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Catalyst Uprising: Synergy between Data, Technology and Creativity with Patrick Kane


After going through the Catalyst Academy, the global growth manager at Wunderman Thompson discusses how creative science can be, the future of accessibility and writing the book that would have inspired him as a child

Catalyst Uprising: Synergy between Data, Technology and Creativity with Patrick Kane

In April 2021, Wunderman Thompson launched the Catalyst Academy to support and develop the next generation of talent. Built to develop future marketers and equip them with the experience and skills to thrive in a competitive industry, the industry-defining programme aims to bring together talent from different backgrounds to build brilliant experiences for consumers. 

This spin-off of the Uprising series will highlight some of the ambitious, creative, collaborative and curious Catalyst Fellows who have now become full-time employees at Wunderman Thompson after their 18-month rotation through the business, as they share how they’re using their skills to inspire change in their new roles. 

This edition is by Patrick Kane, who now works as global growth manager at Wunderman Thompson, after completing rotations in UK client leadership, commerce & technology, EMEA client success and data strategy. Patrick explores how the necessity of doing things ‘his way’ has driven him to appreciate the symbiotic nature of science and creativity, and how both combined can inspire new and innovative ideas. 

Tell us a little bit of background

Most people begin their background stories from an age they can remember, but my childhood and entire life has been shaped by becoming a triple amputee after contracting sepsis when I was nine months old. Growing up walking on a prosthetic leg and learning to do things ‘my way’ has always forced upon me an innovative problem-solving mentality, and meant that I spent my formative years learning anything and everything about science, while gaining the confidence to talk openly about what had happened to me.

This has resulted in me being naturally outgoing, optimistic, and direct, to try and understand issues and confront bias where it exists. After a lifetime of proving people wrong when they expect me not to be able to do certain things, that mentality has certainly stayed with me in all aspects of my life!

Getting started in the industry

This early fascination with science led to me studying biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. I loved my subject and found real beauty in the microscopic details that constitute our biology; however, my four years studying a ‘pure science’ made me realise that it was equally important how these complicated ideas were communicated, rather than just what they were about. Coupled with the fact I had been professionally public speaking since the age of 13, I immediately looked for ways to combine my passions.

After graduating in 2020, I started my career in healthcare communications before joining Wunderman Thompson’s Catalyst Academy in April 2021. I felt a rotational programme would be best for me at this early stage of my career, to expose me to as many different areas as possible before deciding where to settle. The 18 months I spent as a Catalyst were incredible, and I feel extremely privileged to have been able to learn what I love to do while doing it. My career so far hasn’t been linear, but I have had faith that by focusing on what I enjoy and learning as much as possible, I can’t go too far wrong! 

The work

I love the fast-paced nature of new business, and I am fascinated by how we assemble teams across the network to answer a brief, and that lightbulb moment when an insight unlocks whole new creative routes. My role as global growth manager means I get to see teams working together across disciplines as well as continents, and though the time zones can be challenging, I love seeing different cultural insights help to shape a global idea. While my role is largely focused on new business, I also work across PR, thought leadership and marketing. Getting to the crux of a great piece of work to use in case studies and help future pitches is extremely satisfying, and helps keep me connected to everything going on across the network. 

The state of the industry

I am extremely excited about the state of the industry and think there has never been a better time to join. We hear almost every day about the new technologies which are being developed and how they are going to make our jobs either easier or obsolete. But in the creative industry, the challenge remains the same: how to be inspired by what is already around us to think differently and with purpose. Better tools at our disposal will unlock better opportunities for new ideas, and that can only be a good thing.

The flip-side to this is that the benefit increasingly comes from the overlap between technologies and specialisms, rather than by looking at them in isolation. Throughout my degree, I was constantly frustrated by the idea that the sciences aren’t creative. Thinkers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tim Minchin and many more have proved this not to be the case, but it is encouraging to see this dogma being disproven in my professional sphere too. The synergy between data, technology and creativity across our work at Wunderman Thompson is testament to this level of understanding, and what successful brands will need to harness in the future.

Another area that makes me excited about the future is accessibility. As a disabled person, there has never been a better time to enter the world of work, as technology continues to open doors. 

Accessible working has unlocked a plethora of talent to companies who can accommodate them, and those that do will reap the rewards. Authentic representation, both internally and externally, is key, and it is why I was so proud be named on the 2022 IPA iList for my efforts to foster disabled inclusion within Wunderman Thompson. Another happy coincidence of my move to Wunderman Thompson is that we were the first agency to found a specific Inclusive Experience Practice, which is dedicated to creating for disabled people, and extending to the masses. It is a joy to get to work so closely with Dr. Josh Loebner, our global head of inclusive design, across so many areas of our business. While IE&D isn’t specifically part of my role, I believe the onus falls on all our shoulders and I am excited about the changes we are bringing in. 

Passions and inspirations

I have always believed that it is important for your passions to align as much as possible with your work, as it makes both more joyful. I spend much of my free time both talking and writing about the role that technology plays in shaping our ideas of disability. I have been fortunate enough to appear on platforms such as TEDxTeen, WIRED: Next Generation, and TEDxMIT, and published my first book on 30th March this year. As a little plug, Human 2.0 is a celebration of human bionics and medical history and was beautifully illustrated by Sam Rodriguez. It’s aimed at children and curious adults alike, and it is a real honour to have written the book that would have inspired me as a child. I find putting time into these sorts of projects extremely energising, and feel fortunate that they are able to take up as much time as they do!

When completely switching off and relaxing, my interests are far more straightforward; I love cooking and eating, travelling and spending time with family, and regularly watching Tottenham Hotspur invent new ways to make me not want to watch them.

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Wunderman Thompson London, Tue, 02 May 2023 13:12:28 GMT