Episode 13: The Potential for What? Podcast with Tiffany St James

Navigating Future Career Paths with Tiffany St James – The Potential for What? Podcast

Welcome to The Potential For What? Podcast, where we explore navigating career paths that don’t yet exist.

This week Tiffany St James, a digital strategist and co-founder of Curate42 is joined by Jo (MD & Founder at Let’s Talk Talent) to discuss navigating future careers and the importance of staying on top of industry trends.

You won’t regret joining us as Tiffany provides valuable insights into unlocking potential, the role of education, and identifying potential in oneself and others.

In today’s episode, we talk about:

  • 🔮 Focusing on the future and learning from the past
  • 🌎 Applying skills in real-world scenarios to reinforce learning.
  • 📚 The role of education in personal and professional development.
  • 👀 The importance of curiosity, openness, and relationship-building skills in fostering personal and professional growth.

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Transcript of Episode 13: The Potential for What? Podcast with Tiffany St James

Jo Taylor  00:04

Welcome to the Potential For What podcast. On this podcast we explore how a range of business leaders unlock the potential in people. We’ll hear how they’ve done it, find out what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why this is so important in getting and keeping great people. Most businesses focus on the here and now: that is, all about performance. But at Let’s Talk Talent we like to think differently, as we fundamentally believe everyone has potential. The question is for what? So let’s explore that together. I’m your host, Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent, a talent management and organisational development consultancy based in London, the UK. I have a request: if you value this show, if you enjoy these stories, or find this wisdom or inspiration useful, please subscribe to the Potential For What podcast to listen to future episodes.

Jo Taylor  00:56

Hi, everybody, and welcome to the Potential For What podcast. I’m Jo Taylor, MD, and I’m really excited to be joined today by Tiffany. She’s a digital strategist and cofounder of Curate42. How’re you doing Tiff?

Tiffany St James  01:10

It’s so good to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me on this morning, Jo.

Jo Taylor  01:14

Brilliant. So I’m really excited because you look at the future. You look at the future skills and potential careers that people can have through your company, Curate42. I wanted to start by asking you a question: how do you unlock your potential for careers that don’t even exist at the moment?

Tiffany St James  01:33

Yes, it’s such an interesting endeavour, isn’t it? I mean, the work that I do now didn’t exist 5/10 years ago. And all of the time we’re helping younger talent, or talent within organisations, understand new digital skills, new ways of working, new processes. But that’s changing so fast with the advent of Web3 technology, AI and now generative AI in terms of that skill set. So young people at the start of their careers very much often have to, as you said, navigate a career path that doesn’t yet exist. And, you know, how can you even start to think about that? And there’s a few things that I always share with people about to start on a career, because actually the job that they do now, you know, they might do something entirely different in five years time or something that’s not yet evolved. So how can you start to plan for that? And there’s a couple of pieces of advice I always share, which is read and listen, but curate your content really well. So essentially, be well versed in what’s happening in your industry, you know, read perhaps the blogs, follow key authors, pull that together in a way that makes it very easy for you to digest. Listen to brilliant podcasts, you know, listen to things that interest you about your industry, because there you’re going to have a look ahead, really, in terms of what’s coming, that you can be able to help yourself with. The other thing is about networking, and really kind of proactively, I guess, seeking new people and new rooms. So if you surround yourself with people with the same ideas, if you surround people with the same cohort as you, the same age group as you, the same demographics, and while that’s fun to shoot the breeze, I think it’s really kind of important in terms of career path navigation, to look at where different conversations are happening in different spaces. I always try to inform myself about opposing views to ones that I have, to try and understand those different points of views that make me a more rounded communicator, if you like, Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help from mentoring, even if that’s just “please, can we just have one coffee a year? I’d love your opinion on it”. I think young people are always surprised that when they reach out to older people in industry – have been around the block a little bit and have got some skills to be able to share – how willing and able people are to be able to help younger people, even if it’s on an informal basis. So really, really be curious, be curious about what’s going on in your industry. So there’s some just sort of top line things, if you’re looking at your career path that you can start to adopt and bring into your working practice.

Jo Taylor  04:08

What’s really interesting is when we’ve been talking to other people about potential, some of the things that you’re talking about, like curiosity, sort of learning agility, growth mindset, networking, apply now, don’t they? So in a way, are we setting people up for success by thinking about getting people to think about that future focus, rather than become obsessed with their performance and past performance and things that have gone previously, or the way that their parents did it or the way that their peers have done it? Is there a danger that by looking in the future, you forget the past and don’t focus on the present?

