Stacey Dobson at Northern Power Futures

Stacey Dobson is the Director of Sales Operations at Sky. She is passionate about people and making things great for customers, coaching and developing teams to be brilliant. Stacey was on the panel for Shortcut Your Way to That Promotion and gave us some advice on how to beat the competition and remain true to yourself.

Hi Stacey! If you want to introduce yourself and your organisation for our readers?  

I’m Stacey Dobson, I’m Director for Sales Operations in our Value and Broadband sector of Sky.

You are on the panel for Shortcut Your Way to That Promotion. In your experience of working your way up the ladder, how have you dealt with competition and becoming a higher position to your colleagues?  

There’s been lots of competition throughout the whole of my career. I joined on a graduate scheme from a telecoms company and, you can imagine, lots of really talented, ambitious and competitive people. I think when I was younger, I was probably a bit frightened of competition. I used to compare myself to other people and think, “I’m not as good at that or this person is better at this”. I think as you get older, you become a lot more settled in your identity and what your strengths and weaknesses are. You grow into the fact that nobody is the same and everyone brings something valuable and special. It’s about how you bring value rather than comparing yourself.

Competition is healthy, it makes you try a little bit harder, do a little bit more, be a little bit more ambitious. It can be quite destructive as well so it’s finding that balance.  

That’s been talked about a lot on the panels over these two days. Mental health and how comparing yourself to others can be so detrimental to your self-esteem and how you do your job.

Very much so, I can’t emphasise enough that there’s no need to compare yourself to somebody else. My coach describes this as everybody has their own map of the world so you all filter things through your own perception of reality. No one person ever has an identical experience to the other, so you all bring something slightly different. I think it’s about respecting that people are going to compete with you because they want to but it doesn’t mean you have to enter into that. For me, I like a bit of target setting, I’m a salesperson. I love a bit of shooting high for something but I don’t think it’s healthy to compare your experience with somebody else’s. If you’re not right for that experience or job, you’re not being rejected, you’re being redirected. There’s something nudging you towards something else.  

I like that, it’s taking something that could be negative and making it positive. How do you know when you’re ready for a promotion or to take the next step in your career?  

You’ll you when you’re ready in the sense that, you’ll look at people in the next level above you and you’ll be saying, I can do that and feel comfortable. Sometimes, young women in particular, need a bit of a shove. A bit of encouragement to apply for that job or say yes to that opportunity. In reality, in your head, you will be saying yes to that promotion and saying, I can definitely do that. Don’t ignore that voice inside you when you see that opportunity or read that job description, and think that’s for me.  

Sometimes when I read job descriptions, I think “oh my god, I can’t do that” even though it is probably really achievable.  

I think some of it is language and the way people write job description is quite old fashioned. At Sky we’re really thinking about how we write job descriptions in plain English. No jargon, just talking about what are the characteristics and behaviours that we want in people. You can teach technical stuff, you can teach people how to sell, you can teach people how to navigate systems, you can teach people you’re processes but what you can’t teach is the intuition and the behaviours. When I’m recruiting that’s what I look for. I do think what’s in the language of job descriptions is putting people off.

One word to sum up Northern Power Futures? Inspiring!

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Northern Power Futures photographs taken by Thomas Jackson at TyneSight Photography

Stacey on the panel for Shortcut Your Way to That Promotion

If you’re not right for that experience or job, you’re not being rejected, you’re being redirected. There’s something nudging you towards something else.  

That’s refreshing to hear that big companies like Sky are thinking of different things when they’re recruiting. You’ve said that you believe that people are a company’s best asset. How can managers and team leaders use this when team building and leading?

I genuinely do think that the people do absolutely make a company. I’ve been in my role with Sky for four weeks and the biggest takeaway that I’ve had from all of my site visits is the passion and the belief of the people and the purpose of the company. You’ve got to think about when you’re building a team, as a leader, what am I good at and what am I not so good at? What kind of mix of people have I got in my team? Have I got people who are excellent at the things that I’m not so good at? The people I can lean on, and bring up and they can teach me something. It’s also about personalities. when you get a quite inharmonious teams, it’s about big personalities. We kind of pander to big personalities sometimes and make excuses for them. For me, the real skills of being a leader, is to build a team that challenges itself to be better. You’ve got all those different personalities but they complement and harmonise each other so that they all work together as a team. It’s difficult to do but things like insights help because when you know how people best respond to things, you can create opportunities and create situations where they can shine, be good and feel confident.  

It’s down to creating a positive work environment, somewhere nice to work, somewhere people feel empowered, where they feel like they have control over how and when they do their work – but also that they feel accountable for the outcomes, good or bad. If you make a decision about a customer account and it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, you need to own that. In the same way if a customer rings up and sings your praises, you need to own that as well. In organisations that don’t have good people engagement, they tend to create over restrictive environments where people feel quite micromanaged or we go the other way where we just people do what they want, when actually they’re asking for support.  

When I was younger, I thought, in group interviews, the bigger the personality will always get the job but it’s not the case. What is your advice for young people leaving school and starting their careers?

My advice is be flexible and think about your transferable skills. Think about things that you’ve learnt. There’s an exercise you can do where you write down everything you’ve done since you left school and think about what skills that has taught you. If you’ve worked in a shop, dealing with people, having conversations and building relationships – that’s all transferable into work. If you do drama or a sport, your team working, your structure, your planning is always something you can transfer. Definitely think about transferrable skills from other things and be flexible about what you want to do. I wanted to be a barrister, I have a law degree, but I now work in telecoms.  

Sometimes where you think you’re going to end up, is not where you end up. Try to be more open to challenges. Say yes to every opportunity, say yes to lots of things! Learn what you like, learn what you don’t like and try to do more of the stuff that you like. We spend an awful lot of time at work so we have to enjoy it.  

Finally, how can people gain the most out of these events like Northern Power Futures?

Networking is the only word and I know everybody will cringe when I say it but just making connections with people! Not being afraid to say “hello, my name is such-and-such and I do this. what do you do?” It’s as simple as that. Those relationships that you build will help you make a positive impact.  

Think about one or two things that you’d do differently. One of the things I took away was to spend more time in my day thinking. I’m so used to going to back-to-back meetings that I didn’t have any time to digest that information. What are the one or two things you’re going to do differently and make small changes to how you’re going to change your working week to make an impact.

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