Amber Ward Talks Creativity, Work, & Lessons Learned

Interview with Amber Ward, CCO of Invisible North

Amber Ward
CCO Invisible North
 

What inspires you creatively?

I draw inspiration from a number of different creative mediums—film, architecture, food, design, fashion, art—as well as travel and nature. The work we do is incredibly diverse, which is something I thrive on and am so thankful for, and it means that inspiration is required to come from a lot of different sources. I’ve always been very interested in sociology and human behaviour, in the way culture shapes experiences or vice versa and in thinking about how people engage with one another and in/with physical spaces and settings - I studied both film and sociology at university and this experience and passion is definitely infused in the work that I do.

 

How do these inspirations translate into Invisible North's foundation?

These themes translate into IN’s ethos because of our immersive approach to both understanding and engaging with people and culture, and then infusing this into the experiences we create for clients. At Invisible North we’re known for creating experiences that are both clever and beautiful, inspired by design and powered by cultural fluency that have real impact on people and culture. We do multiple off site employee immersions throughout the year, attend events and art shows together and constantly share inspiration/things we like with one another to cultivate creativity among our team.

 

What do you individually want to be known for within the company?

I’m very proud and I’m passionate about my work so it means a lot to me that we do everything we can to take the end result to another level. I’m a pretty light-hearted person and like to have fun with every project no matter its nature and find ways to give our brand experiences a character and a heartbeat.
Beyond that, building a business from scratch in my 20s, doing work and cultivating a team who are really truly my family, who inspire me and I’m more proud of everyday, empowering and helping develop the careers of talented young creators, and learning/teaching myself along the way to be a leader.

It’s incredibly important for me that the people who work for me enjoy their jobs and are proud, enthusiastic and passionate about the work we do together.

 

What are some things you’ve learned that you still apply day-to-day at work?

Taking a moment to pause and listen, challenge all ideas/clients/projects internally and push them to new limits, not do anything half-baked.
I also really believe in the power of a diverse and culturally connected team and creating an environment where all opinions/perspectives are encouraged. I’ve been in the US for almost 9 years now, but I’m originally from Sydney, Australia. I’m a foreigner here, but I use my outside perspective and experiences in different cultural settings as an asset in my creative process.
We strongly believe in the importance of diversity and building a team with a multitude of backgrounds, experiences, tastes, and approaches. We are an egalitarian organization where every voice is important and we appreciate that different team members have strengths that are more/less relevant from project to project so we try to matchmake our work with team members who have the most relevant life experience and areas of interest. This really helps when you’re working with as diverse a range of clients as Foot Locker, Hermes, Propel and LinkedIn all in one week. Creativity thrives with an abundance of different perspectives.

 

As a CCO, any personal challenges/accomplishments you would like us to highlight?

Learning management skills on the fly. I am personally growing everyday while also building a strong, powerful team and owning a business has been a HUGE learning curve for me: understanding how to manage people is very different to just being good at your profession. It has been a really exciting/intimidating/interesting process.
Additionally, learning to scale and the importance of trust and delegating and not trying do everything on my own - I didn’t come from a big agency background so I’ve really had to just learn by experience, it has been a real baptism of fire but I’ve loved every minute.

Do you have any side hobbies or are you involved in extracurricular activities?

Travel, film, art, design, yoga and I love cooking (when I have time) and having dinner parties. I try to maximize work trips and find time to experience the place I’m visiting, see new things or go to shows and make the most out of visiting different cities. I try not to let my busy work schedule take my personal life away but I am also a big believer that if you love the work you do that work/life balance becomes less of a struggle.

 

With the current #MeToo and #TimesUp landscape, what advice you would offer women who want a career in your industry?

I will say, it’s not uncommon that clients/people assume my (male) business partner is my boss or just express distinct surprise that I own my own business. This may be because I’m younger as well but I think being female has something to do with it. In a weird way though, I find that reaction empowering and quite satisfying. I take pride in challenging. I feel lucky to live in this time when there is so much attention and focus towards solving issues for professional women and have so much respect for the female leaders who paved the way, It makes me want to work harder to be an example for any young women who want to be leaders.
And the best producers I know in experiential are women! Our industry is dominated by strong females so it’s a good place to be.
I’ve been very lucky to have had very supportive mentors (both male and female) who want nothing but to see me succeed. I have also grown up with very culturally active and progressive women in my family who have never had me doubting myself.
My advice is to embrace being a Jane of All Trades! There is so much information available to us today and the speed at which tech and culture can shift means you need to have a finger on the pulse and be very good at a lot of things (or just open to figuring out how to get good at it quickly). We are moving towards the age of the generalist and I don’t think people should be afraid of this label as this work is truly a team effort. Of course, there is a place for specialists in this industry, but really, the people who can do a lot of everything and are open minded and fluid are those who are able to make the magic happen. Be brave, believe in yourself and push yourself to break boundaries.

Amber Ward
CCO Invisible North