Introducing our Managing Director, Suzie Mills, with a few questions to get to know her and hear about her background and passions.
What’s your experience prior to OXygen?
For the first 11 years of my career, I worked in various advertising agencies in London, working my way up from Account Executive to Business Director across a wide variety of clients, such as Barclays, World Horse Welfare, P&G, Nissan and Delta. For the most part, this was below the line and strategy work and I absolutely loved my job – the clients I worked with, the creative teams and my peers. I then moved client side 4 years ago to work for Vtech for a year, before taking the role as Communications Director at Oxford HR in January 2019. I had an increasing desire for many years to work in the for–purpose sector and Oxford HR gave me the freedom and the creativity to do that, at a level I never could have envisaged.
Why have you set up OXygen?
OXygen is a small team of passionate individuals who work solely within the for–purpose sector and have recognised an opportunity for strategic design to be carried out in a more holistic manner for the organisations we work with. How an organisation comes across to their audience is fundamental to fundraising, event organisation, talent hiring; so many aspects of any organisations’ objectives and aims and we think we can help them #designabetterworld. Many organisations have the internal capacity to excel at this themselves, but a lot don’t and that’s where OXygen comes in. Having worked across hundreds of for–purpose organisations globally, we work with our clients to immerse ourselves in understanding their needs and objectives and how to communicate effectively with their target audiences. We all love what we do and working with our clients as would an in-house team is one of our USP’s.
How would you describe the design industry within for–purpose at the moment?
I feel that using a design agency and putting time and investment into your brand, is something that has been seen as something of a luxury for many years within the for-purpose industry. For good reason, as it is an investment and one that often is coming from limited funds. And yet it is totally fundamental to the success of any organisation – how they are perceived is linked to how they raise funds, who they hire, the talent they are able to attract and keep and who wants to partner with them. An organisation’s aims, mission and success is ultimately, linked to its brand. And fundamental to that is the understanding of the audience they are targeting – an organisations brand identity should be at the centre point of an organisations strategy – and this is an area where there is still plenty of room for improvement.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
Two points come to mind. One, when I worked as an Account Director for an amazing agency in London; I was hungry for the next step and pushed for it – got it, but changed sector into automotive which I had no experience in, went from managing a team of 4 to a team of 20 with a difficult client and experienced, for the first time, what it was like to be a senior female figure in a hugely male dominated world. I grew into the role by grafting, listening, asking questions and admitting vulnerability but it was never entirely comfortable. I left after 2.5 years very happy with what I had achieved, but it was one of the most stressful times of my life.
And the second biggest challenge was joining Oxford HR – not a challenge to join this amazing organisation, but to cross sector (again) into for–purpose and to be given complete creative freedom to do what I saw to be the right thing for growth. The challenge was applying principles I know to be true and trusting they work across sectors, but without a background in for-purpose, that took courage and belief from my CEO and colleagues at Oxford HR to support me in this endeavour. Luckily for me, it was the best opportunity I have had in my career, and I thrive on the challenges and opportunities it presents every day!
What attributes are key in creating a successful creative agency within your sector?
Listening, immersion, asking questions and a team with a passion. I am lucky in that I work with a team at OXygen and within Oxford HR who are not only all amazing at what they do, but genuinely care; about the sector and about the work they do. An agency is only as good as the people within it after all.
I don’t think you can work in a design agency without fundamentally getting under the skin of who your client is, what their aims and ambitions are and understanding where a branding strategy can take them, to aid in their mission.
Who is your dream client (within for purpose)?
I’m not sure I could pinpoint one. I have passions I could cite of organisations I would love to work with (I’m on the Board of CMV Action UK because my daughter is affected by it, I love dogs & horses, I am involved with Cancer Research UK), but essentially, I want to work with organisations that we can make a difference to. OXygen offers a unique perspective in that we are part of Oxford HR, so as a global executive search firm we work with organisations placing their global critical hires and are therefore in an unusual and privileged position to offer knowledge and understanding at the deepest level; to offer a bird’s eye view and effect change where it matters most to the organisations we work with.
I also love working with clients who aren’t afraid to be bold (which agency doesn’t!) – to not be afraid to stand out from the crowd and to potentially try something a bit different.
What are you most excited about achieving with OXygen?
I think we have a real opportunity to offer our clients brand connectivity. Helping them create a strong and lasting brand identity (or improving on what is there already), which truly resonates with their audience and then ensuring that flows throughout all their communications, both internally and externally. That all touch points of that brand give the same experience, and that the brand personality comes across throughout. Achieving this for our clients and seeing it all come together makes me very happy!
In its broadest sense I am looking forward to collaborating and working closely with organisations to achieve their aims. The last 18 months has disrupted the way everyone works and acts and there is a need to be agile, creative and supportive for our clients (and with each other) and that’s really motivating to be able to partner in this way.
Suzie joined the Oxford HR Group in January 2019 as Communications Director. She holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism from Cardiff University and has worked in Marketing for over 15 years.
Prior to working for the Oxford HR Group, Suzie has developed through the line advertising campaigns and worked on the global strategies for companies such P&G, Nissan, Delta Airlines, Barclays, COI, World Horse Welfare, Vodafone and VTECH. Suzie is particularly interested in how technology and digital innovation can contribute to the global UN goal of ending hunger and poverty by 2030.
Suzie is a Trustee on the Board of the charity CMV Action, endeavouring to support awareness and fund vaccine research for this virus.