Tiffany St James  04:51

Well, it’s interesting and I think everyone approaches this differently, but essentially the past has made you who you are today, and there are some key lessons from the past. There’s things that I reflect on, you know, in my past that still help me today and the things that I’ve learnt in my past, that still help me today, strategically. When you’re looking at a new technology, actually, there’s some good doctrine in strategic approaches that stand up, whether it’s social media or Web3, or a new frontier: who are your audience, where are they, what platforms are they on? What do you want them to do as a result of your interaction with them? There’s some principles. So I wouldn’t say, you know, put all your past in the bin if you like. But actually, when you’re looking at developing, then there’s a balance isn’t there? By taking the good basis and strong foundations of what you learnt, and then looking forward to the future to look at how you might be able to learn, be curious and adopt new practices.

Jo Taylor  05:46

So what is the role of education play, then, in driving at – if you look at our STAR model, the sort of skills, training, attributes and relationships, and you look at the skills and the training – how does that play a part in someone’s personal and professional development?

Tiffany St James  06:02

It’s really interesting, because when you say educational training to people, you know, they immediately kind of assume a classroom or a Zoom or a face-to-face meeting, and actually, we know, in good learning and development that 10% of education is only kind of coursework and training, really, and you know, 70% of challenging experience is assignments. And when people talk about training, I think, they put training in a box, and like, okay, that’s formal training, and I’m in a classroom, and I’m learning in that regard, I think it’s really important that some skills are formally taught. I do also think that there is absolutely nothing like being put in a scenario and having to deliver against that. But with a map, a roadmap, what training can give you is the structure and how you apply that structure. But having that map of how to do things, I think, is absolutely critical. But I do think actually applying that – there’s no good for example, having training, and then not using that for 3/6 months, because you’ll forget it all. It’s no good doing training, and then coming up with a long list of things you need to look up and apply. That should be done within the context of the training. Training should be a little bit more experiential in solving your problems, while you are in perhaps a course, bringing your real world examples that are worked through in terms of that educational piece.

Jo Taylor  07:25

So how much does a person’s grit play a part in them managing their career or realising their potential?

Tiffany St James  07:36

Yeah, it’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because you could look at it well, actually, you need grit, don’t you? You need grit to go forward. I’ve got peers who are just extremely lucky, right, like naturally lucky: period. And there’s a few brilliant books out at the moment about how to encourage and have more luck in your life. So there’s a balance of different things that help you. I mean, I’m a natural extrovert, and I think that being an extrovert does give you an advantage because you’re happy to be the only person in any room, you’re happy to go on stage, you’re happy to meet extra people within that. And therefore, you need…not everyone is extroverted, of course, and you have to look at actually, how can, perhaps, people who are more introverted or perhaps shyer or earlier on their career, you know, but they might be extroverted as a person but more introverted, because they’ve got a learning span and a pathway to go on their career yet. So there’s a couple of things that play into that. Grit is one of them. Determination, you know, resilience, all of those things are absolutely kind of key power tools to build on in terms of your strengths. There’s also humility, openness, curiosity, warmth, friendliness, all of those things will help you be able to make relationships and really, you know, a career path it might be or this job and this position – it’s a people business. And it’s about relationships and understanding people and how they communicate, how they communicate differently, I think is still as much a core skill set as grit to be able to get on with it.

Jo Taylor  09:07

I think you’re totally right. It’s about putting the human first, isn’t it? The danger is that when you look at any succession planning or career approach, you’re put in a box, you’re given a label – “oh, I’m high potential”. Well, what happens if you’re put in the box that says low potential? What the hell does that mean, right? It’s not just one thing. It’s a multitude. And when you look at the human, it’s very much thinking about what makes…one CEO really successful in one organisation may not make them successful in another one. So how do you spot that potential in others?

Tiffany St James  09:46

It’s a really interesting question and I’ll just kind of allude to that before I answer that directly. I saw a brilliant talk, a TED talk, by an actress who had autism. And she said everyone talks about autism as a spectrum. And they think that you are either a little bit OCD, or Rain Man, just in terms of that profile, and she said, “I see it as a bloom of a colour chart, and in some instances, I’m like this. And in other instances, I’m like that.” And if you take that model that she beautifully described – and I’m paraphrasing very briefly here – in terms of people’s potential, being in this low potential bracket, for a CEO, for example, might be just someone’s circumstances need to change and they’re high potential in a different environment. And therefore there’s a different people environment, a different industry, a different commercial set-up, you know, a different relationship with a board or a senior team. And I just wanted to be mindful of that when we’re talking about spotting potential, because I don’t want anyone to feel you’ve been classified in this and you’re in that for life, You can change your future, and only you really can change your future in that regard. But in terms of spotting potential, and it’s really the potential to do what, because it’s such a wide thing. But I think one of the key pillars, and we’ve touched on it really, is curiosity. That, for me, is a real trigger. If I’m working with building a new team, and I build, you know, all kinds of new teams for the companies that I work with and clients that I work with. And essentially, if someone has taken the trouble to find out that little bit extra, you know, to have registered on your website, to download your tool, to understand a little bit more, and comes to the table with that, that immediately perks up my interest, because I’m like, oh, they’re really interested in what we’re doing. I haven’t asked them to go and do that. And they are for me, in terms of potential, people have different potential spans, they might be early developers, late developers, you know, people flourish, when they come out of maybe a corporate infrastructure and then work for themselves or different clients, and therefore, change their own potential in terms of what they are. But for me, that single pillar of curiosity gives you everything that you discuss; that growth mindset, and that opportunity to change shape, grow your own future.

