How I Got Here - Kath Norris

Kath Norris, head of talent at Circle Agency, launched the company's in-house staffing division seven years ago. She talked to Event about going from being a stay-at-home mum to full-time event professional, the variety of her job role and cutting out the drama at work.

Circle Agency head of talent, Kath Norris
Circle Agency head of talent, Kath Norris

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

My official title is head of talent and I look after every single brand ambassador for every single one of Circle Agency’s experiential campaigns. From initial recruitment, to pairing staff to the right brand, to campaign training, it’s all me, and I love every single second of it. I’ve been here for seven years and what I’ve learned is that my job is fundamentally about one thing: communication.

We have a huge database of staff, and I am proud to say that I know – and talk to – every single one of them. It’s about so much more than simply pulling names off a database. It’s about understanding every member of staff who works in the field – what do they like, what do they dislike, what are their passions, their interests. When you know this you can make sure that you match the right people to the right campaign, every time. 

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

My first job was in a secondary school in an office doing general administrative duties. The most important thing I learned was to treat everyone as you expect to be treated. Whether it’s the janitor, the dinner lady, the boss. It’s not hard to be nice.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

After that I worked in a manufacturing plant doing literally a little bit of everything. From payroll, checking artwork, time in motion studies and organising small local events in Wales, it really was a mixed bag. Then I had kids and decided to take time out. I was a stay-at-home mum for 11 years and to be honest was quite happy. But then Circle Agency came along and changed all that.

Circle Agency’s founder Claire Stokes and I were neighbours and she needed some help with the launch of the EA Sports Tiger Woods game in Leicester Square. I volunteered to help out a bit with the admin side of things and look after the staff, and the rest, as they say, is history. Next thing I know Claire’s asked me to stay full time and start the agency’s staffing division. She said it was something to do with me being ‘bubbly, Welsh Kath’.

I was hugely flattered that she’d seen something in me, but for someone who had been out of the work environment for so long it was incredibly daunting at first. But I just had this gut instinct that it was the right move. I soon realised that not only could I do it, but that I was damn good at it.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

Not at all. I don’t have a background in events so to end up where I am today – heading up the talent division and being on Circle’s senior management team – is a huge achievement. Friends and family ask about my job and go ‘wow, that’s amazing’. And it is – live events, brand strategy, leading clients, an awesome young, forward-thinking company and every single day is different. What more do you want?

The projects are so varied too – I loved staffing the Playstation Schools Cup – the look on the kids’ faces was amazing. Another interesting and challenging job was the recent recruitment and training of 25 fully-certified moped riders for the launch of Relish broadband service.

Would you do anything differently?

I wouldn’t do anything differently as I am really happy with where I am today. I may not have known it but this is literally my dream job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I do wish I’d believed in myself more at the beginning though.

Who has inspired you along the way?

Claire has inspired me massively as she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Neil Hooper, our creative director, is also inspiring. He always pushes me to do things and look at things in a different, more creative way.

I don’t have an events background so there is no-one else really that inspired me from the industry itself. In general though I think Mary Portas is a great inspiratio. She's strong, forthright and never takes no for an answer. Ultimately though, I think you have to inspire yourself.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

I got asked if I was nosey once in an interview (I am!) but I decided that would be the wrong answer so said ‘no’. It turns out they were looking for nosey people all along. It was a job in insurance so maybe that’s why.

Is there a piece of career advice you've ever been told that has stuck with you?

Treat everybody the same no matter who they are, and no matter how bad your mood is never bring it to the office with you. People will always be sympathetic to the big stuff but there’s no room for needless drama.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Have more belief in yourself and what you can achieve. People don’t tell you you’re great unless you actually are. No-one praises for the sake of it so believe in what they say and use it to push yourself forward.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

Is it a glass day, a two-glass day or a bottle day? I do love a drink or two, especially if we’re celebrating a new client win or successful campaign with the Circle team. I do believe you have to work hard and play hard. At home, I like to relax by putting Radio 2 on and cooking with my daughter. It’s one of the best hours of the day. 

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaignEmail news editor Samantha Edwards to feature in a future How I Got Here.

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