This International Women’s Day, we’re continuing to celebrate the women of Oktra by learning what they love about their careers, advice they’d give to women starting out now and what they’re looking forward to in the industry’s future.
At Oktra, we create spaces that help support our clients in the amazing things they do every day. In the second part of this article series, we’re spending time with some of Oktra’s leading creatives: the designers, writers and graphic artists who help us create future-focused workplaces. Find out more about what being leaders in their field means to them, what they appreciate about working at Oktra, and what they hope to see in the future for women in design and build. Happy International Women’s Day!
When clients really understand the value of design, you have the chance to build rapport and trust, and give them a great project. To have clients say, ‘it looks amazing, it really represents us,’ is when the whole story comes together: you put a stamp on it and know it was all worth it. It takes a lot of effort for that to happen, and a lot of experience, and it’s always the best when you get to work with a great team with a lot of talent.
I think the amount of talent we get to work with can come down to diversity in gender, and race too: there’s more talent and a lot more people putting themselves forward. There are so many different ways to be diverse and, in the future, I’m looking forward to seeing more of that across the board. It would be great to see more women in leadership positions, because women really are great communicators, and that is such a fundamental part of a successful business.
My advice to women coming into design is, if you’re starting out, remember the job isn’t to be an artist, but a designer: it’s about putting the right things together! Also, you don’t necessarily need to come into design and build straight away. I started off in traditional and it gave me a slower, more thorough understanding of everything. It’s so fast in design and build, and that traditional experience sets you up with the right skillset and the right amount of time to have explored what you need to explore.
I had initially agreed to a two-week freelance contract back in September 2015, when I was offered a permanent position. If I’m honest, I had to think it over as I was debating leaving the design and build industry, but in the end I’m glad I accepted the challenge that was being presented to me and here I am, over 5 years later!
Design and build is definitely not a static industry, which means that my role has to evolve accordingly. For me, it’s also about where you work, who you work with and what you do, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put a tick in all three of those boxes. I get the opportunity to create, learn, teach, motivate and listen: how many job roles offer all of those faculties? It starts becoming easy to be ingenious in such a creative environment, working alongside like-minded people who are constantly striving to better themselves, and therefore us as a company.
I’ve been in this industry twelve years, and I’ve seen the designers and graphics roles change drastically thanks to technology. What used to be all prints and textures is now screens and mobiles. We’ve had to apply new ways of working to continue our growth as individuals, which consequently keeps Oktra at the forefront. If I had to give any advice to women coming into the industry, it would be to accept that you are entering a currently male-dominated environment, to try and break free from stereotypes, to set yourself boundaries and not limitations, and to really remember to support and empower each other.
I trained as an architect and, before Oktra, I always worked in more traditional architecture practices, as well as in workplace consultancy. I was approached by Oktra nearly five years ago now, and was completely sold on the job. It opened up my eyes to the whole world of design and build, how it differs to traditional architecture, and it kind of ticked all the boxes for me. It has a bit of corporate consultancy to it, but still has the design element: you still get the feeling of a design studio and you’re connected to your profession and the design industry, which I really appreciate.
One of the things I really like about working at Oktra is that you get to see all aspects of a project together, all the functions are integrated and everyone gets to work together in real collaboration: there’s a sense of wholeness. There is definitely a work family feel – even on the toughest days you know you can rely on your colleagues, and they’re a really good bunch of people!
I’m currently working on the One Portsoken project as a Lead Designer, which is really exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that comes together. I’m also really excited to see how design and build evolves, as it’s moving from the world of commercial interiors more towards commercial architecture, and becoming more closely involved with developer and landlord works. If I had to give any advice to women coming into design, I would say remember to believe in yourself, and then your work will speak for itself.
I joined Oktra fresh out of grad school with a few years of freelance copywriting under my belt. I was technically headhunted by a recruiter and decided on Oktra because of the internal opportunity – Oktra’s marketing function prioritises internal development and allows all team members to participate in every part of content creation which was (and is) a big deal to me, particularly as a graduate.
I love the trust that our team has. Everyone is given ownership of their part of the process because we trust each other to get it done and get it done well. Even when you’re working with style guides and standardised branding, there’s a creative freedom inherent in that amount of trust that keeps people passionate about what they do. There are a couple big things coming up for Oktra that I’m not allowed to talk about, but that are definitely exciting. All I can say is that people should watch for some pretty major releases this summer.
I read on LinkedIn that women feel they need to be 100% qualified in order to apply for a job while men routinely apply for jobs they’re 60% qualified to do. My advice, no matter which sector you’re in, is to ignore society when it tells you that you have to tick every box on a job description. Understand your strengths and don’t be afraid to speak about them with pride and precision. It’s wildly clichéd, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.