Career Close-Up: Working at the BBC with Katie Hardyment
[Hello! I am very thrilled to introduce this new series to the blog. I am always so fascinated by the day-to-day world of my friends’ careers, and am earnestly excited to capture and share snippets and insights into what I find to be fascinating conversations. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! - with love, Kate]
The BBC is one of Britain’s most loved institutions. Shows like Eastenders, Masterchef and Panorama grace living rooms across the country daily, and the BBC News soundtrack is perhaps one of the most recognised in the world. But what is it like to be behind the scenes? What qualifies you to work there? Meet Katie, Youth Audiences Lead based in W1A, London. I pounced on her over dinner one night as I was more than curious to know...
Katie! I’m so excited to find out more about what you do. Tell me about your job:
My role at the BBC is to help the business understand its audience. I take public research, look at insights and turn that into advice to help the organisation understand their audience - who they are, what they like, and how to engage them. I used to work in news, now I work across all genres and platforms (TV, radio, online), looking after the 16-34 age group.
I’ve just helped a team create BBC Stories, an online way we report current affairs aimed at young people. It’s a cool format - the stories are voiced by people going through the experiences, rather than through a journalist. It’s quite different to anything else.
Tell me about your backstory...
I originally studied Geography. Everyone jokes that geography students either go on to become geography teachers or don’t use what they learnt. But actually it’s an amazing degree for teaching you about the world - why people and things are the way they are, whether it be cultural, economic, physical or historical. I have used my degree a lot.
I started out with Camfed, an international development charity that supports girls’ education in Africa. Educating girls is the most efficient way to improve all developmental indicators in a society (such as the health, education and number of children she goes on to have). I then realised I could bring about more positive change through business, so joined a consulting firm called Good Business, which helps companies create social impact. There I advised businesses on how they can positively impact society bearing in mind their commercial aspirations. I came across the BBC during my time there, and here I am.
What does a typical day look like for you?
That’s really hard - the work is so varied. Right now I’m focusing on a big report to help the leadership team understand what gaps currently exist in media. The BBC is mandated to carry out a service to the public, and part of my role it to understand the needs of our audience - what they like, what they are looking for - and establish whether those needs are being served. We try to ensure we fill those gaps. For example, our youth audience is concerned about how they can get a job, and that’s an insight that will go into our planning.
That’s such a great mandate for a company. What is the best bit about what you do?
I love that I work for such a cool organisation, whose singular goal is to benefit the public. It feels worthwhile. There is no monetary goal involved.
And a highlight?
It’s pretty great advising senior people you admire and being valued for what you can bring to the table. I think the one single highlight would have to be working with BBC News at Ten, with the Editor, producers and journalists like George Alagiah. They’re experts on their show, and it felt great talking to them as an expert on an audience.
What’s the worst part?
It’s such a big and complex place. It is sometimes hard to find the right person to have a conversation with.
You have become something of a mentor for some younger women in your life. Have you had a mentor in your life?
It’s funny because when I was in my mid-twenties, I really wanted a mentor and went to several women-in-business type events to try to find a senior woman to mentor me. But I never did. Then one day a new Director joined my work - a guy - and he naturally became an amazing mentor to me. He gave me a lot of confidence by giving me more responsibility and trusting my judgement. He would ask me for my thoughts and opinions, and if I was slightly off-target, would always coach me to improve or rethink.
Any career advice?
When I was a teenager at one of my parents’ dinner parties, I received some great advice from a family friend. He told me that careers are like a hill. Everyone is climbing their own, and there’s no one right way up. Don’t freak out when you hit a fork, just take the path which feels interesting and follow your gut. If you feel like you have taken a wrong turn and you're walking downhill, have the confidence to do something about it. I have made some risky moves in my time, and this analogy has helped me feel reassured that I'm on my own path.
Certain publications get a lot of flack from time to time. What are your thoughts on media?
Media can be an incredible and positive industry. It has become part of the fabric of our lives. The BBC is a leader in terms of quality, and the fact that the BBC has been built to serve the public interest raises the bar. We’re careful not to chase the clickbait stories.
Finally - tell me about your Plan B?
I actually got into an NHS management training scheme. However my stepdad is a doctor, and convinced me I may have a hard time gaining respect by not being a doctor myself.
Katie in 10
What’s your favourite TV show? Anything with Reggie Yates or Stacey Dooley - they do great investigative work with interesting perspectives.
How do you like to spend your weekend? Hiking, exploring. Being active.
Favourite place on Earth? On the roof of my Mum’s house in Barnes. All you see is sky and all the trees throughout London.
Describe social media in three words: Massive, escapist, young.
Drink of choice? Pale Ale or Negroni.
Favourite ice-cream? Probably coconut.
Best piece of life advice? Don’t take work too seriously.
What’s your dream holiday? To travel from the north of Norway to the toe of Italy.
What’s your signature dish for entertaining? My Mum’s mango chicken.
What colour is most present in your wardrobe? Sky Blue.
Thank you to Katie for her time (and the delicious bottle of red she brought to dinner).