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The Drum's 50 under 30 2015: Meet the young female trailblazers taking over digital


By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

October 23, 2015 | 9 min read

Each day this week The Drum will be highlighting 10 of the digital pioneers who made it into this year's 50 under 30.

For the past three years The Drum's 50 under 30 has been celebrating the innovative young women making strides in digital.

This year, following a call for industry nominations the list was compiled by an esteemed panel of judges including bosses from the Post Office, AOL and Havas Media.

Each day this week we have been profiling the outstanding candidates in alphabetical order, scroll down to see who made the cut and find out what their colleagues had to say about them.

Dawn Quigg head of key accounts, Affiliate Window

What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?

Being given the chance to head up the department I was born into as a graduate six years ago.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

My dad. He built a successful business from nothing in his early 20s and its still going strong. He’s undoubtedly one of the most courageous and intelligent people I know.

If you weren’t in digital, what would you be doing

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My dream has always been to buy old properties, restore them, then sell them on (keeping one along the way for myself).

Sophie Rees global digital director, Mindshare

What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?

Moving from a junior search role to heading up search at Mindshare for a luxury brand, inside two years.

What does your average day look like?

Eat, sleep, search, repeat.

If you weren’t in digital, what would you be doing?

I’d love to be a painter. I paint requests for my friends and family in my spare time.

Louise Ridley assistant news editor, Huffington Post UK

What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?

Launching the Huffington Post UK’s ‘Beyond The Bombings’ series in July, to mark 10 years since the 7/7 London bombings. We explored issues around trauma, terrorism and resilience, and profiled inspiring people whose stories will stay with me, such as survivor Gill Hicks who lost her legs and now campaigns against extremism.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

Simon Hattenstone’s outstanding interviews, Caitlin Moran’s frankness, Miriam González Durántez’s passion and Jon Ronson’s curiosity. In adland, Cilla Snowball (AMV) and Sam Phillips (OMG). Both are fearsome businesswomen who are generous with their time and advice.

Johanna Schuemann digital creative, Ogilvy

What does your average day look like?

Alarm. Shower. Coffee. Cycle. Work. Coffee. Cycle. Shower. Bed.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Ideally, they would say I am a cross between Wonder Woman and Coco Chanel, but failing that, I think they would say hardworking, humorous, creative and someone who is very passionate about what she does.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

There is not one solitary source of inspiration. I like to be influenced by everything around me, from a funky pair of socks to a beautiful landscape to the people on the streets. I see inspiration in the everyday.

Seena Shah PR and communications manager, Absolute Digital Media

What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?

It has to be my year as president of my students’ union, it was the best year of my career for sure. I learned so much about myself and it’s when I found my passion for marketing and communications.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

If I had to pick one person it would be the Dalai Lama. He has an amazing and interesting perspective on life – so much positivity and gentleness. I try to take his philosophy and apply it both to my personal and professional life.

Sophie Shanahan-Kluth drupal developer, Microserve

Sophie Shanahan-Kluth caught the eye of Microserve when she wrote on her CV: “I’m Sophie, a 23-year-old, 6’ 2” web developer”.

Though being tall is not a pre-requisite for a web developer, Shanahan-Kluth’s boldness and confidence made her stand out and during the nominations process, her reputation and expertise, as well as her talent as a web developer, recognised by colleagues and judges.

The UK’s first female Drupal ‘Grand Master’, an elite group of fewer than 50 developers worldwide, Shanahan-Kluth is one of only two female Grand Master’s worldwide.

A self-confessed “secret artist” with a love for the work of illustrators René Gruau, Lois van Baarle, Pascal Campion and Alice X Zhang, as well as comic artists Yuko Ota and Gemma Correll, Shanahan-Kluth says had she not made it in digital she would be trying to make it as an artist – “although not enjoying it as much”.

Shanahan-Kluth says her colleagues at Microserve would likely describe her as “cat-mad” thanks to a new cat wallpaper on her computer each month, while her average day sees her working directly with clients to maintain legacy systems tracking down elusive bugs, solving technical problems and interpreting what clients want.

Noelle Smith head of user experience, Condé Nast Commerce,

What does your average day look like?

I have a mix of strategic, innovation and tactical work. So lots of talking, questioning, problem-solving with paper, post-its, pens, sketching and storyboarding.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

Stephen J Dubner and Steven D Levitt of Freakonomics fame – for their approach to research on worldwide human behaviours and challenging the way we understand them.

If you weren’t in digital, what would you be doing?

A location scout – I’d love to roam the world and find the best environments for film, TV, installations, art and even video games – any kind of storytelling experience.

Jess Volpe social media strategist, Captivation Media

How would your colleagues describe you?

Passionate, incredibly geeky, very professional, fun to be around and both analytical and creative.

Who inspires you most, either professionally or personally?

Dame Wendy Hall has always been a real inspiration to me for dismissing the gender divide in Stem subjects and just getting on with the job. We’re lucky to have someone like that in our industry.

If you weren’t in digital, what would you be doing?

Trying to be a rockstar – which would be tough, as I’m not a great singer...

Shanshan Xu co-founder & chief financial officer, The Cook-In Company

What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?

When the Cook-In-Company was the only startup to be selected from the UK for the Silicon Valley-based Google for Entrepreneurs backed Blackbox Connect accelerator programme.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Quiet, driven and very focused. Demanding but very fair and patient.

If you weren’t in digital, what would you be doing?

Even if I wasn’t in the digital space I would still be investing and supporting startups. I love to see brilliant ideas come to life and add real value to people’s lives.

Jenny Zhao client director, Manning Gottlieb OMD

Described as a “rarity”, Zhao joined Manning Gottlieb OMD three years ago with glowing references from colleagues in Auckland.

During the nominations process, Zhao’s passion was recognised by colleagues and judges, who called her “curious, tech savvy, rigorous, passionate and, above all, entrepreneurial”. Zhao agrees they probably see her as a “frightfully entrepreneurial” despite her “terrible jokes”.

Co-founder of PSR, a digital platform that engages millennials on global health and poverty issues, Zhao describes this as her career highlight to date having learned a lot from the startup’s steep learning curve.

Her day job includes consulting with high-growth startups on digital and offline media, with a flurry of activity late afternoon when the West Coast wakes up, and evenings reserved for PSR.

Inspired by her grandfather, who she says is “the nicest, most generous soul I have ever known,” Zhao thinks she would have made a good behavioural analyst had she not made it in digital, as she enjoys understanding how people make decisions and why. Failing that, she would have liked a career as a venture philanthropist, investing money into companies that would return something back to the world.


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