Live today! Unlock Your Inner Boss – The CEO Challenge with Gemma Cairney

We are so excited for 11am today when Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney starts her live stream as a CEO of her own fictional company. This campaign is run by the Open University to encourage the positive entrepreneurial attitude that young people in the UK have.

Gemma Cairney will be tasked with sitting at the helm of a fictional business for the day and will be faced with a series of business challenges that she will have to overcome with some specialist advice from Open University alumni, academics, and students.

You can tune in at any point during the day today between 11am and 4pm to see how she is doing. You can watch on Facebook,  Linkedin, YouTube or here:

 

Andre Dixon caught up with Gemma yesterday about the campaign, her thoughts on education and entrepreneurship plus what she thinks will be in store for her today!  

Firstly, thank you for your time, I really appreciate you taking the time out to speak to us. I’ve been a big fan of yours, seeing your rise to stardom from T4 onwards. It’s been great to see and very inspirational. So how have you been?

In general, things are great and feeling very thankful after the past couple years. In terms of career, I’m trying to mix things up, I’m always learning. I feel like my career is so different to the career I began with, and I feel that my values are different too, but I’m thankful for that. I think the current landscape in terms of multimedia, politics (with a small p), emotional well-being and all of that, has been a ride and one that I feel really lucky to be on because I get to essentially do my favourite thing, which is communicate and meet great people.

So tomorrow, I’m going to learn how to put a business brain on. I do quite like to imagine that I could be a good CEO, but tomorrow I will find out what that actually means!

 

So, we’re speaking to you because you are doing this amazing new venture with The Open University tomorrow. It’s called ‘Unlock Your Inner Boss LIVE – The CEO Challenge’ where you’re going be asked to sit at the helm of a fictional business for the day, face various business decisions and overcome the problems with some specialist advice from Open University alumni academics and students. Now, tell us a bit about your role tomorrow and what you are expecting.

So tomorrow, I’m going to learn how to put a business brain on. I do quite like to imagine that I could be a good CEO, but tomorrow I will find out what that actually means! Because I’m good at chatting but what does it actually mean in terms of facts and figures, and it will be really interesting to hone in on what advice I’m given. I know that throughout the day we’ll have professionals pepper in my experience (thank goodness) by giving me bona fide, decent business-minded advice from people really in the know, which is quite exciting. I just think, almost doing a TV show, which is what we’re doing, streaming it all and interacting with our audience is really fun and a kind of fast-paced, curious way to kind of expand the mind.

I feel like a CEO works really, really hard so I’m kind of intrigued to see wherever I’ve got the stamina and endurance but apart from that, I think it’s going to be quite good fun.

 

Can you tell us what you’re most excited and what you’re most nervous about?

I’m most excited about what I’ll uncover. Stuff that I didn’t know coming into fruition. Am I nervous? I guess I’m going need a lot of energy, so I want to see if I’m up to it. I feel like a CEO works really, really hard so I’m kind of intrigued to see wherever I’ve got the stamina and endurance but apart from that, I think it’s going to be quite good fun.

 

Can you tell me know how you think your own personal experiences will help you with what you’re going to be faced with potentially?

Well, I’ve done a lot in my career, and in my life and I’ve always tried to diversify my experience and give myself challenges, including starting a business. I ran a production company for a number of years called ‘Boom Shakalaka’ and it was such an interesting experience to be able to pitch and provide platform for other on-screen or behind the mic talent. It was multidisciplinary in the end, we produced theatre shows, we consulted on campaigns as well as producing radio for documentaries and pitching different commissioners. So, that was an insight into business because I actually was the CEO who had to run it. It was pretty difficult, luckily I had expertise and I had a co-director who was a bit more experienced and skilled in business. So I hope that that’s given me some leverage for tomorrow, but I know that I’m going be learning lots as well.

What made you want to get involved with this with this project?

It’s so funny, when the email came through, I just thought what a bonkers thing to do, it made me chuckle! I liked the idea and I was up for it but also I think that the Open University’s approach to studying is pretty cool and it aligns with my ethos for everybody having access to education. I feel like knowledge is power and empowerment is a seriously important thing and as we move through our time on this planet and it’s a pleasure to work with Open University.

 

The latest research shows that almost half of young people in the UK feel trapped in a job that they can’t stand. Why do you think that number is so high?

