Go-getter. Doer. Smiler. Connector & Unshakeable Optimist.
Malin Persson is on a mission to inspire, promote and develop the Creative and Design industry globally. As Global Development Manager at Glug, she has already been named BIMA’s “Rising Star” 2017 and Campaign Digital Mavericks 2017.
Malin started her career as a designer, studying at specialist design and digital University, Ravensbourne, before realising that she didn’t “just want to be designing alone everyday”. Community and engagement with others was fundamental to her career and happiness. She founded “Typecally” as a side-project to engage with other designers and creatives which has since grown into a world-wide community.
From there, she developed her skills in Event Management, Marketing and PR to be able to promote and grow the design community across the world. We caught up with her to discuss this career shift, daily life at one of the most vibrant communities in London and her future plans for Global Design Domination.
What does an average day look like at Glug?
At Glug I’ve got the absolute pleasure to hold the Global Development Manager title. It might sound a bit fancy, but it means that I cover anything and everything that has to do with our global community and franchise. As we only just hired our 2nd full time employee in January (huge milestone, woo!) the split between our two roles is essentially B2B and B2C. I’m responsible for everything community, events, franchise and communication, whilst the other role is more project, admin and partnerships focused. For me there’s no such thing as ‘an average day in the office’ but usual building blocks for a week include a lot of content curation and creation, global host support and training, events management (we’ve got at least 1 event per month so there’s always something in the pipeline), and then some fun meetings with speakers, community partners and potential sponsors too.
You have a great portfolio of events and campaigns during your time at Glug, are there any in particular that you worked on that have really been monumental for you?
I love seeing all of our events come to life but two that really have stood out for me would be the one we hosted in House of Vans in 2015 purely because the venue is so impressive. The second one would be the event we hosted in January about all things Mental Health in the Creative Industry as we had the pleasure not only to host the super entrepreneur and a new business idol of mine – Michael Acton Smith – but also one of my favourite speakers of all times – Michelle Morgan from Livity.
What is the best part of your job at Glug?
The events! Although our program is the most time consuming part of my role it’s the one time during the month I can genuinely connect with our Gluggers. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, but when I get to see our Gluggers grab the opportunities to connect with our speakers, expand their networks, reach out and make new friends I genuinely feel so grateful for having the opportunity to facilitate for that.
Another fantastic, and truly humbling, aspect of my job is that I’ve all of a sudden got access to an incredible network of brilliant creatives and business leaders. My network is a network I’m never shy of sharing though – there’s no point for me to sit on all of these contacts without being able to connect the so just drop me a line if there’s anything I can help you out with!
Tell us a little bit about your passion for about supporting and mentoring women in business.
For me this is all about the importance of creating opportunities for younger women to step in and step up in the industry with unshakable confidence and unapologetic career ambitions.
“I’ve arrived at a point where I wake up every morning feeling it’s okay to be super ambitious and outspoken about it, and I really want others to arrive at this point as it’s so liberating.”
There are also so many loopholes to avoid, shortcuts to take, and little bits to fine-tune in order to advance in one’s creative careers and usually these little nuggets of wisdom are the stories that can left untold unless you’ve got the courage to straight-up ask them. Whatever I can do to help facilitate for these kinds of career accelerating conversations is of importance for me.
I believe this all really stems from the fact I’ve had the absolute pleasure to learn from some amazing mentors along my way, and that’s naturally given me an attitude of gratitude and a genuine will to pay it forward and unconditionally drop the ladder too.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in design?
For me it was a long and slow progression from always having found colors, shapes, typography, design and layout interesting through to ‘actually realising’ that there’s a profession called ‘Designer’.
It wasn’t until I took a course in ‘Visual Marketing’ in High School that I really started to explore this and read up on communication and design. Having no experience, or portfolio for that matter, I was quite unsure of how to translate this interest to a career, so I actually graduated High School and went on to study ‘Global Development Studies’ at Gothenburg. Which in fairness was super interesting, but not something I was truly passionate about.
The universe conspired in my favor after I decided to drop the course and 10 months later I found myself packing my life into 2 bags, flying across the globe and enrolling in a course on ‘Communication Design’ at Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney.
Once there I felt like I had found this magical door to Narnia (erhm, the Design Industry) and after 8 months I was completely convinced that I wanted to pursue a career in design. Having followed my gut once before I decided to let it lead once again so when I started to feel quite homesick I packed my bags and relocated to London to continue my studies at Ravensbourne.
How does a young-budding designer get started in the industry?
My best advice would be to go and find people who do what you want to do and talk to them – digitally or physically. They’ll have a wealth of insights and lessons that you can pick and mix into your own career path.
There are so many different specialisms in design though, so I would say to start explore the one you feel most drawn to (e.g. Graphic Design vs Motion Graphics, or whatever it might be) but then also be on a secret mission to never settle and always strive to learn and grow from there.
“The beautiful thing about the creative industry is that you can always expand your skill set and explore other areas… and it’ll always work to your favour and add to your value!”
There will be an incredible number of new specialisms popping up in the next few years as a response to the exponential tech boom we’re currently going through. Advice given by one of my mentors that I’d like to pass on in relation to this is to ‘you’ll only future proof yourself by constantly keeping on top of emerging tech and industry advancements’. So, as much as you should look at the existing market and the different specialisms that are currently out there, keep an eye on the future of the industry too.
