Communication, innovation and transformation

From strategic advice to communications and more, we caught up with Feyi Akindonyeni, Partner and Office Head at Newgate Communications, and one of Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018. With more than 20 years of extensive local and global experience, Feyi revealed that communication is a powerful platform for this century.
How does Newgate embrace LGBTI inclusion?

It’s kind of interesting in that it’s not a conscious thing and we have a level playing field across everything we do. We have a very open environment and that is part of our overall approach to a work-life and well-balanced culture and routine.

We have a general respect for all and don’t tolerate bad behaviour. Our belief is that the best teams are made up of the best people. And the best people are supported in whatever way they choose to be supported. We have between 80 – 90 employees across our five offices in Australia, with the full spectrum of colleagues from non-binary to queer and I love it!

What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?

Resist the urge to plan. All your best laid plans can be totally foiled by things outside your control! Through- out my career I’ve always asked myself “will this opportunity ever come again?” and if the answer is “no” or “probably not” then I always said yes. And as a result, they are some of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

We’re seeing today that young people might have more opportunities in Australia than ever before but they are also more competitive and more constrained by the view that if they don’t do this thing they’re expected to do, they will somehow miss out or fail. I feel for them in that they need to recognise that risk has a reward and you can actually plan for risk. We need to encourage people to not give up when things get hard and to not confuse complexity for hardness!

What has been the biggest turning point in your career?

I think figuring out the kind of people you want to work with. Most of us will spend a lot of time at work and if you want to succeed, you spend a lot of time working. I figured out 10 years ago the kind of people I want to spend that time with and usually if you find the right kind of people than you are doing the right kind of work. And that was a big discovery – so it was a turning point. With regard to the team I am with now, I have worked with most of the senior team for 12 years. A lot of it is luck and the harder you work, the more luck you’ll have.

Is there any one thing you would change in the business environment of today?

I think there is a lot of great progress in diversity generally. The LGBTI community probably has a lot more opportunity and a lot fewer obstacles. But I think the danger is backlash. The Yes campaign was great. We need to ensure we continue holding the community together. That presumption of an easy path could be our biggest challenge.

What might people might not know about you?

Sometimes you don’t know what people don’t know. I’m a fairly open book I think. Most of my friends know me too well – I would like to be a bit more mysterious!

Favourite song and why?

Right now I am loving Hamilton the Musical, which makes me such a tragic cliché – but one of my favourite songs is Nina Simone, Sinnerman, because it goes for 14 minutes so you can really enjoy it. The tempo of it is phenomenal. She is such an amazing performer and it’s a great song. I also tend to like things like divas from Motown.

If you could invite three guests to a dinner party, who would they be?

Nelson Mandela – because I’ve been in the same room as him twice in my life and in a room full of stars he is magnetic. High-wattage. Mandela was in Washington getting a Congressional Medal of Honour and he was in the same room as Clinton and Albright. But he was there and just gold. He was pretty phenomenal.

Oprah Winfrey – simply because she is such a creator of bridges. She talks about things in a way that is incredibly respectful, enthusiastic, supportive and genuinely thoughtful. She uses her influence and power in one of the most positive ways on the planet.

Angela Merkel – she has been Chancellor during the rise of Germany and the role they played in Europe has been fascinating. I wouldn’t mind meeting her!

 

Feyi is one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 – a list that recognises and celebrates the many LGBTI role models in business. For more on our inspirational LGBTI leaders visit our Outstanding 50 webpage, or read more interviews in the series here.


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