Helen North Achieve Programme – 2019 Case Studies

To celebrate the launch of Animated Women UK’s 2020 Helen North Achieve Programme we wanted to look back at some of the achievements of last year’s participants. 

The Achieve Programme is an intensive introduction to strategic career management for women in VFX and animation supported by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills fund with contributions from UK animation productions.

The programme is run by acknowledged career development experts and takes the shape of five, three-hour workshops that are a mixture of group discussions, individual presentations and self-reflection, facilitated by leadership coaches Jan Armstrong and Marianne O’Connor and ScreenSkills caught up with three of last year’s attendees to find out what’s changed for them since attending the course.

Anita Cocoran

Anita Corcoran – CG Animator

“The programme came along at a crucial moment in my career. I was just returning to work after being on maternity leave. I was quite worried about my career prospects as I knew of very few animators who returned to the industry after having children. The programme gave me confidence and changed the way I think about myself. It also opened my eyes to how important networking events are, not just for potential employment, but for ideas sharing and career strategising.”

Anita enjoyed the challenge of talking about her work in a public way, which she had never done before. “The course facilitators (Marianne and Jan) were so supportive. They are such positive role models as well as great coaches. There was no question deemed silly or unimportant. They listened to everyone with absolute respect.”

“We looked at our own career histories and experiences and were given tools and resources to help find strategies to tackle workplace scenarios, like salary negotiations, conflict resolution, and presenting our work and ideas to a group,” she explains.

During the programme, the more Anita reflected on who she was professionally and what she had achieved, the more excited she became about the possibilities of developing new project ideas and challenges.

She is now busy as a freelance animator in London, working for many different companies on commercials, TV series and films, as well as looking after her young son.

Read the full case study here.

Hanna Chuieva

Hanna Chuieva – Animator

Hannah studied at the Melnitsa animation studio in St. Petersburg, Russia and worked for several animation studios in Moscow before moving to London to work for Blue Zoo Animation. During her time at Blue Zoo she received an email that proved to be a huge game-changer. “It was offering the opportunity for women to take part in the Helen North Achieve Programme,” says Hanna. “I thought it would be a great chance to meet new people from the industry and learn from their experience.”

“The programme was based on five workshops, covering different topics, such as career potential, negotiation, work-life balance, and developing your personal brand,” explains Hanna. “We had homework, some exercises during the workshops, theory, and, of course, a lot of opportunities to share and learn from each other’s experiences.”

She found the workshops about negotiation and personal brand particularly helpful, giving her more confidence at interviews. But it was the chance to share stories and gain advice from others that proved the most beneficial.

Hanna even created a WhatsApp group with other participants, so they could continue sharing their thoughts and support one another after the course. “Our industry lacks the women in leadership roles and this programme has been created to change that and to help everyone to achieve their personal goals,” she says.

When her contract with Blue Zoo ended last year and she was searching for a new job, she received support from the women on the programme who passed her contact details to HR people and gave her advice.

She now works for DNEG as an animator and is currently working on their first animated film. “I’m enjoying the job and focused on creating meaningful stories through the language of animation,” she concludes.

Read the full case study here.

Divya Sachdeva

Divya Sachdeva – Writer’s Assistant

Divya first gained valuable experience working as a presentation scheduler and programme co-ordinator for Disney Channel and Disney Junior, before taking over as a programme planner for Disney XD Channel. “I worked across Disney Channels in the UK and across Africa and the Middle East, strategically planning new content across the Disney Channels portfolio and working closely with marketing, promo teams and media planning,” she explains.  

But she was always curious to learn more about storytelling and writing, and so took a plunge into the world of animation five years ago, becoming a coordinator of animation and digital at the company. 

It was a full-on learning experience and she was delighted to discover a support network in the shape of Animated Women UK and its Helen North Achieve programme.

“Each week had a core theme, such as developing strategies on negotiation, presenting ourselves and setting long-term goals. We also assessed ourselves on the Myers-Briggs spectrum,” says Divya. “We conducted group role-plays, set targets, were set homework assignments, read interesting articles from business people and watched YouTube videos on topics like presenting with presence.”

During the course, participants were strongly supported by the coordinators, Jan and Marianne. Divya felt she particularly benefited from pitching in front of the group. “It was tough, but encouraged me to reassess that part of myself,” she confides. “I also enjoyed the negotiating session and putting those skills into a practice session.”

“I feel much more confident and reassured of myself in the workplace. Where previously I would beat myself up for making a mistake, now I learn from it more quickly and move on,” she explains. “Most recently I have used the skills I learned on the programme to negotiate my pay. I no longer feel as shy to have that conversation and understand that timing is critical. I am still evolving and nurturing those skills, but the course has given me a stronger sense of direction and purpose.”

Read the full case study here.

Applications for the Animated Women UK Helen North Achieve Programme 2020 are now open. Backed by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund with contributions from UK animation productions and with additional support from Escape Studios, the programme addresses real challenges and barriers in order to help women fulfil their potential.

Find out more and apply here

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