This Woman’s Work: Caroline Manning, Craft Media London

Image of this woman's work with Caroline Manning

Working women receive a slew of advice — lean in, lean out, be aggressive, but not too aggressive. We’re constantly inspired by the women who are paving the way and taking charge in the ever-evolving world of technology. Welcome to This Woman’s Work, a series highlighting how various women are advancing the tech industry, both professionally and personally. This month, we’re chatting with Caroline Manning, Partner at Craft Media London.

Tell us about Craft Media London. How did you get started there? What led you to your current role?

Craft Media London is a communications consultancy — we work with brands and agencies to ensure that a brand’s spend is rooted in a clear strategy and executed with craft. Craft is female-founded (this shouldn’t be different or interesting, but it is), and the company’s values are inherently different — we value collaboration, flexibility and fairness. This, and the brilliant work we do, is what makes Craft so special.  

When my maternity leave ended, I was looking for a new challenge. I had previously worked with Sally Weavers (one of Craft’s co-founders) and we had been talking about Craft for some time.  I am attracted to working with super smart, but also genuinely lovely people. After meeting Jen Smith (Craft’s other co-founder) and some of the team, I jumped at the chance to join and haven’t looked back since!

Outside of Craft Media, we know that you’re also a Trustee at Bloom and have long been involved with the organisation. Can you share a bit more about your experience working with Bloom? 

Bloom is a professional network for women in communications. As an organisation, we are on a mission to ensure that women have equal opportunity in the communications industry.  We do this in three ways: future-proofing women’s careers, spearheading industry change, and paying it forward for the next generation. 

I have been a member of Bloom since 2014, first running the mentoring scheme before becoming Vice-President in 2018. I am now a trustee. We usually run several events and mentoring schemes throughout the year, plus BloomFest, our annual conference. It’s an incredibly inspirational day of panels, workshops and keynotes; my 7-month-old baby even joined me at BloomFest last year. 

Caroline Manning with her child
Caroline Manning at an industry event with her child.

Bloom has given me leadership experience and confidence.  But more than this, Bloom has given me an amazing group of women who are now my friends. These women have stood by me, supported me and championed me with no agenda other than seeing me flourish. I am incredibly fortunate to have their support and hope that I can give them the same back in the years to come.

Speaking of mentoring, as a Campaign 30 Under 30 honouree, what advice would you give to young women who are just getting started in the industry?

It’s simple, be yourself. Don’t try to make yourself who your bosses want you to be. You can only do your best work by being you. If something doesn’t sit with your values or you don’t agree, speak up, but do so respectfully. You will get so much further doing this and by being true to yourself; you will have done it your way. Also, say yes to opportunities and if you have to choose between two, pick the one that feels scarier and more exciting. The beginning of your career is the best time to take risks.

As your roles and responsibilities have evolved over the years, what would you say has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you navigate it?

I have often been stuck in a dichotomy between wanting my boss’s job and struggling with confidence. Having imposter syndrome whilst being ambitious is a strange mix, as many people don’t realise you have these feelings. For me, I have found that it is about relying less on other people’s validation and focusing on my internal feelings – having confidence in myself and my experience means that it is enough to know I have done a good job rather than waiting for someone else to tell me. Antoinette Dale Henderson is a brilliant leadership coach who has helped me with this – I wholeheartedly recommend her!

Another challenge a lot of professionals in the tech world face is striking the right work-life balance, especially during the lockdown. Any advice on how to navigate this? What are your favourite ways to destress?

This is so hard, and I’ve often really struggled with work-life balance. For me, it’s about finding a safe space – a place where you can be honest. So that when you say, ‘I need some time to switch off,’ it will be understood, accepted and respected. In order for me to switch off, there is nothing better than a workout followed by a large G&T and a good book.

To end on a light note, what’s an inspirational quote you always come back to when times are tough? 

I’m not really one for inspirational quotes, but I often tell myself two things: “This too shall pass” and “The best is yet to come.”