Leaders with Ambition - Karen Snell

Leaders with Ambition - Karen Snell

Published on 5th October 2021

In this episode of Leaders with Ambition, Nicky speaks with Karen Snell, Head Of Marketing and Business Development, Clients & Industries at Hogan Lovells. Karen shares her career journey within legal marketing and BD as well as the challenges and highlights along the way.

Karen notes how she was able to thrive by seizing the opportunities that came her way, demonstrating passion for her work and career, all the while balancing a senior role with her family commitments.

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Key takeaways from this episode with Karen Snell:

About Karen’s career in Marketing and Business Development

Karen studied Politics and Economics but was unsure of what she wanted to do afterwards. She started out by taking on a job as a Receptionist, however her boss disclosed that she was "the worst Receptionist they'd ever had!" This was mainly because she was bored in the role which made her a poor fit. She was then moved to the PR and Marketing department which she loved.

After leaving that company, she worked at the ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants) and later moved to McKinsey and then Hogan Lovells where she currently works. Karen finds her role at Hogan Lovells intellectually challenging which appeals to her.

At different points in her life, she has always had a good relationship with people who can identify her strengths and weaknesses and this has given her the drive to take up new opportunities, even when she felt she didn't have a great deal of experience.

The importance of building relationships

Karen stresses that building relationships is a critical skill to have, especially in professional services and at law firms where individual Partner performance depends on the ability to build strong relationships in order to help clients achieve their goals. Learning to build strong interpersonal relationships with colleagues and other stakeholders is also beneficial.

Asking for help when necessary was also one of the mindsets that helped Karen get sponsors through her career.

Factors involved in Karen’s career growth

Karen explains that she has enjoyed working at Hogan Lovells and has grown and evolved with the firm over the years, taking advantage of the different opportunities that came her way within the firm rather than having to change jobs to get those opportunities. During a period of time, while bringing up her young children, Karen admits she also stayed as working in a familiar environment helped her juggle the demands of motherhood with a successful career during that time.

Growing up, Karen never really had a role model of someone in a professional job. However, she had teachers who saw her potential, put in extra effort to teach her more and exposed her to the different opportunities that helped further her education.

Working for a long time with Hogan Lovells has made it significantly easier for Karen to drive the change that she feels is needed. She has gained the trust of her senior colleagues who have grown to respect her professionalism and capabilities.

Karen remarks that the pandemic has shifted the focus from being physically present at work to productivity and output which gives employees more flexibility.

Creating balance

With a job that requires a lot of global travelling, Karen feels lucky to have had several factors work out for her. Her husband works flexible hours, which has allowed him to carry out some of the childcare and family commitments when Karen was unavailable.

They also lived close to Karen's parents for a period of time, who helped with childcare when her children were very young. However, at some point, Karen felt she had to slow down her career to focus more on taking care of the kids and being more present for her family.

Career challenges

The merger between Lovells and Hogan & Hartson brought about a major cultural shift in the business because the new US side of the company had differing views on PR and Marketing and it took time to get used to their method of doing things.

Career highlights

Building friendships with colleagues whilst travelling around the world has been a great experience. Another highlight was at the time of the merger, Karen worked on a major thought leadership campaign with the Financial Times, this being the first of its kind.

Pivoting to new roles

Without a particular plan to build her career, Karen has mostly focused on doing her job to the best of her ability and seizing opportunities when presented with them; this has been crucial to her growth towards achieving the senior levels of her career.

She has also benefitted from building strong relationships with people who recognise, appreciate and trust her abilities.

Trends in Marketing and Business Development

There is a growing focus on client development. It is increasingly more critical to win work from existing clients rather than directing efforts at extravagant marketing to gain new clients. However, this does not completely rule out marketing as it is still necessary to create the market presence.

Karen also highlights the importance of recruiting and retaining talent in this field. There has been some level of stagnation due to the pandemic but flexibility will be required from firms to create strategies to recruit new talent.

Karen remarks that this process is quite challenging as while the pandemic encourages working from home, there are career development benefits to bringing people together to create and deepen relationships in the workplace.

Karen's advice

Bring your whole self to work. Any organisation benefits from the diversity of thoughts of its workers. A lot of people are under unnecessary pressure to try to act differently from their normal selves.

Key quotes from this episode:

  • “Build a career doing something that you love”

  • “Never be afraid to ask for help”

  • "You're very talented but try to bring the Karen from the pub into the office"

  • "When something is presented to you as an opportunity, just embrace it"

About the host:

Nicky Acuna Ocana has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Managing Director of Ambition UK, she currently leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.

If you're a Leader with Ambition from a professional services firm and would like to feature as a guest in a future podcast, please email: marketing@ambition.co.uk.

Listen to more episodes of the Leaders with Ambition podcast here >