Emily Dent, Partner

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Emily is on a mission to build &us into a rebel alliance that can really make an impact in the world. What set Emily on this course? In this latest edition of our interview series, we find out about Emily's work background, why she chose to join &us and predictions of what clients will want the most in the next 12-24 months.

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What’s your work background?

The red thread that strings my career together is opportunities to change the way the world works for the better. I guess I’ve always been attracted to radical change and the edges, so have found myself in some really daring organisations. 

I started my career in news journalism, and I wanted to tell stories about things that really matter in society. I was lucky enough to work in the cowboy years of digital business, and I saw the disruption and opportunity that comes from forging new ways of doing things. 

I did a brief stint in a social enterprise who was reinventing the world of work. At the time we were told that co-working was a ridiculous proposition that would never catch on. But we were radical enough to catch the eye of politicians and change makers across the world who wanted to see what the future might look like. I learned a lot about systems change, and trying to run a different kind of organisation. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always fascinating. 

From there I jumped into innovation consultancy at the wonderful ?What if! because I wanted the technical tools to create systemic change to back up my hard won instincts. 

After leaving to have a baby, I bumped into Rob and Paul, and the rest is history. 

Why did you choose to come and work at &us?

Primarily Rob and Paul. I loved their combination of humility, laid back-ness and ambition. And that they gave me the opportunity to play at building something new, interesting and unique. And to keep doing that.
&us is a playground for people who want to try stuff for themselves. I love that.

What does your morning routine look like?

Ha. I get woken up by 2 kids who normally sing at the top of their voices until I get out of bed. Then it’s all about getting them fed, watered, dressed and where they need to be. I think it’s a fairly typical parent’s experience of a morning.

What does an average working day have in store for you?

I don’t have an average day. Sometimes it’s about listening hard to clients, and finding ways to create progress with them. Sometimes it’s about coaching an &us team. Sometimes it’s about having ideas for how to progress the &us organisation – building a business that is a playground for everyone. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

My best days are when I’m playing with an &us team and we’re breaking ground on sticky opportunities. I get excited when I can see people gain creative confidence and belief in what’s possible. And I love it when I can see a team make something that pushes boundaries. I really believe that we can make a massive impact on people’s lives when we get them involved in creating something they thought would be impossible, and teach them how to do it themselves.

How has your work day changed in the last year: What new things will you be keeping? And what can’t you wait to go back to?

I am bored of pandemic working. There’s a definite place for digital-enabled working, but nothing beats being in a room with people thrashing it out. I want more of that this year. 

Predictions for the next year? What will clients want most of in the next 12-24 months?

I think the dust is still settling on the pandemic, and we haven’t felt the full impact of the effect it will have on people’s lives – socially, economically, and attitudinally. The past 10 years, people have talked about culture and purpose being the driving force, but I think more clients are seeing that they will have to be more radical about organisational structures to enable the cultures they know they need. It’s a consulting cliche, but I think it’s dawning on leaders that change really will be the norm, their orgs are not set up to deal with it, and traditional approaches won’t work. 

What is the most random thing on your desk?

Desk? What desk? 

Who was your last email from?

https://www.healrewilding.org.uk/heal3x3. It’s a rewilding project where you can sponsor a 3x3m plot of land. I bought that for everyone’s Christmas presents last year. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Never pass up a chance to swim. 

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

Kate Adie. 

How do you relax outside of work?

If I could, I would be immersed in a book next to a body of water.

What would be your super power if you had one?

I’d like to be an octopus – brilliant problem solving, endlessly ambidextrous, shape and colour shifting, untapped curiosity and basically an alien superpower.