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Ideas Learning & Development

My message to young creatives: raise your hand and embrace uncertainty

Haruna McWilliams

When I had the good fortunate to be invited to speak to our industry's next generation of creatives at the 2019 Young Lions conference, my message to them was simple: raise your hand and embrace uncertainty.

A lot of people are curious about my name, but I’m pure Japanese with a Western surname taken on from my husband. My life and achievements up till today are shaped by my father’s raise of a hand when I was 11 years old. He was working at Fujifilm at that time and proactively raised his hand to work in the new factory in the Netherlands. My graduation trip that year was naturally to the Netherlands. So firstly, I want to encourage everyone to raise your hand when faced with an opportunity. You need to proactively go after the things you want to do and achieve.

When I was 28 and working at Ogilvy in Japan, I was told there’s an opportunity to work on “Real Beauty” for Unilever, and it’ll let me move to London. I raised my hand for it but naturally felt scared when making that decision. After all, I’ve never been to London, had no idea who I’ll be working with, and would be the only Japanese member on the team. But that’s all okay. Many times, I feel scared when raising my hand, but this is a good thing.

Therefore, my second point is to embrace fear. When you feel scared or lost, don’t stop. Move forward, or else you’ll never get to see or learn more about the world. Embrace uncertainty. Starting from Ogilvy, to leading a Strategy team in a data and measurement-driven agency at Essence, I’ve experienced feeling lost in my journey from creative to digital marketing. But some things need to be broken before being rebuilt into something better. There’s a Japanese philosophy called “Kuyashii” which is about embracing uncertainty and doubt, and reconditioning them into positive energy and compulsion to prove yourself/others wrong - this is my driving force in life.

I’d also like to remind everyone to keep an open mind, be it when you’re feeling lost, or even when you’re in a comfortable place, in terms of work with clients or the solutions you’re delivering. This is especially necessary at a young age, when everything changes so quickly (similar to how I witness change every time I visit China).

These days, change is truly the only constant, and even the experienced should not stay put.

Lastly, reflect. Reflect after you finish a task, such as a proposal. For me, I head to the Netherlands once a year to embark on a journey of reflection. Reflect on how you can do more, and better, as you move forward.

To read news coverage of Haruna's speech, click here.