Read how Annabel secured her role, and is currently raising awareness to change how those with challenges can be supported in work…
Annabel Coombs secured an early careers role as a Senior Creation Executive at Dentsu Creative!
‘I want to take the opportunity to make people feel seen, and to educate
people that there are different ways of working’
Where it all began…
Annabel grew up in Harrow, Northwest London with her parents, sharing a proud cultural Jamaican heritage on her dad’s side. Her experiences during both primary and secondary school were very difficult as she unknowingly was challenged by both dyslexia and ASD, which went undiagnosed until 15 years old. Annabel explained her struggles with being neurodivergent, such as making friends, reading social cues and timekeeping, which she has worked hard to improve on. Her diagnosis of ASD refers to Autistic Spectrum Disorder which most boys get diagnosed for at aged three or four!
‘I am known for my presentation skills and comedic timing … I didn’t realise I was funny.’
As her condition was not diagnosed during school, she said “I nearly got kicked out of high school due to behavioural issues,” at which point her parents made a decision that secured her future success, by moving her to a Performing Arts school over three years. It was here that she gained her confidence, made new friends and today she is known by her colleagues for her funny presenting skills and outgoing attitude.
‘I discovered my passion for media through Global Academy completing a 2-year extended Diploma Level 3.’
After College, Annabel studied a Diploma in media which included work experience at Dentsu with one of their specialist content agencies called The Story Lab. During her first year she said, “I saw The Story Lab present some work back to us and I decided, that’s where I want to work and what I want to do.” Her second year included a one-week trip to Los Angeles visiting Universal Studies, I Heart Radio Studios and the Warner Bros Studios, and although Covid hit one week later she said it was “one of the best experiences of my life and it showed me how much I love this world and this industry, and I couldn’t imagine not doing anything else.”
‘I wanted to get an Apprenticeship after College, so I emailed everyone I knew.’
During Covid it was difficult to secure an Apprenticeship as nobody was hiring so Annabel signed up to attend University in September 2020 to study Film, however, she felt “desperate to get into the world of working” and left after 3 months. She then reached out to one of her contacts, Scott Sallée who is the Social Impact Manager at dentsu, after struggling to secure an Apprenticeship, to ask if there were any jobs. As it turned out there was and she got an interview for The Story Lab as a Creation Executive, which couldn’t have been more ideal - a week later she was offered the job and started on 1 April 2021! The early careers training provided by dentsu, although not under an ‘Apprenticeship’ allowed her career progression and she strongly affirms that “Apprenticeships are great for when you want to get into an industry as you get to learn all aspects of the role and don’t have to specialise.”
‘I want to take the opportunity to make people feel more seen, as I found it really hard, and to educate people that there are different ways of working.’
Annabel has been very proactive and passionate about helping Gen Z through TikTok with a team called ‘The People’ where she worked with the new Culture & Engagement Advisor, Tyler Christian. Initially they wanted to convey to Gen Z ‘what a typical day is like as it is hard to explain’ so they worked with other teams to create funny videos aiming to create an entire world of Gen Zs who can be shown the values and appreciation of working at Dentsu.
‘All diversities are covered but mentally the way you work is not addressed.’
Annabel’s next project will be addressing diversity and talking about dyslexia and ASD, with the aim of educating how DEI teams can work around issues such as intense procrastination, time blindness, social work interactions and generally understanding various spectrums.
‘My most memorable moment was interviewing the past Global CEO, Wendy Clark.’
Working with Scott Sallée on a YouTube series to educate young people on climate change, entitled ‘The Code Presents,’ with our UK Media CEO, Hamish Nicklin, Annabel was subsequently invited to interview Wendy Clark, confirming “I said sure, but was figuring out why they asked me, and I didn’t think it would actually happen, I think I had a bit of imposter syndrome.”
The interview conveyed the message that dentsu offer career progression opportunities and was streamed via Teams ‘live’ with 3,000 attendees. Confirming it felt more like a conversation, the advice has stuck with Annabel, with her realising you should prioritise where you want to go and what you want, knowing that you can have a great career but to pick your moments and have that balance.
Can you describe the culture at Dentsu?
‘It is super fun, and they are open to trying new things, such as I shadowed someone in another department for the day to experience their “Day in the Life.” The culture is also about receiving honest feedback and being new this has helped me progress - it also helps to create your work personality which isn’t not being yourself, but a personality you have with those you work with.’
What socials or trips have you had with your team?
‘We’ve had socials in immersive bingo, ice-skating, mini-golf and many more - I also went to Ireland on a course through Meta where I had a great time through exploring their offices and looking at their new technology and learning what Meta is doing for the media industry - we also visited the Guinness factory! I have a client trip coming up this summer in Ibiza - there will be a mix of work and social time as one of our clients is sponsoring a beach party at a famous location called “O Beach Ibiza” so we will be helping them with the event and having fun!’
Finally, with internal mobility and career progression in mind where do you see yourself heading towards in the future?
‘I might look at working with the new business team and have more opportunities to travel and work - as for my career I would quite like to be a CEO!’