A FEW YEARS AGO NOW, my General Manager told me we had an interview at 11am with a candidate to fill a PR Assistant role, here at SAMANTHA WILLS. We had interviewed a lot of people that week, so we were quite fatigued with asking the same questions, and ultimately getting the same responses back from each candidate who wanted the job. Then in walked Becc. Standing at a little over 5'0", you would think by her confidence & demeanor that she was 6'4". We were blown away from the start. Becc was not only researched on our brand & who our competitors were in the media space, she had also prepared a portfolio of some ideas she had for us & what she would suggest in her role. She was polite, intelligent, energetic & prepared. She got the job. Becc progressed through our company & by the time it came for her to leave us for her new journey of motherhood, she had been promoted through to PR Manager, reporting directly to myself & presenting her team & strategy at our monthly management meetings. Becc was responsible for some of our biggest brand activations to date, and I have such admiration for her, professionally & personally. Here she tells her story....
NAME: Rebecca Jovanova
TITLE(S): Freelance Fashion PR Consultant/Full- Time Mum
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Dedicated. Honest. Loving. Creative. Confident.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? As a media student (wow like over 10 years ago now!) I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be, I just knew I wanted to talk. I wanted to inspire, be inspired and learn by connecting with people. A wise career advisor then introduced me to the world of PR. My first thought was, is this PR thing for real? And second was how will I ever pull it off? Once I made the decision to pursue PR, I literally googled every PR agency in Sydney and then begged [BEGGED!] for an internship during my final year of university. Countless emails & awkward phone calls were made, until I finally was taken on by a boutique beauty & lifestyle PR Agency run by a young one-woman band. Many of my fellow students at this stage were being accepted by HUGE agencies with HUGE brand names but for some reason, this felt right. I was mesmerized by this PR Whiz and was hungry to learn everything she was willing to teach. I interned for free for over a year in a suburb 1.5hours away and worked weekends at a shoe shop for some extra cash. This ended up with me working 7 days a week. Once I graduated I was offered a full time positon as a PR Assistant at the same agency and didn’t think twice. I took on everything that was thrown at me and lucky for me being a small agency I was tossed in the deep end (with no floaties).
I made A LOT of mistakes but took it on the chin and craved the opportunity to improve and impress always. There was no pride here. As much as I adored this part of my career journey, I realized I wanted to be able to dedicate my energy into making a difference for one brand, one message. I wanted to be a part of one big vision and be able to create some sort of a legacy. So a few agency stints (with some promotions) later, an older, slightly wiser me was given the opportunity of a lifetime/that dream job offer- to be an in-house PR Manager for super awesome, leading fashion brand, SAMANTHA WILLS. I don’t think there is enough space or time to describe this amazing, career-changing journey in great detail, but here is where I was given unlimited creative freedom, met and worked with the most inspiring, hard-working, non-judgmental humans in the industry and took on projects that I thought I never thought I had enough confidence or swag to follow through with- but did and succeeded (most of the time). Almost 4 years of this surreal dream job (which I seriously could have stayed with forever), it was time to take on the next big role in my life- probably the biggest of all- being a Mum. Today, my little girl is just over one and I have begun my freelance PR journey where I thought I could better juggle my time with her and time with laptop. Let’s see how this goes.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do? I look after a mini-human while trying to help brands/people communicate their message effectively. I do this with an honest heart & mind and a kick-ass work ethic.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) Kind of. I never thought I would get so far in such a short time frame but ultimately I was determined to become the best PR gal in the land. Well at least a good one.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? To me, success is very personal. Success to me is not necessarily about how much money you make or what you drive but the positive impact you might have on others and them on you. Whether it be a potential client or your kids, how you contribute to their cause or lives determines success for me. Based on this, I don’t know if I could ever label myself as having reached success, but rather strive to be successful always.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) Personally, I would like to be able to find the true balance of family, me-time and making some contribution to the world outside of four walls. Professionally, I would like to be able to help pay the bills while doing what I love.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? I studied Media & Communications @ Macquarie University Sydney with a major in PR & Print Journalism. But this probably would have not helped my cause. Taking a chance and putting myself out there really put me in front of the right people, leading me to the right places.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? Definitely meeting & working with some of the most talented and creative people within their field. Also the feeling of achieving a big goal for a client or for a team is hugely rewarding. It’s what keeps me going.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I recently started setting up my home office, but still unfinished (who knew having a toddler at home can be so hard?) So at this at this stage, wherever I can get the time and space, I’ll take it. Couch is a popular on. Oh and kitchen bench too.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? Great genetics made me short and young-looking, which made it difficult to be taken seriously in boardroom situations. But I overcame this by making sure I sounded smart and being over-prepared. Also, being a young woman who is greatly family-oriented, it was hard to express and prove my ability to be both a great wife, mum and team member.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? Oh man, this one is tough. Generally, I try not to cry about work, but of course it is normal to feel overwhelmed when in PR. In fact, I think PR is defined by a crazy workload with lots of time pressure and sometimes ‘mean’ people. I definitely consider myself a people person, so probably the last time I cried was when I had to let a team member go.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? Oh yeah. Big time. I put pressure on myself at work, as a wife, as a mum, even just as a WOMAN. I think we women like to do that sometimes [STOP IT. YOU ARE AMAZING]. As you progress through life I think it gets more in some areas and less in others. As they say, older & wiser.
