You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you’re in your 30s, what do you do when you’ve, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you’re now ready to commit to something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a job, a city, or just a new way of life. To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we’re debuting a new series called Second Life. Each week, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
Amanda de Cadenet for Warby Parker
If you haven’t heard of Amanda de Cadenet by now then consider this your vital first introduction. As one of the most badass women in media today (we’re calling it), de Cadenet is a major force to be reckoned with. Her work is ceaseless in its mission to speak up (loudly and uncensored) and fight for the marginalized, the emerging, and the voiceless. Since she started out as a television host in the UK at 16 years old, de Cadenet has continued to use every kind of media available to her (with the microphone turned up) to become a leading voice for feminism.
The impressive mother of three has interviewed (and photographed) some of the world’s most influential women (including Hillary Clinton) on her popular interview series, The Conversation, and now, as the CEO of her own female-focused multimedia company, de Cadenet just launched her latest passion project, #Girlgaze—a platform for female photographers. Oh, and if she didn’t already have her hands full, the media icon just released her first autobiography too: It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women. So it’s safe to say de Cadenet is an ideal candidate for our Second Life series (more like a sixth life).
Ahead, she outlines the many challenges, mistakes, and lessons she learned while chasing her creative pursuits—and why you should too.
Mistakes guide me to where I need to be.
MYDOMAINE: Tell us about your first career path.
AMANDA DE CADENET: My first career path was in television hosting in the UK. I started when I was 16 years old on a show called The Word, and since then, it’s been a constant in my career.
MD: How did you make the transition from photographer to CEO and founder of #Girlgaze that supports/champions emerging female talent in photography and film?
ADC: I would say that it was an easy transition from hosting to being a photographer. When I was younger, I didn’t like the way I was being represented, so I took the opportunity to show myself in a different way. I was in love with photography, and I’m a storyteller, so that transition from host to the photographer was natural. I started with portraits and specifically started focusing on women because I found I could portray them differently through the female gaze.
From there, transitioning into the CEO of #Girlgaze was organic. Ultimately, I found that if you want to create content that is out of the box or has never been done before, you have to find your own way to do it, but you have to be both the creative and understand the financial/business too. I learned a lot about running a company when I launched The Conversation because I made that interview series happen from my living room. I had to learn business and finance, and I had to figure out how to sustain my series and platform. So I learned a lot from five years of running that show—I was aware of every line item, every hire, all of it.
Once I got to this point now of leading #Girlgaze, I already had eight years of experience running a company that was focused on media creation. All that I’ve learned has been 100% experiential. I see what works and what doesn’t. And my feet are firmly planted in digital content creation and have been for a long time. Ultimately, when you have a strong drive to create something that creates additional value in people’s lives, that’s your guiding force.
I didn’t go to business school, I don’t have traditional training, but I very much run everything through the intention of my company. I want to ensure that people get more than they showed up with, and if it’s a no, then I won’t do a certain partnership or series. So there are a few different guiding factors—intuition and the intellectual knowledge of the business side.
And lastly, I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know. I surround myself with people who are smart and do know what I don’t. I’m a great believer in surrounding yourself with people who know more than you.
I'm smart enough to know what I don't know. I surround myself with people who are smart and do know what I don't. I'm a great believer in surrounding yourself with people who know more than you.
MD: What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
ADC: I would say it’s probably that I’m constantly creating things that haven’t been done before, so there is no path or guidebook. You’re forging your own way, so there are no rules, and there’s no one in front of you to learn from. So you have to have tenacity in learning and teaching yourself. Especially in creating female-focused media. The world isn’t quite receptive just yet, which proposes a challenge.
MD: What triggered your need to change this time around?
ADC: I think it’s important to stay true to your creative vision, and if you’re the person who has that vision, then you need to be leading your team. I always thought, Oh, I can hire someone to do this for me, but that just wasn’t the case. If you’re the one with a vision, you need to be establishing it and executing it, and then maybe further down the line, you can bring someone in.
MD: Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
ADC: It’s suitable for me because I’m a major multitasker. I get bored when I’m doing one thing for too long. This company allows me to dream up big ideas and many different things—we’re creating video content, a digital magazine, merchandise, and online classes. It’s great for someone like me who has attention issues. I can put them to good use. I just think the goal is to always try to create a job that puts your best skillset to use and allows you to do something you really love.
MD: What’s the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
ADC: That you are only as good as your team. That you have to hire people who have experience that you may not. I also hire slowly and fire quickly because I need people who work well with #Girlgaze. We’ve scaled from two to 12 people in the last six months, but I had never fired anyone up until a year ago. We’re a startup. We’re moving so fast, and everyone has so many things on their shoulders, so we all have to pull our own weight. It’s like, you may have experience, but can you get your hands dirty and get things done? It’s just a different mentality than you’d have at a large corporation.
I think it's important to stay true to your creative vision, and if you're the person who has that vision, then you need to be leading your team.
MD: What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
ADC: I wouldn’t call them mistakes. Every mess-up just provides further insight into the changes you need to make. I’ve just made so many along the way, but try not to view them as catastrophic, but instead, I look for them to show me what changes I need to make in my company, life, etc. Mistakes guide me to where I need to be.
MD: What do you love most about your current role and why?
ADC: I love that I get to work and collaborate with so many extraordinarily talented females and that I get to create job opportunities for them. I get to support their creativity and their lives in a way that I wish someone had done for me. I just so appreciate the level of talent—I mean, it’s incredible to look at people’s work and be blown away.
MD: When you look back and reflect on your previous careers, do you have any regrets, or are you still really happy with your decision?
ADC: None at all!
MD: Anything else you’d like to add?
ADC: I haven’t necessarily abandoned my previous careers. I still do interviews and photography, so I’ve more just added #Girlgaze into the mix. Now, I’ll also be an author.
Read all about de Cadenet’s many career changes and life story in her first book, It’s Messy, below:
What career changes have you made in your life? What have they taught you?