Jo Taylor  12:10

I think that’s really right. And I can really resonate with that. Because I come from a family of scientists; both my parents were scientists, and professionals and two of my sisters have gone into – one is a lawyer, and one is a doctor. And I was always– I’m the eldest of three girls. And I was always the one that was more arty, so that went to drama school and went to the BBC, and everything. But I’m the one out of my three sisters who loves what they do. And they have gone into what is classified as “reaching your potential”, because they’ve gone into, you know, as society would say: “a professional role”, but absolutely hate it. So I think it’s very much about realising what makes, brings you joy.

Tiffany St James  12:54

Yes, absolutely.

Jo Taylor  12:55

And careers and potential is all about that. So how did you find your joy? Because you’ve done you know, I’ve known you for probably about 15 years, and you do all different types of things. How have you, how do you realise your potential? Or do you think about it in that way?

Tiffany St James  13:12

Oh, yes, I think about it all the time. I spent a bit of time, I think, looking at what is the point of me. And easily 15 years age or so I’ve always been kind of curious in what makes me tick. I have worked for myself and run a few different businesses since I was– I left university, did about a year within a corporate environment, and then realised that wasn’t for me, went freelancing, consultancy, built my own companies. And essentially, I have to look at what interests me. If I’m navigating my own career path, if I’m making a career pathway for myself, goodness, you’ve got to make it interesting. People are sometimes bored in jobs, right? If I’m bored in my job, it’s a really bad job because I’ve made it myself. But actually, I realised by doing a bit of work on myself, you know, and being coached that what is the point of me, and I’ve realised a truism, which is: the thing that really makes me tick is raising people’s horizons at scale. It’s never front-facing on anything that I do, but essentially, I like to learn some information that actually fewer people know, because it’s emerging. And therefore I find it really interesting to work out something new, to be able to share that with not just one person, but a lot of people to be able to do that. And I think therefore, to me, that’s the truth. And you can apply that in so many different ways. You know I was first in government in the Head of Social Media, the first to launch open data, worked with some of the TV channels and looking at second screen and listening, or social media amplification when that was new in conferences. And now I feel like we’re at a new frontier with Web3 technology and I’m so interested in understanding and learning and being able to teach people that ethically. So that’s what makes me tick and that’s my navigation if you like. Am I learning, growing, sharing? Am I doing that at scale to help impact? And having impact is something that really lights me up.

Jo Taylor  15:10

So one of the things that I’ve been listening to you that strikes me is that: is there a difference between entrepreneurial potential that you exude and that really brings you the joy and energises you, and how that potential feeds into a corporate environment? Because our listeners are going to be from corporates as well as startups.

Tiffany St James  15:30

So I call it intrapreneurialism, in corporates. And I– advocating is much of the mindset of an entrepreneur in a corporate environment, because it’s so needed, and it’s so necessary. So in my early career, I spent 12 years working in central government departments. I was always a consultant, but essentially, I considered myself an entrepreneur inside government, helping break change barriers, boundaries, you know, help with digitization of government services. And for me, it’s as important that that growth and entrepreneurial mindset wherever you are, whether you’re in a startup, or whether you’re in a corporate business, and arguably, you know, corporate structures needs that a little more to be able to shift, move and change, when they have bigger structures that don’t enable them to be as agile as smaller businesses and startups.

Jo Taylor  16:20

So if people are listening to this and thinking about: “where do I start?”, are there any hints and tips that you’d give our listeners to get them thinking about their joy, thinking about things that energise them and realising their potential?