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I think it is really important to manage some ‘me’ time even when business busy, especially when things get tough. How you say? For me it’s about your squad. This includes your family, friends and trusted team members/employees. It is crucial to understand the world won’t fall apart if you delegate some stuff and look after yourself. The better you feel, the better you can contribute positively to your goal(s).
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how?In short, YES! PR is definitely not a 9-5 job, especially in the beginning. Try explaining just one more midnight post event bump out to your boyfriend/husband/child who you haven’t seen in weeks due to fashion week madness?! OR how about the time when you have been working so hard mentally and physically that literally the last thing on your want-to-do-list is to go out with some mates in a buzzin’ city. Give me a bed please. By the time you reach some level of career comfort, you really only end up with a handful of friends who understand and forgive your selfishness.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? Sometimes. No one can truly understand what you feel or what you want to achieve for yourself, but you CAN surround yourself with supportive & motivating people. You know the ones. They just make you feel like everything is going to be okay. As you get older, you spot these ones easier.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Oh man, so much. As a Mumma, everything about your child can give you anxiety. My daughter is only a little over one and I’m already thinking about her driving and late night sneak-ins (hopefully those younger looking genes are here to stay so I can follow her EVERYWHERE). Like so many, being able to support my family emotionally and financially also plays on my mind. This adult gig is tough.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? I try not to dwell on the past. I’m a big believer of the ‘everything happens for a reason’ line. Watch the movie ‘CLICK’. Changed my life.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Sometimes it’s better to be kind than right, and better to listen than to speak.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? Emma Issacs - The Director/Founder of Business Chicks. Seriously that superwoman has 4 kids (F-O-U-R!), runs a successful movement and still has a smile on her face every time I see her. I have never heard anything negative come out of her mouth and I truly admire that.
Eleanor Pendleton - Gritty Pritty Editor/Founder. The girl who follows her dreams and works so damn hard to bring them to life. Also one of the most humble, sweetest people ever. Plus soooo gorgeous. I admire that she never let her young age prevent her from achieving the biggest of goals. Go gurrrl!!!!
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Honesty is huge for me. I know it can be confused as arrogance at times, but if there is no transparency in any relationship how can you really bring out the best in yourself &/or others? Also positive-mindedness. I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a situation where negativity has helped.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? It depends who you ask. For me, I personally struggled with work-life balance pre- starting my family. Like 90% work, 10% a life of some sort. But once my daughter arrived my view on the world changed and I got better at balancing EVERYTHING overall. Balancing to my standard that is.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Everyday. There’s always something that tips you over the edge, but somehow you manage to climb back up and solider on. Like life’s hard, right? And I don’t quit because life doesn’t. While we all might be just a small speck in the world, I want to be a shiny one.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? That all we do is eat delicious lunches, go to cool parties and dress in designer gear, head to toe. I. WISH.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Be nice always. Work hard. Be willing to do whatever. Listen, learn and be patient. Always have comfortable shoes handy.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? Definitely would do it again. Experience is invaluable to your soul. Everything from my mistakes to the people I’ve met along the way have made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change that.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? That I made a positive contribution to something or someone. And that I did it with such sparkle that I would be someone to remember.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? I was a HUGE fan of the Spice Girls. I seriously cried for a week when ginger left the group and had every merchandise available to purchase. Recently I found one of their albums in an old CD box and I instantly played it. My family around me at the time could not understand why I loved them so much, I mean it’s not like they are the best singers in the world?! So it made me think, why was I obsessed with them? The more I thought about it the more I realized I was drawn to the idea of girl power. I’ve never been the type of girl to wait around for my dad or my brother to help me put something together or move something around. I just did it. A ‘doer’ my dad calls it, but I call it a ‘believer’- in myself. To be able to be a part of a forum like the SW foundation for woman believers like me to come together, is necessary & a big deal. Like, can you imagine how many amazing women are out there doing their own awesome thing and then bringing them together to create like a SUPERWOMEN force?! Women generally go through similar life experiences, challenges etc so who better than to lean on and learn from? As Beyonce famously sings, who run the world, GIRLS.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
“Say how you feel, leave the job you hate, find your passion, love with every ounce of your bones, stand up for things that matter, don’t settle, don’t apologize for who you are.” - Anon
“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful. And be generous.” – Ashton Kutcher