Newcastle Entrepreneurs, alongside Rise Up, had an almighty treat last week for all those business or fashion conscious students. Anna Jones, CEO of Hearst Magazines UK came to Hatton Gallery at the university to speak to us about her personal experiences in the media industry, offering invaluable advice and top tips for success. As a past Newcastle University student, Anna was especially happy to return to the city and university that paved the way for her success. With Cosmopolitan, Elle and Esquire all under the mass media group’s belt, it’s safe to say Anna Jones is one of the top dogs in the media industry, and it was clear why in meeting her. She exuded confidence and knowledge, and I was personally very humbled to hear in person how she has built her career.
Hearst Magazine’s motto is all about confidence, and with the tag-line ‘give people the confidence to live the life they want to live’, their magazines are created with that ethos in mind. They claim to always put the consumer first, in Anna’s words, ‘it’s in our DNA’. The company has over 550 journalists working across all of their publications, so as CEO, Anna could tell us exactly what she wanted in an employee. She valued above all else enthusiasm – after interviewing large numbers of potential employees in one day, enthusiasm stands out more than anything else. She also suggested lateral thinking is a key skill to have, ‘all of our employees are problem solvers, and attitude is everything.’ For those considering a job in media, Anna suggests lots of short placements are far more useful than one or two long ones. She also suggests, with the infinitely growing online presence of publications, that it is vitally important to have some computer skills. Above all though, she says, ‘just keep writing, or just keep doing what you’re doing, all the time’.
‘‘Above all though, she says, ‘just keep writing, or just keep doing what you’re doing, all the time’’
It was especially interesting to hear about how she made it as a woman in such a male-dominated industry. Though it is usually women writing about fashion, at the top of these businesses you will rarely find a woman. If I remember correctly, she said she was the only female CEO in publishing, a frankly sickening statistic. Apparently ‘willy-waggling’, as she called it, was all too common in the big meetings. So how did she find strength to break these ever existing glass ceilings? ‘I didn’t feel like I should ‘masculinise’ myself to get where I wanted to be’. She stated it was hard work, not changing herself as a person, which gained her the top position. She did suggest though. that holding the CEO position demands a lot of composure and strength, so much so that when she gets home to her kids after a long day, she feels like she has to ‘take a layer of herself off’.
Finally, and so importantly for a woman in such a powerful position, she is a feminist and she states she is constantly on a mission to empower women. This is particularly important as the publications reach 1 in 3 women. She is an active member in Women in Advertising and Communications London and has launched Hearst Empowering Women, a new brand where ‘You’ll find inspirational stories, thought-provoking advice […] and the opportunity to mentor other women and girls with [their] charity partner Their world’. All in all, it was a genuinely priceless experience to meet such an influential woman, and I’m sure her advice and mantra will stick with me.