After years working in banking, Kath Ennis embarked upon self-reflection which prompted her to change industry and match her new role with her personal values.
Growing up, I was very ambitious and would regularly talk to my parents about my career options. I had strong beliefs about big issues like personal freedom, the environment and women’s equality. I would write off working for big corporates because I saw them as an enemy to society, but my mum said to me: “you can make the most change from within”.
Making change from within
I studied Sociology and started working in HR and recruiting in the charity sector, but I wanted to do a Masters and couldn’t afford it on my pay. My boss at the time had previously worked in banking and connected me to a role at Bank of America.
Thirteen years, a husband and two children later, I was still in banking. I felt I had made changes from within. I’d worked on initiatives that had made a difference and had helped build the most diverse team I’d ever experienced.
I learnt lots, and had some great opportunities to travel and work with great people. But eventually, nothing felt quite right. I didn’t feel particularly proud of the industry, and the bank I worked for was actually going backwards in its gender balance which felt like a punch in the stomach given the work my team had put into improving diversity. I felt I was putting more into the company through my loyalty and effort than I was getting out both personally and professionally.
In early 2019 I decided to qualify as an executive coach, and completed the AOEC diploma. The course was intensive and students were required to really analyse who we were so we could understand how we approach coaching.
My wake up call
It forced me to deeply assess my own values and priorities, and brought me to some big realisations. After all that time, the main things keeping me at the bank were that I liked the onsite gym and I had a good pension. They are not reasons to do a job; and in fact, my core values really hadn’t changed since I was young. I handed in my notice with lots of ideas and opportunities but no specific plan. I could tell some people thought I was mad.
Through a network I’m involved in, the RL100, I was connected to Publicis Groupe. I ended up joining to do a completely different role than two others I’d initially discussed with them, but that said a lot about how open minded I’d become about opportunities and my career.
I accepted the role because I felt the people are completely genuine, collaborative and respectful. I’m excited as there are some huge opportunities for the advertising industry to improve in the HR and talent space; in some things they are a little behind banking.
Finding my fit
However, when in my first few days at Publicis Groupe, some of the agency CEOs showed me the work they produced, with pro LGBTQ+ rights messages and shining light on parents of premature babies, my eyes pricked with tears and I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t feel like that in 13 years in banking. A few months in, I now realise I probably didn’t need to hold back the tears, as I now know Publicis Groupe is the kind of place where you can show emotion without being judged.