Audrey Bugeja has one hell of a job. As the Marketing Manager at creative studio HM and Managing Editor for fluoro, she divvies up her time between interviewing high profile personalities, developing strategies and managing a team.
We talked to her about extracting intimate details from high profile creatives, working with family and how she uses self-talk to manage overwhelm.
Your job sounds rad. How’d you get into marketing and publishing?
When I was growing up I wanted to be a Zoologist. I thought a Zoologist was someone who looked after animals at the zoo and was a perfect career for me!
I also loved art, design, fashion and music, but I wasn’t very good at drawing. Someone said “You’d be good at communications,” and all of a sudden I felt like I’d found my niche.
I’m completely immersed into the world of creative expression and interviewing people who do it for a living is now an amazing part of my role.
On that, you’ve interviewed some really big names in the creative world: Peaches, Karim Rashid and Hiro Murai to name a few, and then a the few you won’t tell us about! What’s the trick to extracting intimate details from high profile people – throw us a bone, here!
[Laughs] Be well researched, understand as much as you can about them before you speak with them. Understand your audience. Our readers don’t care about the latest gossip that’s splashed on the front pages of gloss mags, they care about creation and creativity.
It’s about being respectful of your interviewee while balancing that with taking the opportunity to ask unusual questions that get to their values and what’s really important to them.
For example, when I interviewed Jamie xx, we ended up chatting for such a long time about the depths of heritage and how that affects his sound. That connection wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done my homework.
Something we’re really good at as a society is rewarding creative work and a high output. Given your role spans both the creative world, editorial and marketing, what tactics have you found impactful in terms of balancing workload so you can perform at your best?
I love what I do, but I can definitely get overwhelmed! Professionally, my role is so rewarding and fun, but there are other times when I look at my to do list and there are 2,000 emails in my inbox. I think ‘how the hell am I going to do this’?
I start thinking ‘I should be working harder.’ But really it should be about saying ‘what is physically possible to achieve as one human today at the highest-quality’, not ‘how much should I overload myself’. Outcomes over output!
So how do you deal with that?
I try to tell myself: would I put pressure onto a member of our team like that or a friend? No! So why am I speaking to myself like that?
Over the years I’ve learnt to not have any stigma about admitting how I feel, and sometimes balancing it all and not feeling overwhelmed can be really tough. I’ve found by being open and honest with my directors and saying something as simple as ‘hey, I’m in need of some assistance over here’ is actually really empowering. They can step in and look at resources to help or delegate the workload around what’s urgent, what’s important and what can wait. I work in a place that’s very supportive.
There’s this theory that resilience is ‘just to power on through’. But to me, being resilient is being able to acknowledge what is happening by being present, and identifying how to make changes to improve things to get the optimum result. Resilience is about having the strength to get through the highs and lows, and embrace change.
It’s something that I have learnt over the years and that I continue to learn. No matter who you work with building this ideal of resilience is an important factor.
It’s pretty impressive you’re working with family. What was it like when your sister went from being your older sister to your boss?
[Laughs] Well… it all changed when one day she was my sister, and the next I was sitting in front of her, nervous as hell, being interviewed by her for an amazing position!! That was, wow, over 7 years now.
At work, she’s my director. But out of office hours, we’re sisters. What I’ve learnt through working with family is business is business and you can’t take anything personally!
That’s kind of a nice side effect of working with family – I mean they know you, right. How could people be reading this approach feeling overwhelmed with their employer?
It is so nice actually, but that goes for the team overall. I work with a killer team who I learn from, and learn from me. We’re all quite close.
While organisations differ greatly, I think it’s about being honest with your manager and taking ownership for the way you deal with things. It makes no difference in my case as to whether it’s a family member or not. That approach is something that has been consistent throughout my career across other organisations.
The organisation you work with will differ, but one thing remains the same. People cannot read minds, so at some stage you need to demonstrate you have the communication skills to say ‘I feel a bit overwhelmed or need support, can I get someone who can help? Or this isn’t working for me.’
And pull back, don’t try to achieve everything. Not everything is urgent. Even superwoman has a breaking point!
At the end of the day, we are not heart surgeons. It’s not life or death. Nothing tragic will happen if I happen to miss something or make an accidental error. You learn from failures and risks are a must. If anything, you learn from it.
Given you interview people for a living, what’s your tips for nailing an interview, job or otherwise to those reading this?
I still get nervous with interviews to be honest! But I look at it as, if you’re not a bit nervous in an interview, job or otherwise, you’re too cocky. Nervousness is an imperative part of growth and of business. It’s being nervous that tells you this is something you really want.