#IWD2022 Watch Me Bloom: Paula Smith
Paula has almost ten years’ agency experience and has worked with organisations from a variety of sectors; from retail to finance to entertainment. In 2021 Paula joined the Partnerships team at Reason Digital, a digital agency and social-enterprise, where she works to build strong, effective relationships with large scale charities to harness the power of digital and drive meaningful change.
Prior to that, she worked at Havas Media where she led a portfolio of BBC brands; namely BBC Sounds, iPlayer and Children In Need, to deliver integrated media campaigns that create engagement with youth audiences.
Paula is also a qualified yoga teacher and Reiki therapist supporting women on their healing journey with a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
She spent her childhood in America and Asia but hails from the Yorkshire Dales and now lives in Cheshire so is a Northern lass at heart!
What you’ve learned over your career?
It just dawned on me that I’m approaching a decade of my professional working life, woah. I recently turned thirty and have been reflecting on my career in my twenties and what it taught me…
For the first eight years of my career I climbed the ranks in Manchester media agencies to Business Director level and was lucky to work with big-name clients like the BBC. Whilst at Havas Media, I also trained as a yoga teacher and became passionate about championing holistic wellbeing. It led me to help develop a wellbeing programme; the award-winning ‘Havas Equalise’ consisting of various workshops and initiatives – including teaching regular yoga classes in the office.
In recent years, I felt called to join a purpose-driven organisation and make a positive social impact. In 2021 amid the pandemic, I took the leap and was thrilled to join the all-female Partnerships team at Reason Digital, a digital agency and social enterprise working with charities to help solve problems that matter.
The same year, I discovered Reiki; a Japanese technique and powerful alternative therapy that promotes healing, stress reduction and relaxation. Soon after, I trained as a Reiki therapist and launched my holistic healing business Halo Reiki Healing.
So, that’s my potted career history and brings me to two stand-out lessons:
The importance of being your authentic self
I am an empathic and sensitive person. Our society conditions us to think of this as a weakness and, as a result, there were times as a young woman I felt I had to adapt my natural behaviour in order to succeed in a corporate (often masculine) environment.
Over time, I’ve come to understand these qualities differently. I now think of them as my superpowers! It’s the ability to really feel, sense the energy around me, connect with others and see the deeper meaning or a different perspective. It’s heightened awareness.
My empathy and sensitivity makes me good at forming meaningful relationships with people which has been central to my career working in client facing account management roles, and makes me a natural Reiki therapist.
It’s never too late to change the course of your career
We think we need to pick a vocation and stick with it… but it’s never too late to start anew or embark on something different. At the beginning, the thought of leaving familiar work filled me with fear. How on earth would I make the transition from an advertising agency to a social impact organisation?
It takes courage to step out and make a drastic change. I had to stop seeking external validation and free myself of other people’s expectations or definitions of success. Once I shed these self-limiting beliefs, recognised my transferable skills and the value I could bring to a new sector, there was nothing holding me back!
I had so much fun working in media during my twenties but, entering my thirties, I feel like I’ve come home to myself and am excited to see what else unfolds.
What helped you navigate through big changes?
Undoubtedly, having the right people around me helped to navigate big changes. A strong network that supported and challenged me when needed proved vital. Throughout my life, personally and professionally, I have been surrounded by inspiring, intelligent and all-round incredible women who I am so grateful for.
When I was made redundant during the pandemic and looking for a new job, I sought further support from a coach. She helped me to gain clarity, direction, and feel more empowered to act. Taking the time to understand my values and intrinsic motivations helped to ensure my next career move was in complete alignment.
When undergoing transformation in any area of my life, I delve into my self-care toolkit. Practices like yoga, meditation, affirmations and now Reiki have been really nurturing and always got me through.
How did you make the change?
When I discovered Reason Digital, I knew straight away it was an organisation I wanted to be a part of. We solve problems that matter; partnering with charities like Age UK and the Scouts to create digital tools for lasting social good which is amazingly rewarding.
Flexible working is embedded in our culture at Reason Digital and has been a game-changer for me. It’s refreshing to have an employer that supports your interests and actively encourages you to pursue other ventures around your work commitments. Now, I split my time working as a Digital Partner creating value for our long-term clients, and also as a Reiki therapist supporting people on their healing journey – and business is thriving. My life feels more balanced and the arrangement suits me perfectly doing what I call “heart-centred” work by being in service to others.
I love that more and more people are seeking fulfilment in their work which creates a positive impact on themselves, others and the world around us.