development but EU politics, climate change and women’s empowerment. I was particularly inspired to put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard) by a speaker at the recent Women of the World event in London, who challenged the audience: “If we really want to hear a diversity of voices, the place to start is putting your voice out there, your content, the world as you see it. If you don’t fill the void, someone else will.”
Her point being that the data being pumped out into the digital ether will only start to reflect the composition of society more equitably when everyone seizes their right and opportunity to speak up: write a blog, tweet, update Wikipedia, whatever sparks your intellectual output. After all, for all its flaws, the technological revolution our generation is encountering has opened up the space for citizen-led content in a more democratic way than ever before. There will always be competition for space – but there is little excuse for saying nothing at all. And where new voices break through, others tend to follow, opening up space for new ideas, collaborations and initiatives to crystallise and emerge.
Hence, this week I embarked on a three month Postgraduate Diploma at the London School of Journalism to learn this craft and hone my skill, hoping by its completion I will be able to produce witty, thought-provoking, original content quickly and confidently, liberated to express insightful, impactful views articulately on whatever the topic might be in front of me (aim high?). After all, communication is our greatest tool, asset and sometimes weapon. In tandem have started this blog, which I envisage being my “sketchpad” if you like, of various experiments in writing, reviewing and reporting. These experiments may not all turn out perfect, but there’s no better way of getting better at something than doing it again, and again, and again…(10,000 hours is it?)
If in five years time I found myself a freelance journalist, running my own “Women’s Voices” online publication, providing a fertile platform for female minds to explore and disseminate their ideas, I would feel accomplished. As a plan B, I can return to the civil service and can stick to using 140 characters to express myself…watch this space.