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Moving across the pond: my career story

Anna Dickens headshot

Moving across the pond: my career story

Next in our career story series, we hear Anna’s story. Anna joined the Charlotte Street Partners team as a senior client manager in May 2022 from the National Union of Students and we recently promoted her to associate partner.

Talk to us about your career journey, how did you start out?

My career journey has evolved and tracked the changes in my personal journey.

I grew up nearly 4,000 miles from Scotland in the great state of Kentucky. Kentucky has many claims to fame – well beyond fried chicken. My home state makes delicious bourbon, breeds the world’s best racehorses, and is the birthplace of bluegrass music. And it was in Kentucky’s bluegrass and Americana music industry that I began my career.

Not long after graduating from university, I took a job at a record company that produced a weekly, live-audience radio and television show, which featured global musicians. We were a tiny staff team, so I looked after everything from event and production planning to media management and selling advertising space. It was an amazing opportunity to learn, meet inspiring people and think outside the box.

For me, the music industry was great when I was young – and liked being at gigs till the wee hours on a Tuesday – but as I got older, I began to see an expiry date. I decided to take a year off to travel and see what else was out there.

While I was travelling, I met and fell in love with my Scottish wife, and that is how I ended up here in Edinburgh.

Once in Scotland, I kept working in communications and developed an interest in public affairs, working in the education and children and young people sectors. I had always been curious about agency life but never found anywhere that felt like the right fit for me. Then a friend told me about Charlotte Street Partners and things just fell into place. I’ve been here for a year now and I have recently been promoted to an associate partner.

How would you compare working in-house to working for an agency?

Every company or organisation has its own culture and sometimes that can lead to tunnel vision. The benefit of having an agency is to keep you looking outward, help you understand your impact and spot the opportunities and risks. It isn’t impossible to do this in-house, but it’s much easier and more robust from an agency perspective when you’re looking at trends and issues across a range of sectors and political and social life.

Did you always know you wanted to work in communications?

No. At university I studied fine art and philosophy. In many ways I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I loved art and painting – still do.

I fell into communications through that first job at the record label, but in hindsight it was always a natural fit. Communications enables me to use my creativity and my philosophical or analytical side.

What’s a typical day in the life for you at Charlotte Street Partners?

It’s never too predictable, which is one of the things I love. There is always a challenge and I learn something new every day.

I was somewhat worried – moving from an in-house role to an agency – that I might miss the energy you get from being on a team, working over the long-term to achieve big goals. But that hasn’t been the case at all. What made Charlotte Street Partners stand out for me was how long-term many of the client relationships are. I feel like an integral part of my clients’ teams and every day I get to help them achieve amazing things.

Outside of work, what keeps you busy?

My wife and I like exploring – whether in our neighbourhood of Leith or around the world. We also typically have some sort of home renovation project on the go.

To someone looking to get into communications, what advice would you give them?

Read, listen, ask questions, take opportunities and fight back when fear tells you not to do something. I can look back at my career and see opportunities I missed because I was afraid or because I thought the task or role was beyond what a girl from Kentucky could do.

My best advice is to find a way to keep fear from limiting you.