Ever Wondered about Karen Robson

Having just left AXA UK & Ireland where she was Brand Director, we caught up with Karen this month to see how she's getting on during lockdown.

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Karen Robson has just left AXA UK & Ireland where she was Brand Director. She oversaw Brand Strategy, Brand Communications, Sponsorship and the Social & Content Strategy for the business. Karen is passionate about Diversity and Inclusion and was Exec Sponsor for AXA's LGBT+ network and a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Board.

Prior to AXA, Karen spent time on the agency side and led Marketing teams at TSB Bank, Lloyds Bank, Prudential and the BBC - where she also qualified as an Executive Coach.

What does your morning routine look like?  

My day starts with either a run or an indoor workout. A few years ago we converted our garage into a gym and I’ve got a range of DVD’s to choose from : weights, circuits, kick boxing or yoga. Then it’s coffee and breakfast with my husband. He’s currently working on the kitchen table so I leave him and head upstairs to the home office.

How are you making sure you stay fit and sane whilst working from home?

 I’ve worked from home on an ad hoc basis for some time now so I know it’s important for me to take breaks from the screen and I find that really helps with problem solving. I made a New Year’s resolution to get more inventive with weekday dinners so I’ve been trying out lots of new recipes. There’s more exercise afterwards as I walk our labradoodle and then the rest of the evening is family time – either watching a box set or a film together. Over the weekend we do Houseparty calls with friends and family.

Where do you find yourself having lunch now you’re wfh? 

Whenever I’m at home, I’ve always tried to carve out 30 mins to eat lunch away from my desk. It’s great if my husband or daughter can break at the same time but it’s not always possible. A new habit is trying to spend 10 minutes outside in the garden – wonderful when it’s been so sunny. 

What does an average working day have in store for you?

I left AXA at the end of May as a result of a restructure, so my days are a combination of checking job boards and networking via calls or Zoom. I’m also using the time to attend more webinars and do some online training.

What is the most random thing on your 'wfh' desk?  

I need a clutter free desk, but I keep a post- it note of “personal admin” jobs in the corner.

What’s the best thing about your job?  

I love the sheer variety of experiences that come with a Marketing career – the blend of art and science, the different problems to solve. No two days are the same.

Who was your last email from?  

An introduction from a relatively new contact to a CMO in their network.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?  

“ You are the CEO of your life”. It’s about taking responsibility for your energy, your happiness, and your decisions.  It’s also a helpful reminder that you consciously choose how to react to others or how you react to changing circumstances.

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

I was keen on being a journalist for a while and spent the summer of my Year 11 doing work experience on the local paper.

What’s your current favourite campaign and why?  

I like the Nationwide campaign. It combines a warm and authentic creative approach with clear and rational proof points. It has transitioned seamlessly into the world of lockdown demonstrating a relevance and usefulness to customers.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in the industry? 

On my first day in my first job my boss told me “ Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” so I’d say resist the temptation to offload onto others and focus on being proactive. A couple of years later I read Stephen Covey’s “ 7 Habits of highly effective people” and realised “Be Proactive” was Habit 1. The other 6 are also well worth knowing from the start!

You were an Exec Sponsor for AXA's LGBT+ network and a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Board, is there anything you can tell us about your time on the Board?

I firmly believe that everyone should have the right to be themselves at work - that's the only way you can fulfil your true potential. So when the vacancy for Exec Sponsor for the LGBT+ network came up, I was keen to get involved. The role involved working with a taskforce of volunteers to set goals, formulate strategy and deliver a plan.

I represented the network at the quarterly board meetings where all four taskforces come together to report progress and ensure there is adequate focus on inclusion and intersectionality. When it comes to measuring improvement there is no better benchmark than the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and I'm really proud that during my tenure we managed to move from 325th place to 165th.

And a light hearted one to finish on – If you could have any super power?

Ability to read minds. Working with multiple stakeholders means emotional intelligence is vital but this superpower would certainly speed things up!


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