To celebrate International Women’s Day (Sunday 8 March 2020) our B2B Marketing Manager, Marissa Freeman, interviews an inspiring leader in our business – Amii Lanham:
Hi Amii, thanks for talking to me for International Women’s Day! Can you tell me about your senior role at The Student Room and your route into that position?
I am the Commercial Operations Director, in the Senior Management Team, here at The Student Room. My remit is client campaign delivery and our commercial products. I am responsible for the creation of new commercial products, as well as ensuring our client campaigns are delivered correctly and that our products perform to a high standard.
I started at The Student Room as Head of Client Services just over a year ago, after working agency-side (predominantly for Automotive brands) for fourteen years. I was brought in to bring a joined-up approach to sales and delivery, and to reposition our delivery team from being the “do-ers” to being the brains of the operation.
After five months in post, I was asked to join the Senior Management Team. This meant that my role expanded from just focusing on delivery to also taking charge of our product roadmap. Now I’m responsible for ensuring that the products we offer work for clients and that they are “student-first” and deeply aligned with our values around helping young people.
You mention you’re part of the Senior Management Team. How many other women are in the SMT, and do you think your gender offers any value or challenges in this position?
There are two women in the team, myself and Julie Vincent (Director of TSR Insight). We both offer different perspectives and skillsets in the decision-making of our organisation, but I wouldn’t say that was led by our gender in any way.
I feel that gender shouldn’t be a factor in denoting who you are as a person or your values, and that’s certainly the case at TSR.
I do think the value of women on the Senior Management Team is that it shows other younger women in the company that we look for the best talent within our organisation to lead, irrespective of any binary labels.
How have you collaborated with and boosted other women in your organisation?
I love the concept of Shine Theory, created by the journalists and podcasters Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow.
The basic premise of Shine Theory is a commitment to helping someone to be their best self and relying on their help in return. It’s the theory of “I can’t shine, if you don’t shine”.
When we frame the question as: “Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?” really, the answer is almost always yes.
I try to employ this theory to my everyday life and especially in my work. So, in terms of collaboration, I like to spot talent and then set a framework in place to allow that talent to shine through.
The most recent example of that at TSR is with my colleague Hulda. When I joined I immediately saw a hard-working, collaborative person who would expand as far as the boundaries we gave her.
As the months rolled by, Hulda became my number two – the person I bounced ideas off and the person I turned to to validate any changes I was going to make.
As I progressed in the organisation, I knew she would be my natural successor and took her on that journey with me.
Today, she manages the Client Services team, is innovating every single day, and is quite literally shining. We work super closely and I can see her employing the same unspoken theory with her team.
You are a mother of a young child and working full time. Has this presented any challenges in your working life?
I think the balance is tough for all parents. The general feeling amongst working women is that you have to work like you’re childless and parent like you don’t work.
The reality of this is that you just have to be organised.
Gone is the spontaneity of drinks after work, or that impromptu off-site meeting on a Thursday afternoon. And sometimes, with some colleagues who don’t have the same pressures, there’s a perception that you’re just being difficult.
I lose count of the amount of comments, overheard in passing, about my staunch 5pm finish time. I have to ignore them. In reality I know that this is not my finish time; it’s just a pause while I go to my other job – picking up my son from nursery, making our family dinner, and a bedtime routine we both look forward to. Inevitably, I’m opening my laptop again between 5-8pm to catch up on anything I may have missed.
Trying to do both is tough, but neither my son nor myself have ever known anything different.
I returned to work full-time when my son was nine months old, supported by my husband and the government scheme of Shared Parental Leave, which is an excellent move in the right direction of equality.
He took the last three months of leave with our son and, as a consequence, they have an excellent bond. The parenting is very well balanced in our household.
I hope this means that my son grows up viewing society as much more equal. I want him to understand that opportunities are earned, not handed to you, but I also want him to realise his privilege and use that to empower others.
Who is your favourite female role model and why?
Greta Thunberg. Yes, she’s young, which traditionally would have invalidated her authority, but not with Greta.
At seventeen years of age, she is far more educated and informed on climate change than the majority of adults, and she has used her confidence, bravery, intelligence and determination to stand up to world leaders.
She’s an inspiring role model for future generations and frankly, we need her.
What do you love about being a woman?
I’m proud to be a woman because of our history and the progress we have made. International Women’s Day is a day when we celebrate this and remember how far we’ve come.
We were not handed power in our society, we had to fight for it.
We did not have an equal voice among our male peers, but we didn’t allow that to prevent us from fighting for the right to vote.
We have passed this fight down for generations, and have stood together to overcome societal norms and we continue that fight today.
Like this post? Watch this space for future interviews with the women of TSR.
B2B Marketing Manager
The Student Room