In talks with: Maria Cadbury

UK Managing Director of Evolve Media, an integrated digital media company, Maria Cadbury talks to The Edit about her career, becoming the first female MD at Evolve and being a woman in a traditionally male dominated industry.
With experience in digital media spanning over fifteen years having worked for the leading names and brands in the digital industry including Mindshare, Agency Republic, Vibrant Media, Adconion, Jaguar, Volvo, Mazda, Kellogg’s, O2 and BBC WW, at Evolve Media Cadbury seeks to mentor and inspire

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I have always worked with a mindset women are equal in business. I have acted like I’m equal and I have been lucky enough to have worked at a number of very senior positions and worked with a number of fantastic people. I am conscious of the pay gap, which is a real barometer of difference. In terms of sizing up ability, I see no difference. I’ve worked with incredible men who have inspired me and a number who have done quite the opposite. Similarly with women, you get the incredible women who do just as well in a role as a man and others who simply don’t. However, you do get to the stage where you look around and there aren’t that many women at MD level or over. You also get congratulated on the fact you’re a woman who is a MD and extra marks for being a mum too. All of which I find disconcerting, as I don’t see why I get to be congratulated for working my way up the ranks by delivering real results to a business, just because I’m a woman. I have not subscribed to the belief that you have to dress like a man, I find it quite empowering to dress like a woman and do a man’s job (a woman’s job, my job!). I also feel it’s an opportunity to be a role model, whether to my children or to younger people in the industry. By role model, I mean that I want people to see a leader who delivers results, empowers their team and enjoys their work, irrespective of gender.

Do you feel that as a woman you have the opportunity to grow in your position? One always considers how they’re developing their skills. I like to consider how I’m developing in my present role, what my five year plan is and what I’m doing right now to influence that. Then I consider what is my long term plan is and where will I be in 10 or 20 years. I certainly like to think I will be part of a business that is growing, is technologically sophisticated and where I will have developed and grown with that business. As such, I look at it as a career opportunity, where there is absolutely no reason why I couldn’t grow.

What is the most important thing about directing a team? I believe in positive leadership. Empowering the team is incredibly important to me. I think it’s important to get under the hood of each team member, understand what makes them tick, what they naturally like doing, then they’ll automatically excel in these areas. It is important to consider how to mentor and coach on the areas that are out of their comfort zone. In cases like this, being a woman has its advantages as you use your intuition to understand your team. That coupled with a strong work ethic; revenue comes from hard work. I believe in working hard in an enjoyable environment. Therefore, building a culture and having the right mix of team members who subscribe to the ethos of the company is essential. Accountability at all levels; I am very happy to be held accountable to any of my deliverables and I feel it’s important the team see results from me as well as from each team member.

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What do you think makes you successful at your job? I like to get under the hood of a business and understand what areas are working, what’s not and why through analysing the numbers and by meeting with the teams; a quantitative and qualitative approach. I do this whilst also understanding the digital landscape, where we sit and evaluating if our positing is right. I enjoy the commercial side of the business, whether it’s agency trade deals, meeting senior agency clients or a partner to develop our offering. We work in digital therefore we need to always be looking at what’s different and what’s new and how that can drive results. Creating a culture where we work in an environment we enjoy with a work ethic that drives results.

I do genuinely believe a man or woman can equally deliver on the job at this level. There is a tremendous amount that both male and female will approach in the same way; evaluating revenue, setting strategies, creating processes and systems and reporting tools. Where there might be a difference is how we communicate internally and externally.

What does it take to get to the top in your opinion? I have worked very hard at my job. I need to see results; I need to get things done; I need expand my knowledge; I need to continuously increase my network. I need to move out of my comfort zone and try new things. Being level headed but not afraid to speak your mind is essential. We are in business, being courteous to other people but having the difficult conversations whether it’s selling in a strategy to the business, selling a product to your client, dealing with performance challenges in your team. You’re never at the top, there’s always somewhere else to get to.

What are the most important values to consider in the workplace? Equality, integrity and a hard working attitude.

Does your position interfere with your personal and family life? It’s both complex and quite straightforward. I had a MD role and it was five days a week. I had my first maternity leave (twin boys) and returned to work (pregnant, unknown to myself at that stage) as I’d always known it; five days a week. Returning from my second maternity leave (baby girl) I returned again to a five day a week job. I am very lucky and I have wonderful nanny support. I would be lying if I didn’t say it can be difficult leaving them at time, but more often than not I leave happy playing kids, that makes my life very easy. I have mornings and evenings and the weekends with my children. One does a lot of soul searching when returning to work from maternity leave. With that I have discovered I truly enjoy working and feeding that part of my personality. I thoroughly enjoy and relish every second with my kids and it’s always valuable time. For me I need the flexibility in my role to be at key events in their life, but that’s not day to day life. I also realise that’s not unique to mums, it’s a requirement for parents.

“I came with a plan; that’s gender neutral”

Do you admire other women in the business? I absolutely do. I admire women like Karen Blackett, CEO of Mediacom and Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post. Karen champions equality and feminism in everything she does. She’s a woman, she’s black, and she’s the CEO of the largest media agency in London. She’s a mum. She acts and dresses like a woman. She’s brilliant at her job and delivers results. Arianna is inspirational and actively promotes women. I also admire Claire Valoti, the new GM of Snapchat, a true digital veteran, compassionate, passionate and she is exceptional at what she does.

What would you tell your younger self with the knowledge you hold now? Do not let other people’s words slow you down. It should be an equal industry, treat it like one. Have a strong work ethic. Empower, never disempower. To be a manager, director, or a leader, know you have a great responsibility in teaching, coaching and mentoring those who work for you. Take it seriously but inject a huge amount of fun into it. As long as this life is, it’s but a fragment of the greater picture. It goes past faster than we’d like to admit. Live life to the full and enjoy it. Be fearless in your capability (I’m still working on this one).

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