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How I Got Here: Creative consultant and former fashion editor Ingrid Kesa on building your own success

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Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.

So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

At this year’s Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival, we’re taking our much-loved How I Got Here series live, and interviewing three fashion industry insiders about how they scored their dream job. If you can’t get to Melbourne, don’t stress – we’ll be sharing career stories and advice from our interviewees here, too.

This week, we’re delving into the career journey of the founder of eponymous creative and communications studio, Ingrid Kesa. A woman long cemented in the world of Australian fashion media, Ingrid’s roles have spanned branded content, marketing and online editorial across titles like Miss Vogue, i-D, Inprint and The File. Now working as the founder of her own freelance practice, her diverse work experience and exceptional professional skillset has gained her industry-wide recognition.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

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I run my own freelance practice, Ingrid Kesa Studio, which is a boutique creative and communications studio specialising in beauty, wellness, lifestyle and culture.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

I started studying law at university and soon realised it wasn’t for me. I then switched over to a media and communications degree. To be honest, I didn’t really like university at all. I went to Sydney’s most prestigious university and found it pretty stuffy and elite (although I did make some great friends along the way, like the talented writer and editor Laura Bannister). I just wanted to get out into the workforce as soon as possible, so while I was studying I took on as many internships as I could.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to work within fashion and had a strong passion for writing. I gained work experience in all realms of the industry, whether it was working directly with designers, through fashion PR or within publishing. One of those internships was at Oyster magazine. In my final year of uni I was offered a full-time role, so (surprise, surprise) I quit my degree and jumped at the opportunity.

It’s still my favourite job I’ve ever had and I have zero regrets about not formally finishing my degree. It was an incredible, life-changing experience to be an editor at a fashion title at such a young age. I gained an intimate insight into the inner workings of an industry I always knew I wanted to be part of. The days were long, there were cool clothes and parties every night – it was everything I’d ever dreamed of!

Following Oyster, I moved around a fair bit. I worked in street casting, styling and TV. I then moved to Melbourne and started at Vice. I was there for four years heading up the branded content department; I spent time working out of the global head office in New York with brands from Gucci to Google. Following that, I took on the role of branded content director at Broadsheet, before moving into a marketing position within the skincare industry at Leif. I’ve now crystallised all of those roles and experiences from the last decade into my current freelance work.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

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Oh gosh, where to begin! The biggest thing that sticks out is learning my own limits and being able to create boundaries around work to protect my energy and reserves. It’s definitely a skill that can be learned. It’s about being able to recognise how much you can comfortably take on without sacrificing other parts of your life. I learned this pretty early on in my career after experiencing burnout around my early to mid-twenties.

As a result, it’s equipped me with time management and resource management skills that allow me to effectively manage large workloads while simultaneously enjoying my spare time! Both go hand-in-hand. I believe when we are relaxed, rested and replenished we can actually perform better and make the most out of our workday. It’s unavoidable that occasionally there are busy periods where we’re required to work overtime or long hours, but it’s not sustainable in the long term.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

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I think it’s important to be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up. Instagram helps to cultivate the illusion that people are just instantly ‘successful’ as soon as exiting the womb, but there’s a lot of hard work that needs to go on behind the scenes – especially when starting out. Get involved in everything and adopt the attitude that nothing is below you. It’s all part of the journey!

What’s the best part about your role?

Working with varied clients and on a wide range of projects. I never know what the next day or week will bring, and I love that aspect of flexibility and spontaneity. As a freelancer, I’ve produced a global campaign for a New York-based ethical diamond startup. I’ve also created sustainability policies for a property developer. I’ve worked with beauty brands and I’ve worked in the fin-tech space. I thrive off the challenge and possibilities the great unknown can bring.

What would surprise people about your role?

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When you’re a freelancer it can be tricky at first navigating how to be your own boss. You have to be a nice boss, not a boss that makes their employee work into the night and every weekend. It comes back to what I was saying before about creating boundaries around what is productive work time and what is your special time. It’s also important to train yourself to take on an abundance mindset, rather than a scarcity mindset when you’re freelancing.

Without the assurance of a regular income, it can be tempting to just say yes to everything, to stress or perhaps even to compare yourself to others. In adopting an abundance mindset, we’re able to see that there is limitless potential and that there is plenty of everything to go around: work, love, wealth, relationships, happiness and resources.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

I think I’ve fostered deep connections with people from different realms within the creative industry. Having these authentic connections really helps – whether it’s scouting talent and knowing exactly who to call in London or LA for some niche shoot, or even being put forward for different opportunities myself. It’s important to put work into fostering your professional relationships.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

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Treat everyone with kindness, regardless of their role or seniority, because you never know what the future holds. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. Lose the ego. I was told by a former manager I was ‘too nice‘ in a work context. Personally, I’d rather be known as ‘too nice’ than anything else!

What about a practical tip?

Absolutely set up a separate bank account in your online banking for tax and super and every single time you get an invoice paid, transfer your cut of tax and super into it. You don’t want to be left at the end of the financial year with a huge tax bill and no super. Future you will thank you.

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

Looking to step up to a career in media? Each week we send a wrap of industry jobs straight to your inbox. Enter your details below and we’ll keep you in the loop, or browse current openings here.

This article How I Got Here: Creative consultant and former fashion editor Ingrid Kesa on building your own success appeared first on Fashion Journal.

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