Kendra Rogers, Head of Insight & Strategy
Robert PepperStrategy Partner
We did things a bit differently this time, with Kendra Rogers, our Head of Insight & Strategy, in the hot seat, while our Strategy Partner and MD Robert Pepper became the interviewer. Over the past few months, alongside her day-to-day role leading our strategy and insights team, Kendra has been speaking to everyone at PS about their backgrounds, ideas and thoughts for the In Conversation… series, so this is the opportunity for all of us to get our own back on Kendra.
First off, I think the correct way to start is asking Kendra for a little overview of what she does here at PS…
KR: I have a really fun job working to identify the problems and challenges our clients have, and then using insight and strategic thinking to solve them. That means lots of insight work: great conversations, qual and quant research and understanding what the issues might be and then crafting the right solution. The thing I love is that there’s never a one-size-fits all approach, so each strategy is bespoke to the client and their challenge… sometimes it feels more like management consulting than marketing at ps, and I find that a really fabulous bonus. My role works across the creative team and the accounts team; I have the chance to get deep with our clients, and am lucky to be responsible for driving the thinking that leads to the real creativity. I think it's the perfect job.
I knew that Kendra had an eclectic background before coming to psLondon, so I asked her to share how she ended up in this kind of role.
KR: I think because I'm innately a curious person. I have always loved learning, and when I graduated from university, one of the things that I thought about being was a lawyer, but I realised quickly that it was just because I wanted to keep learning and wanted to learn more at Law School. I ended up in advertising while I saved money for law school, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the vibrant energy of agencies, the creativity around every corner and the never-ending challenges and opportunities… it was exciting to be in an industry where you didn’t have to specialise into one sector, company, topic.
"As someone whose brain naturally connects disparate dots, I was able to use that skill to build strategies that lead to tangible results. Realising that being curious and interested in a variety of random things was an asset was a really cool moment."
Speighty (our Creative Director) has called me a magpie and I think that’s spot on – I love looking for the shiny bits, the golden threads if you will, and helping organisations pull them out.
I’m glad that Kendra made that choice, as we love having her here... But I suspect this wasn't what the 10 year old Kendra had in mind, when she might have been looking at her future career. So I asked her what she dreamt she’d be when she grew up.
KR: I think of this often actually, because weirdly, I remember calling in to a radio station one time. And they asked, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I told them that I wanted to be a fashion designer, an astronaut or a radio DJ.
I wondered which one of those three she thought she was closest to now…
KR: Well I did have a radio show for nine years, so DJ was close!
Many hidden talents! Kendra has been having these conversations since January, and has now spoken to most of the team for the series. I wondered what the most surprising thing she found out about our colleagues was, or if there was something that stuck in her mind?
KR: Gosh, I've had so many great conversations, and there’s not one person that really stands out most – it’s the level of openness and vulnerability that everyone has had and shared with me has been really incredible.
"I started doing the In Conversation… series because I felt like we needed to show everyone outside of PS how wonderful it is to be inside of PS, and I wanted to show off the fact that we have so many interesting personalities, and everyone's got their own things they’re passionate about."
I ended up really having quite deep conversations with the team and it was so lovely that everyone felt so open and comfortable to share that in a public space.
A lot of credit goes to Kendra for drawing that out in people, as it's all about creating a warm conversation and making others comfortable. Next I shifted the conversation slightly, wondering how Kendra felt COVID-19 has changed what we do as an agency, what she’d keep from what we’ve learned and what she’d bin.
KR: I think that we are people who care about each other and care about other people, and I think that COVID has done a really good job of making that more apparent. We're all in our own living rooms, or offices, or bedrooms, so we had to be more intentional about checking in on each other and making caring a priority. I think we've done a really good job of that. So that's something that I think that we should keep and continue to do.
