In this staff spotlight, we sit down with Creative England Chief Financial Officer, Mehjabeen Patrick – or Mehj, as we fondly refer to her – to find out more about who she is, what she does, and why she “lives and breathes” the company. We talk teamwork, what it’s like being a CFO in the creative industry, unwinding after a busy week, and the member of staff she would swap places with for a day.
Take it away, Mehj!
You’ve been at the company since the very beginning – what do you love most about it?
Oh, there are so many things! I love that we’re always pushing boundaries; we are always thinking of new things to do for the sector, and we never sit still so we stay ahead of the curve. We’re very entrepreneurial and are always putting new ideas into practice. I also love that there’s a lot of strong women on the senior team as this is where we typically see disparity.
The other thing I like about the company is that everybody has the opportunity to make a difference and do something exciting or outside of their comfort zone. As an employee, you don’t have to sit in your box if you don’t want to. If you want to explore what else you could do and challenge yourself then nobody will stop you. Nobody says ‘why are you thinking about that, it’s below your pay grade’. Oh and I love the people – I love all of them!
Walk us through a day in the life of a CFO…
It’s very different to a traditional CFO role – which is actually another thing I love about my job. Very early on, I was able to work on more interesting projects and lead on a lot of stuff that CFOs normally do much later on. My typical day will be full of lots of back-to-back meetings. Before the pandemic, I’d get up early, get on a train, go into London or Manchester and meet four or five different clients to discuss various projects. I’d have lunch somewhere, meet a funder for coffee and then try to have some social time with my colleagues before coming back home. In this virtual world, things are bit more mundane!
In terms of how my role is divided up, my focus is sort of twofold – one is very much internal, and one is very much external. In both of these areas, I’m very much focused on finance, on investment, and on programmes and business development. I’ll be talking to stakeholders or talking to funders, and there will definitely be a meeting with one of my senior management team in the calendar. We also do a lot of investment so I could also be meeting an interesting company that we might be investing in – that part is really exciting!
What do you admire most about your team?
They’re extremely dedicated and I really admire this dedication to supporting the sector. Every single one of them is in the company because they care deeply about what they do. You have to be passionate and they’re very, very passionate. I can see it on their faces when they help a business or get a project up and running.
What are your top tips on maintaining communication and collaboration with remote team members?
I think checking in every so often is really important – making time to pick up the phone and call someone for 10 or 15 minutes. It can be easily forgotten that not everything has to be on screen or booked in; the pandemic has made everything so regimented. I also think keeping in touch with the team over non-email channels is important as well, like Slack or text, because it just feels a little bit more human. It’s about finding time during the day to touch base.
If you could swap places for somebody else in the company for a day – who would it be and why?
I think I would want to be Evy, our Partnerships Manager, because of all the conversations and relationships she has with people in the industry. Building long-term relationships with stakeholders and other professional contacts is something that really excites me and something I really enjoy.
If you weren’t doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
I grew up in Pakistan and in that culture, parents are very academically driven. They all want their kids to do the highest level of education and be either a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant or something like that. My parents wanted me to be a doctor and when I was younger, I sort of adopted what they wanted for me and thought that’s what I wanted to be. I didn’t go down that route for all sorts of reasons but I was very much into finance and maths so went down this route instead. Something else I would have loved to do is be a writer; I’d love to write a book and that has never gone away. I’m just crap at writing!
How do you like to switch off and relax after a super busy week?
Cooking is my release. I love to cook for my family and then sit down to watch some TV with my husband and my daughter. I love comedy and I love cookery programmes, or a good crime drama. I also love having lots of friends round, cooking for them, drinking with them and laughing together. I also like walks and going out exploring. Life is so hectic; it’s good to give your mind a break.
What’s your speciality dish?
I do a lot of traditional Pakistani food and I’m very good at it, if I can say that about myself?! I do biryanis very well I make really nice bhajis. I also do a good lasagne and Chinese!
Want to join Mehj’s team? Find out about our current vacancies here.