Could you tell us more about yourself?
My name is Sonam Bajpai. I am 33 years old and live in London. I currently work at Sweaty Betty (a leading women’s activewear brand) as a Creative Studio Manager.
Since graduating in my hometown of Leicester (many years ago!), I made the big move to London as I always wanted to work in the creative industry.
Throughout my career, I worked at multiple creative agencies within project management/account management and creative services roles. These roles really helped me understand what I enjoy and where my true skillset lies as I had the opportunity of working with some great people on so many different projects across various types of clients.
I always knew my next career move would be to move to an in-house role to allow me to experience ‘the other side’ and truly get under the skin of a brand. So, when the Sweaty Betty opportunity came up, I knew I had to go for it!
I have now been at SB for over two years, initially starting out as a Traffic Manager. I was later promoted to Creative Studio Manager, a role I’m currently in. I love working at SB because I have been given the opportunity to shape my role, and no two days are the same. I am responsible for leading the operations of a busy creative studio, bringing together expertise from across the teams and implementing processes to allow us to support the whole organisation with creative solutions. Day-to-day, this includes (but is not limited to) managing workflow, overseeing the studio’s output, and maintaining realistic workloads for the team while ensuring every request is fulfilled and delivered in an efficient and timely manner. I also work closely with the leadership team to ensure operational and business strategies are being met.
What’s something people would never guess about you?
I was born in India and came to the UK when I was 4.
Who did you want to be as a kid?
I always wanted to be an actress as I loved how glamorous they looked on screen!
What excites you?
I am very passionate about operations and processes. I love being given an operational challenge, getting under the skin of the pain points, working on a solution, and bringing others along on the journey. A new way of working can have a huge impact on teams both on a day-to-day level and from a commercial point of view, which excites me.
Ultimately, what makes this even better is working alongside a great team who really care. Two of SB’s company values are ‘We really care’ and ‘Our strength is in each other’, which I resonate with strongly.
Can you share a highlight in your career?
Whilst at Sweaty Betty, I identified the need for a new creative briefing and management process as there was more than one way of working which was proving to be challenging and time-consuming for all teams. Having previously worked with Monday.com, I built a business case for using Monday.com as a workflow and project management tool and demonstrated its benefits to the senior team. This was signed off. I then went on to implement the tool internally, creating a standardised briefing process for all teams from initial brief to delivery. It proved pivotal to the creative team and briefing teams as it gives everyone one source of truth and allows them to focus on their roles, with clear roles and responsibilities assigned to everyone working on the project, along with transparency on deadlines.
Who are the women that have inspired you the most?
I have quite a few! My mum would be the first one. She lived a very different life to me (in India) when she was my age but has always been so supportive and understanding of every decision I have made – career-related and personal. Growing up, I always saw her sticking up for what she believed in, and she empowered me to make my own decisions and follow my passions regardless of others’ opinions. She is also very open-minded and empathetic, all qualities that I admire.
Other women that have inspired me are the women I have been lucky enough to call my line managers over the years. I have learnt so much from them all in different ways. Seeing their strong work ethic, how they balance family and work, managing difficult situations in the workplace and how they empower and motivate their teams during good and bad times has been inspiring.
What is good about being a woman in the creative industry?
The creative industry was historically seen as male-dominated. However, today, design doesn’t have a problem attracting women. Stats show that approximately 60 per cent of junior designers are female. As female creative professionals progress in their careers, they have an amazing opportunity to mentor fellow juniors entering to give them someone to look up to who can answer their questions about the industry. When you see someone like you succeed, you believe you can too, so it’s important.
Have you faced any challenges?
I have been lucky enough to work with some very talented and inspirational women and men throughout my career within the creative industry, but I have also been exposed to gender inequality early on in my career. Things like always being the one asked to do the client coffee run despite having male colleagues in the same role as me, which at the time didn’t affect me as much, as I thought I needed to do everything asked of me to prove myself. I later realised this wasn’t the norm, having experienced other workplaces.
What change in the creative industry would you like to see?
I recently came across a study by LinkedIn that showed that women have uncertainty in applying for roles unless they meet 100% of the criteria, meaning that there is a real gender imbalance in candidates. This leads to a lack of women in senior roles, resulting in fewer female role models to create a leading example for women in design.
I am grateful that throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of exposure to women in senior positions, which is not the industry standard. This has given me inherent confidence as a woman in the industry and it would be great if more women had this experience too.
What advice would you give your younger self starting out in the creative industry?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, set your boundaries and don’t be afraid to speak up where needed!