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My Biggest Lesson: Tanya Ferguson

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The Mill's integral senior member on the two gifts of wisdom she has learnt over her career

My Biggest Lesson: Tanya Ferguson

Tanya is an integral senior member of The Mill’s creative production team working with award-winning directors, designers, and creative technologists to deliver large-scale creative projects.

Tanya is responsible for nurturing projects from their conception and creative development all the way through to delivery. She is highly experienced in bringing to life ambitious scripts which cover animation, design, live action and VFX for TV Campaigns, Social Media, Promos and Art Installations.

Tanya started her career building content for an online youth channel and very quickly moved up through the ranks at MPC Film before moving over to MPC Advertising where she led projects out of their Design Studio. After a short freelance stint Tanya then joined The Mill where she has recently produced the Lebron James Crypto ‘Moment of Truth’ spot and the award-winning  BBC 2 idents rebrand along with high-profile projects for Netflix, SEAT, Huawei, Nike and Ford.

 

While I cannot provide a photo, I do have two gifts of wisdom I have learned over my career. Number one: if you have signed up to any job and agreed to your terms, then do it to the very best of your ability. Even if it is new or difficult, your word matters, so don’t compromise it. As you build a portfolio of jobs, you want to make sure it reflects your hard work and responsibility. Number two: trust, but always double check! Always review everything yourself and ensure the very top standards with the most attention to detail you can give. This will give you a reputation of reliability and save your team any headaches later.

I would say these ideas have been instilled in me my whole life. My parents are super hard working, so my work ethic was ingrained in me from early childhood. I was taught that my chores as a child, down to exactly how I hoovered the stairs, reflect me. My mum told me if I agreed to do something for money or a gift, then I had to complete it well – I gave my word! As for double checking yourself, I learned that more and more with every job. Whilst you may be on a team, you still have your name attached, so if you want to set yourself apart as a leader, double (even triple) check everything. This way, you can be certain there’s no dust left on the stairs.

‘Double check’ came in so many small increments that I can’t nail down a specific sequence. I do remember my very first industry relevant one, where I thought “wow, you are your own best accountability.” I was a coordinator on a feature film at MPC with over 100 shots under my belt – each with very different VFX pipelines. I remember I donated a sequence of shots to a teammate to help with their knowledge, and they verbally confirmed their work on the project. But guess what? I didn’t actually check the shots they worked on. Once the director was in the room, I came to bring up the shots I was told had run through the appropriate edits. When I pulled them up, they were the exact same as when I had sent them. I was so embarrassed as it has been my responsibility to make sure the shots were done correctly, and I hadn’t followed up. I took that one as a big lesson: trust, but always, always double check. 

I have a lot of admiration for my family. My parents have always supported me in everything I do, and to be honest I wouldn’t have made it through a White Male dominated industry as a Young Black Woman if I didn’t take these key learnings with me. My Dad always taught me to have a Plan B and to open every door you can. My mum always said to do what I do well, no matter what it was.  She also always said that if you agreed to do something, then there is no room for excuses. Of course, these lessons from my parents have carried me far in my life and career, so I have a great appreciation for them.  

‘Lessons’ are different when they are ingrained into your everyday life. They aren’t lessons, but rather basic guiding principles. As I started my career, however, they struck a chord because peoples’ responses to you validate your work and reinforce these key ideas. You are able to see how these teaching directly correlate with your progress.

Did this change me as a person? Actually - it did the opposite. I found I didn't have to change – I could be ME! I found I could be successful without any need to tone down, speak or dress differently, because I was able to let my hard work speak for itself. I guess if I had to answer this question in terms of how it has influenced my career, it has made me more focused and a better teacher, because now I can pass these ideas on. 

My advice still stands and applies to everything I do. I continue to be reminded every day why we all need to check over things: two people get more done than one, and two sets of eyes catch twice the mistakes. And, of course, I still try to do my best no matter what it is. 

My advice can sound a bit cynical at times (i.e., you cannot always take everyone’s word), but it shouldn’t be taken that way. I see it more as “let's share the load” kind of advice rather than “don’t ever trust anyone.” My first piece of advice allows people to evaluate and make sure you know this is what you want to do, because you have got to give it your all. It also allows you to break down hierarchy barriers for those who feel a little more entitled to not start from the bottom or forget those learning moments. The bottom offers a wealth of teachings, so don’t take it for granted.

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Mill London, Tue, 10 May 2022 14:12:02 GMT