Tiffany St James  16:35

Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I think there’s a couple of exercises you can do really easily, which is, sit down and list out everything that you do, right? You know, everything you do in your day job, if you’d like. And that might be emails, presentations, meetings, whatever it might be. And really separate that into four buckets. And one of those is things that you absolutely love, and you’re better at than anyone else. Things that you’re pretty good at – better than most people are. Things that actually, you’re not as good as other people, causes you a bit of pain to be able to do it; things you’re absolutely rubbish at. And that really helps you with where you are now in your career, looking at where your strengths lie. And I think if you’ve got any opportunity to identify your personal strengths, and your personal joy, to be able to understand yourself so that you’re able to communicate those strengths to other people, that you work with; your managers, your team, whether that’s a communication skill, or something you just really enjoy. I always take the trouble when I have a new member of my team to really try and find out what makes them tick. One of my team really loves going and seeing bands; how can we bring in the music elements of some of the work that she’s doing and allow that potential to be able to do it? If you perhaps like travelling, how can you build that into your client base, even internally, understanding how you are. If you’re really good at a particular subject, identify that and say: actually, I get really good joy doing this. The thing about identifying is, if it’s really easy for you, you might not value it. But that doesn’t mean to say other people don’t value it. So once you’ve done that, if you’re brave enough and considered enough, you can ask other people what you think your strengths are. And I find that fascinating. I’ve had that feedback myself, whereby the things that I think I’m really good at, other people have come back and said: no, it’s actually your energy and your network and your commitment. And the way you get things done. There are people who do strategy as well as you but actually this focus in how you deliver that, and the type of person you are, is why we want to work with you. And I think that feedback is absolutely critical.

Jo Taylor  18:42

I think it really is because I think feedback’s a gift. We say that a lot, and in one of our career sprints one of the exercises we talk about is strengths. And we challenge people in the room to go off and text, WhatsApp, call – and ask: what’s my top three strengths? And it’s a lightbulb moment. I’ve done it myself, so I can really identify with that. So thanks very much for sharing that. So you talked a little bit about some of the podcasts, some of the things that you’ve read. Are there two or three that you think if you were going to really focus our listeners on realising their potential or thinking about their career or even doing some inner thoughts about themselves, they could listen to or interact with?

Tiffany St James  19:28

Yeah, absolutely. There’s one that I started about three years ago, and I come back and I look at it every year. And it’s really helped me. And it’s called: “Screw Work, Let’s Play”. And it’s by a gentleman called John Williams, and it’s a book, but it’s also a workbook. So essentially, the premise is imagine all of your income was covered for the next year – what would you do if you had a year off? What are the things that you would like to do? And I do this every year and every year my things that I would do on my year off change. And he encourages you with ways to bleed it into the work that you do and deliver. And it’s totally shaped what I’ve done in delivering the last three years. One of them was: I want to experiment in art. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush until I was 13. And then managed to paint, sell art, get in an exhibition, the whole online exhibitions, because actually I identified an area of my life that I hadn’t brought into my life because I thought, well, that’s something I’ll do a bit later when I’ve got a bit more time. And for me, there’s no other resource really that I can give you that works as well for people to understand what really makes them tick. Because if you’re doing what you absolutely love to do for a living, then you know, work is an absolute joy.

Jo Taylor  20:36

I love that. Tiff, before I let you go, I know people will be really fascinated to learn more about you and be able to find you. So where would people – if they want to connect with you, find out more about Curate42 or the other work that you do – where are they going to find you?

Tiffany St James  20:53

Thank you, Jo, that’s really helpful. So the work we’re doing in Web3 and Web3 training, in deeper digital engagement, generative AI, holographic technology, and just helping projects is Curate42. And it’s curate42.com – and the 42 is numbers. I’m Tiffany St James on LinkedIn, and I’d love to hear from anyone, and have a network there. And I can post about newer technology and how people are using it within that regard. I’m Tiffany St James on Twitter, I’m always happy to have a chat there. I have a Social Impact Fund for anyone who’s looking at how technology can raise funds for charities, which is techartimpacts.com. They’re the spaces that I hang out on the most, professionally, and I’d love to be able to hear from any one of your listeners there.

Jo Taylor  21:42

Fantastic. Well, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. It’s been fascinating; we’ve dotted about, but the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is: life’s too short for beige. It’s one of our values. And that joy. I love that book, and I’m going to go and buy it: Screw Work, Let’s Play. So watch out, LTT team. I’m going to be talking about that in more detail. Thank you, Tiff. Have a great day, and see you soon.

Tiffany St James  22:06

Thanks so much for inviting me on Jo. Have a great day too. Thanks everyone

Jo Taylor  22:11

Thanks for listening to the Potential For What podcast. If you’re hearing this message, you’ve listened to our new episode all the way to the end, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Please share this episode with others who may be interested in this topic. As always, you can head over to letstalktalent.co.uk/podcasts to check out all the links and resources in the show notes and to sign up to our email list.