Back to Illuminate Back
The community for today’s
early talent leaders
Back to Illuminate
5 minutes

Champions of Change: An interview with Pauline Brandt

23 November, 2021

Pauline was part of the first ever diversity and inclusion recruitment scheme at the BBC, created by Dame Jocelyn Barrow. Now working as a media relations executive at the University of Oxford, Pauline shared her journey with us.

You’re here today because we recognise you as a champion of change, actively working towards creating a better tomorrow for the next generation. How did you first get started within this career path?

As a daughter of the Windrush generation, I grew up surrounded by support and aspiration - I was always looking towards a better future. It wasn’t straightforward.

I kept knocking on doors, I kept trying and failing. I knew I wanted to work at the BBC – in fact, I became such a frequent visitor to the broadcasting house waiting room, I’d given the foyer aquarium’s fish names.

Eventually I was invited to the Asian and Afro Caribbean reporters scheme, this was set up by an exemplar of a woman – race relations pioneer, Dame Jocelyn Barrow, the first black woman to become a governor of the BBC.

Now in a way this was a baptism of fire, I was going into regions where in some cases they had never seen black people before. It wasn’t easy but the impact we were having was clear. We’d have letters coming in from people excited that reporters were finally starting to reflect what their communities really look like.

What is the best thing about your job day to day?

The mantra of the University of Oxford’s Said Business School is Business with purpose – that is, we are creating leaders ready to address the big challenges in the world today.

I’m excited that my curiosity peaks every day, I’m learning about everything from private equity to mergers to acquisition to women in leadership. And it’s in an atmosphere of some razor-sharp minds.

I love the opportunity that I get to tell their stories to the media and a wider audience.

What is one thing you would love to see change in the early talent recruitment space?

We must focus on a sense of belonging: organisations need to make an effort to make people feel welcome. Inclusiveshould be more than words.

Tiger de Souza, the people engagement director at National Trust says that if you have inclusion then diversity will naturally follow. True inclusivity at work is driven by employers that not only allow but encourage you to be your authentic self.

For me, facilitating this change is all about looking in places that you don’t normally look for talent. There are so many bright ambitious young people, all passionate to find their calling. They are prepared to learn and work hard – we just have to give them that opportunity.

What advice would you give professionals looking to become champions of change?

There is an onus on everyone to think about how and what they are doing daily.

We should all feel empowered to speak up if we see or notice something that excludes. We all need to have that difficult conversation and encourage a new way of doing things.

The people who had the most impact in my career have always given me an avenue in – they have said come in and shadow me for the day, let me mentor you.

To go beyond mentoring, we have the concept of sponsoring: You champion that person in rooms where they are not yet visible. That is what makes the difference, those introductions in rooms where you are not present. Sometimes becoming visible is the real change.