As A+E Networks’ lead brand strategist, Amanda is responsible for managing and evolving marketing in support of A+E Networks’ portfolio of global brands and businesses, including brand strategy, consumer and B2B marketing, and creative execution across all platforms – from linear television to direct-to-consumer to OTT and Digital. Amanda works closely with Programming, Digital, International, Ad Sales and Distribution divisions to establish the brand vision for the company while ensuring the vision translates into world-class creative, brand equity, viewership and revenue.
Previously, Amanda oversaw A+E Networks’ international marketing, communications and programming across A+E Networks’ global portfolio as Chief Creative Officer, International. In this role she oversaw numerous international channel launches, grew the company’s position in international content distribution and strengthened the A+E Networks brands by establishing them as leaders in the global content marketplace.
Prior to joining A+E Networks, Hill served as Chief Brands Officer for BBC Worldwide since December 2012 having joined the company in 2003. During her tenure, Hill was responsible for developing the overarching brand strategy for all of BBC Worldwide’s businesses and formats. She also developed and oversaw the factual entertainment brand, BBC Earth. In addition, Hill led global launches of three new genre-brands, plus the current portfolio of fourteen brands including Dancing with the Stars, Top Gear and Doctor Who. Prior to that, Hill worked across a portfolio of FMCG brands at L’Oreal.
Amanda served on the board of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and remains on the Advisory Council.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I came from a world that was not rich in financial terms, but was in imagination. My grandfather was a saxophonist at Ronnie Scotts. My uncle was a photographer and writer. My other uncle collected bird sounds from the age of five and now has one of the largest archives in the world. My father sat with my elder sister and I every night and made up stories. Not from books. From the twists and turns of his mind and I cherished every word. My mother was a Trojan spirit who worked hard every day to keep a roof over our heads. We were poor. I knew it. I felt it. I struggled, for years, not believing that I could live up to the world around me. That I was somehow lesser than others and I just worked. I read more. I had grit. I knew that I was responsible for the life I was going to create and believed I could make it better, for me, the children I hadn’t yet had and my family.
It took me a long time to realise that so many people I envied were actually constrained by the expectations they put upon themselves. They were running towards something that was defined. A life. Role models. What they believed was possible. What they should be like, behave like, what groups they should be part of. I had none of that. No one expecting me to be anything and that gave me a different kind of freedom to be whatever I wanted to be, to follow passion, gut, belief, heart, to define my own expectations of myself and just, honestly, care about the contribution I made every day.
I think, I hope, that my team would say that I’m still like that. I don’t elevate myself above anyone. I care about the contribution of the most junior person through to the most senior. I want passion over process. I’m tough – not about perfection, but pushing for bigger, better, bolder. I want honesty and not fear. I want ‘try it’ rather than hone it. I want ‘learn each day’ and never rest. Never think you know enough. I care about humility for what we don’t know and reaching out to find the answers.
A great boss once told me, know when to stand in front of your team to bash something down. When to stand alongside them to show support and when to stand behind them to give them the light. I hope I live up to that every day.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at A+E?
I love that line ‘You’ve got to stand for something or fall for everything’.
Prior to A+E, I worked at BBC Worldwide. I was there for 13 years and, in the last 4, was the Chief Brands Officer, where I developed brand strategy across all of their businesses and formats. BBC is a brand that is, at a constitutional level, brave. It had the courage to both stand up and therefore also stand apart. They have a complete commitment to impartiality, powerful storytelling and a belief that what they represent, in people’s lives, comes with an obligation. We were always in service of people.
A+E, at its core, comes from the same place. The integrity around storytelling. The courage to defy convention. The belief that it was never just about a show. Lifetime, for example, has lobbied and championed women for years and fundamentally believes in every woman and girls’ right to be whoever and whatever she wants to be, to live her life passionately and proudly on her own terms. A&E is about brave storytelling, based on a belief that hiding in plain sight are remarkable stories of humanity, you just have to look, get closer to the heart of the story, find authentic moments of truth and then let people make up their own minds.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at A+E?
It’s easy to say that the highlights are when the work is great but, I’m actually going to say team.