I look forward to leaving behind the number of Zoom meetings that we have, and getting back to in-person conversations and collaborations. Now that we’re back in the real world, we're transitioning to face to face conversations and more understanding of what each other's days look like and what our clients’ days look like as well. I think that helps build more compassion than when everyone is behind a screen, and means more room for the fun bits that our team is so fab at. However, overall, I’d just say I'm really impressed: despite the circumstances of the last year, and the fact that many, many people and businesses have struggled, PS is still here… we’re not just steady, we’re growing, and we haven't sacrificed our integrity or our compassion in the process. I think that’s something to be proud of.
Kendra regularly travels the globe and shares memories and learnings from her travels – she’s visited, studied and worked in quite a few countries around the world. I asked what the most inspirational place that she’s spent time in is?
KR: The places that I still find inspiration from - when I think back to my time there, it would have to be Iceland and Thailand. While physically diametrically different, both are places that have so much natural beauty, and people who have quite low-key lifestyles compared to the lifestyles of the countries I’ve lived in like Canada, Australia or the UK. I think people take things a bit slower and appreciate what's around them a bit more. I just really valued that they're very different landscapes - very beautiful landscapes - and the people are so kind. The food is equally wonderful. And the art, the architecture, the faces on the street, the diversity, and the ways that the culture comes through via museums and dishes and books and all of those things, I just found to be absolute brain-candy.
Talking about travel, we know that Kendra is a proud Canadian and she’s educated us so much as to the wonders of Canadian life and things and people (it's amazing how many things were invented by Canadians, and how many famous people are unexpectedly Canadian). So, I asked, if she could transport one aspect of her Canadian life to London life, what would that be – apart from friends and family?
KR: I think it's the Canadian sense of humour. You guys are getting it more and more from spending time with me. Canadians have a very dry sense of humour, maybe a little bit contrary. There are times I'll crack a joke and I don't even know whether people necessarily realise I'm joking. But that also kind of cracks me up on its own. So maybe I wouldn't want to bring that here because I like the juxtaposition of British humour and Canadian humour! It keeps me reminded of home.
Making Britain a bit more Canadian, one joke at a time… I asked Kendra what advice she would give to her fellow Canadians if they were thinking of coming to work in the UK?
KR: I would say go for it. 100%. For me, it was always a dream to move to this country and to live in London. No matter what your personal dream is, I have learned that there are so many opportunities, if you open yourself up to them. People are willing to help and lend a hand if you just reach out and ask: the number of total strangers who became friends, and who helped me when I first moved here was incredible. Sometimes it just takes a hello and a bit of vulnerability.
It wasn’t easy navigating moving to a new country and there were some stressful, intense moments - but I would do it all again, no questions asked. If you have the opportunity to move, and the privilege to be able to take the chance, why not? I reckon life is meant to be lived on the edge of comfort and discomfort. That’s where the magic happens.
I have no idea how she has time for all of them, but one thing Kendra is known for is that she throws herself so authentically into a wide range of really important causes. I wanted to know - if she had to pick one thing to be remembered for outside of her professional successes, what it would be?
KR: I think I'd like to be remembered for connecting people. I love the idea that people who I have introduced to each other could in 30 years say, “Oh, yeah, we met through Kendra, who connected us.” I love the chance to connect with people and then figure out what they need, and what makes them tick and how I can help them. So, maybe I'd also love to be remembered for being someone who really helped people in the parts of life that really mattered to them.
Sounds like Kendra should be a dating matchmaker, if she ever decides to leave the world of branding and advertising! My final question was about something very, very important to Kendra… the very best restaurant that she’s eaten at in London. Because we know how important choosing and enjoying good restaurants is to her!
KR: Oh yes! I’m going to choose two.
The first is Rovi by Ottolenghi in Fitzrovia. The food is made for sharing and it's all incredible and it just creates this amazing atmosphere. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Ottolenghi - I think that his flavour combinations are just unbelievable – they are so surprising and interesting and unique.
I think the other one would be somewhere I just went for a client lunch - so thank you PS – and that’s Lyle's in Shoreditch. In some ways they’re similar – lovely, relaxed atmosphere, beautifully presented food that you can share brought to the table and just unexpected flavours - really fresh, beautiful ingredients, inspired by British cuisine without being stuffy. Yum, you’ve got me hungry!