Is University essential for a career in design or are their other entry points into the industry?
Well, that’s a tricky question isn’t it! Half of me wants to say ‘absolutely not!’ but half of me also want to stress the invaluable lessons and insights we all learnt during our time at University.
For me university is a few years of skills-based industry prep, but I also see it as a huge personal development journey and missing that part could potentially be quite tough when you enter the industry. But, if you know what you’re trying to achieve and have developed the skills needed I wouldn’t say that a University degree is essential at all. Believing in yourself and your ability is half the job.
How did the design industry vary from what you were expecting?
Well, I think I was most surprised by the fact that there are so many amazing, warm, inspiring, generous and positive people in all corners of the industry. I expected it to be way more competitive than collaborative so I was very glad to find the opposite true.
How was life immediately after University?
Scary, haha! I genuinely graduated feeling so confused and scared. I graduated with a design degree but had this nagging feeling of ‘I actually don’t wanna design for the rest of my life, a feeling that‘s obviously not ideal when you’re going to interviews trying to persuade potential bosses that you ‘definitely love design and would do anything to get this job’.
I luckily found a new direction after an impromptu meeting with the then-MD of Grey NYC and he said to me ‘Malin, you don’t come across as a designer to me. I think you would enjoy trying something client-side or business related as you can always make the transition back to design – whilst the other way around is a bit trickier’.
This really resonated with me and instead of going to more ‘Junior Graphic Design’ interviews I immediately redesigned my CV, reorganised my portfolio and started applying for Project Manager, Junior Strategists, Community Manager roles in brands and agencies.
After my first couple of interviews I started finding my feet and getting the hang of what they were looking for… and… One day I stepped into the offices of Output Group (Co-owners of Glug) and I just knew I was ‘home’, and the rest is a happy history.
Has there ever been a point where you struggled to keep motivated in your career? What did you do to break through this?
My answer is so cheesy but I’ve never thought ‘I can’t be bothered to go to work’ and I’m beyond grateful for this, of course. However, if I ever arrive at a point where I feel this way, it will be the day I’ve got to move on as I’ll take it as a sign that I can’t learn more from the people around me, or that I’ve stalled in developing my creative problem-solving abilities. So far Glug keeps me on my toes, gives me opportunities to learn new skills, and I believe it all comes down to that one day I made a conscious decision to follow my gut instinct and not pursue design ‘just because’.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is struggling to stay ambitious and motivated in their career?
I think that we struggle to stay motivated in our careers (or in life!) when we’re aimlessly trying to ‘achieve and advance’ without a plan, or greater goal. If we just keep on hammering it at work without any larger goal or mission we’re quickly going to feel drained as all our energy and passion will get diluted and spread thin. I therefore believe that the first lesson to work on when you find yourself walking down the ‘ugh, I’m so unmotivated’ path is to figure out what actually motivates you and what you’re trying to achieve in life.
What is it that one thing that you’re working towards? What is that one thing that gets you pumped? How can you marry the two?
One of my early mentors taught me to see myself as ‘a business case’ and really figure this out before anything else. All businesses have a mission/vision statement – and so should all of us! Yes, it might take you plenty of time and hard work to figure this out, but it’s crucial to go through the exercise of really figuring out your own mission in life. As with a business’ mission/vision statement it can change over time, but it’s important to have one to start off with. You’ve surely heard the quote: ‘where focus goes energy flows’ and that really wraps it all up… find your focus!
Another tip is to surround yourself with people who are ruthlessly passionate about what they do as that’ll have an immense rub-off effect on yourself. Proximity is power so make sure to surround yourself with people who remind you of your future.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I’ve had to battle with a few unidentified personal biases during my first couple of years in the industry. I would tell myself:
- ‘I was too young to be able to even try to run a business’ (classic age bias),
- ‘too inexperienced to be quoting for such large sums in partnerships’ (stems from an experience vs knowledge bias),
- ‘I would look stupid if I asked certain questions’ (total perception bias), etc.
As soon as I identified them I could start rewiring my approach. One of my mentors dared me to ‘pick just one meeting, or just one situation’ to try my new mindset, and from there I started seeing a shift and have grown more confident ever since. I’m a firm believer in ‘grow what you go through’ so try and see all challenges as an opportunity to do just that.
If you could go back in time, and give yourself one piece of advice when you left school, what would you say?
“It’s okay to be super ambitious and career focused, don’t be ashamed of having big f-ing goals, girl!“
Oh, and try not to get caught in the ‘what other people think about you’ spiral, they’re just as busy thinking the same about themselves so just keep on doing ‘you’ and it’ll all work out!
Also… a daily meditation practice will save your ass so don’t ridicule it when introduced to it the first time around.
If you could recommend one book or podcast that has helped you get where you are today, what would it be?
Podcast: Lewis Howes podcast “The School of Greatness”
… I can go on and on, but I’ll stop here!
If you could have a coffee with any woman in the world, who would you choose?
Without a doubt My first response would be Oprah Winfrey, what she’s done in her lifetime and the platform she’s created for other females is just incredible. Then I’d also love to meet with Isabella Lowengrip (a super-entrepreneur from Sweden) as I believe what she’s created for herself and the message she’s inspiring other female entrepreneurs with is just… wow… and exactly what I’m aiming to do as well! 😉