That’s really gutting, isn’t it? I just think that we’re stuck in a societal norm of convention and for me that is problematic, I’m much more intrigued by disruptors that aim for a better future, a better place and actually really enjoying life and I think feeling trapped does not sound very enjoyable. I know that there is a lot of doom, we have access to so much information and I think it can be quite confusing at times, when the world is so noisy, to know what your path might be. But I would definitely say that courage is a really interesting concept to cultivating this in this life and analysing, assessing and interrogating how you feel. How things make you feel and how the outside world makes you feel is something that is a privilege. I feel like we are all privileged in an essentially free world and if you live in the west then you have access to so much so why remain trapped?

I’m much more intrigued by disruptors that aim for a better future, a better place and actually really enjoying life and I think feeling trapped does not sound very enjoyable.

 

Exactly. You know we started Verge 12 years ago and I remember years ago I used to work in an insurance company and my view was a car park in Croydon. Now, several years later, our view is from the Shard. So, we definitely believe in this project because as long as you have that desire and drive and be prepared to eat beans on toast for while, then you will make it too. On a positive side and the in the same survey, 82% of young people said that they dream of being their own boss. Do you feel that this is a trend with the younger generation?

I do think so, yes, and I’m really pleased about it. I always feel like the key to a better future is in the next generation and I see it all the time. I saw it with my first book, which was a young adult guide to life called ‘Open’ funnily enough. I went to schools all around the country and spoke with young people and we opened up, they were super smart and super conscious and cared about their mental well-being in a way that we perhaps didn’t. It wasn’t really in our ether yet to think about the future in such a way. So, I feel like they’re lucky actually that they have access to these ideas and ideals and feeling like anything is possible and why not be your own boss for sure.

How do you think studying with the Open University helps entrepreneurs?

I think that structure, routine and learning is a great framework become a confident businessperson. I think a lot of it comes down to confidence, but you need that that space and that time to grow and that comes with actual learning. Like where I am today, in a library feels kind of nourishing and I think it’s good for the soul to study. I never went to university and I sometimes feel like that has been a definition as to how I felt about myself and I think that some structure is really is good thing.

I do like to be immersed in those things and I’m quite determined so I have that etched into my timetable with phones off and people that I love around me.

 

You are an immensely busy person, and you obviously really enjoy your work which is so infectious to us. But what do you do to wind down?

I love to swim (I’m going to swim tonight), I love to travel, I love experiencing different culture, I love the sunshine, I love the beach. I do lots of lovely things. Someone said to me recently, “you always like create such a picturesque setting for yourself”, which I thought was a real compliment because I am actually compelled by beauty and nature and good times. So, I do like to be immersed in those things and I’m quite determined so I have that etched into my timetable with phones off and people that I love around me.

And finally, what podcasts or shows are you addicted to that we should be watching? And what’s your favourite track that we should have on our playlist?

I’m not very good at following friends, which is to the detriment of fitting in. My boyfriend takes the mickey and says, “what do you actually watch at night?” I find a lot of TV kind of annoys me, a lot of it thrills me too, but a lot of the mainstream stuff I find like a bit exhausting. I really loved Sex Education, I thought that it was dynamic, I thought it was progressive, I thought that it was shot really beautifully, I loved that it could be anywhere, that feels really futuristic to me.

I’m obsessed with quite a lot of American writers as I’m writing at the moment and finishing my second book and I’m finding a lot of real interesting thinkers stateside when it comes to civil rights actually. So I just put in the names of these writers into Spotify and then just find them on various podcasts and then end up listening to these amazing people talk for hours on train journeys. There is a writer called Adrianne Marie Brown who is just so clever and philosophical and calls herself a pleasure activist which I love! She is a scholar as well, she goes into universities and lectures and is just setting in interesting paradigm for us to navigate what it means to be here, human and black.

Where can people follow your adventures on Instagram?

 I’m @gemagain on there because I remember when I got my Instagram I was thinking “here I am again, in people’s faces!”

But really, I’m sort of trying to edge towards, like a sabbatical? Haha, I don’t know when it’s coming but like a retreat. I think towards the end of the year and then I’ll come back with a book next summer and I’m really excited about it.

  

Oh Gemma, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you, honestly, I really appreciate it.

Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s lovely speaking to you and good luck with everything.

 

To tune in to the Open University’s Unlock Your Inner Boss LIVE – The CEO Challenge today and watch Gemma tackle the challenge live on air, click here for Facebook, here for LinkedIn or here for YouTube.

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