The hardest thing we have to manage as leaders is enabling our team to be brilliant, in inspiring them to excellence whilst equally delivering, more now than ever, a lot of change and at a speed that is outside of most people’s comfort zone. Shaping the right culture, nurturing the talent we have, bringing on board the best people and dealing with blockages and barriers is by far the greatest challenge and yet equally the greatest joy when you feel it shift. Seeing a group of people come together, deliver and succeed is the proudest moment I could ever have.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
We are living in an era that is better than our previous generations but we all know, there is still a lot of work left to do. I think there is power in numbers, so women should champion each other and support each other (I don’t mean at expense of others). I’m very fortunate that I work in an organization with a female CEO, and her predecessor was also a female CEO. We are breaking barriers and changing stereotypes. We need the new generations of talent to continue to add to the narrative. So, to that end I would say, be true to yourself, because the power is to understand and own your story by embracing the challenges that will propel you forward and allow yourself confidence in what makes you unique. Mentor and sponsorship is also incredibly important throughout your career; someone to have your back, continually pushing you to be the best version of yourself.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
One of the myths a teacher of mine dispelled for me was the idea of the lone genius—the prodigy so remarkably gifted that they lead a single-handed revolution.
Instead, they stressed that the greatest breakthroughs are more likely to happen when you have lots of ideas coming together from people of different backgrounds, strengths, interests and beliefs. Jostling with each other, bouncing off each other and connecting the seemingly unconnected. That is the privilege of my job.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I’ve started to focus on the simple things.
On a personal level, I love to run. I run around the reservoir. I often pause, breathe, run again. It’s always the morning and there’s never a day when I don’t find some inner calm. I also walk to work every day. There’s something cathartic and equally expansive about putting one foot in front of the other.
I also get up early. It’s the time I have, every day, to sit, to drink my coffee whilst the world is still sleeping, to think, to write to people I love, plan what I need to do and to reclaim a portion of life. Evenings have always been harder as the working day progresses often into the early night. The morning is something no one ever wants to claim.
I’ve also gotten tougher about the weekends. They are nowadays entirely about me being a mother and a wife. We escape to the country. We walk. We hold hands. We talk. We eat. We let ourselves be.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Men and women remain boxed in by emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotypes about we are meant to behave; how we feel we should look and think a certain way, how we should communicate our ideas and opinions.
Either women are, time and time again, labeled or treated unfairly for being assertive, ambitious and successful at the workplace or, they are not as highly regarded as they refuse to act like a man and instead hold on to the woman that they are. It can feel like a no win game.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I actually haven’t had many mentors and I wish I’d had more. That may say more about me and the fact that I’m more private and quiet than people may assume. My greatest mentor has actually been my husband. I often think about Dan as someone who has one arm around me, another in my back helping to push me on but also that constant whisper in my ear that say’s ‘you can’. I always think he entered the world with confidence baked in. He therefore gave me the love and the solidity, the platform from which to spring.
I’ve had more sponsors than mentors. Those people that, whilst I was doubting myself, had such firm belief that they kept pushing me forward and as many men as women. I truly do not think it is possible to do what we do without someone championing you and believe we have the same obligation to do that for as many women as we can.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are many, more now than I ever felt I had when I was younger. I learn from different women every day and sometimes it’s just a nugget. One thing they say that gives you the confidence, the inspiration, the courage to do something differently and to be the best version of yourself.
Nancy Dubuc, CEO here at A+E Networks is one of the most remarkable creative leaders I’ve ever worked for – nothing to do with her being a woman. She just is. I’ve met women who are kicking butt in the VC world. Female entrepreneurs, women redefining our presence in technology, in finance, in politics, activism, in literature, in sport. When you’re open to it, you find remarkable women in many places and I genuinely take something from almost everyone I meet. For me it’s less about hero worship and more about one thing I can learn, one thing that helps me see the world from a different perspective.
What do you want A+E to accomplish in the next year?
I’m in the business of telling stories and that enables us to play the most incredible and powerful role. We re-paint the picture by showing new role models and new ideals, changing the discourse and what is perceived by disrupting it and telling new stories. I want our team to continue doing that in the best way possible – bigger and bolder – so that the people we are in service of feel understood and empowered and that they too can rewrite their story.
This article first appeared in www.huffingtonpost.com
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