Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s, is one of AMAGAZINE’s 10 Most Influential Mancunians. Here she talks about her career journey and the future of our city.
“I think there’s a story that Manchester hasn’t quite found yet of what it means to be Manchester that we should create and go tell the world about.”
What would you say makes Manchester a great place to live and work in 2018?
I think the people of Manchester – they’ve got loads of energy! There’s a real can-do attitude to this city which means that it feels like it’s a place you want to do business.
Why do you think so many businesses have chosen Manchester as their central hub?
As well as the energy and the can-do attitude, I think that Manchester is a proper big city – you don’t have to compromise to be here. It’s got all the services that you would expect of a big city, along with great places for people to live, and amazing countryside that’s just a stone’s throw away – so it’s the full package really.
What do you think that Manchester needs to do to raise its profile on the international stage?
The big thing that I’d love to see Manchester do is to tell its story more. I think people who work and live in Manchester know how great it is, but we do that at particular times, whether with football or whether its music or and of course the tragic events of at the arena. I think there’s a story that Manchester hasn’t quite found yet of what it means to be Manchester that we should create and go tell the world about.
What do you think that Manchester needs in terms of new talent coming through?
I’m very focused on the creative and digital sector; I’m not sure it’s about new talent coming through, I think it’s about talent being confident that they can stay here and that they can have a great career and they don’t need to migrate South. I’d love to see the opportunity for more medium-sized companies in the creative and digital sector to really thrive here and become bigger here and be confident that they can do that.
What would you say the essential qualities are that people have to have to be a part of your team?
They’ve got to have get up and go. They’ve got to have a real drive for delivering our purpose, which is high-quality, distinctive UK media content. They’ve got to be deeply creative; they’ve got to be able to find their way around every problem; they’ve got to have a story to tell and they’ve got to be people who really want to be greater than the sum of our parts.
How would you say the working world has changed from when you started your career compared to now and how these changes affected your industry?
I started life as an engineer working on a building site, so my world is pretty different now. It’s not just that people don’t stay in one job – that was never the case when I started work – but I think the notion that people will even work for somebody else is really interesting. More and more young people are coming out of university and thinking ‘I don’t actually want to go and join a large company or anybody’s company, I want to set up my own’. I’m not sure how much people who want to start their own businesses will become the majority because I think it will become really difficult as the market place becomes more crowded. I think that at any organisation that can embrace and harness flexibility and giving people ownership of what they’re doing are the companies that are going to win in the future.
What’s the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career so far?
Moving 1,500 jobs from London to Salford.
What would you say to people who feel like they haven’t made it yet?
You’re probably far more successful than you give yourself credit for. If you feel like you haven’t made it yet then you’ve probably got all of the ingredients, you just need to go on and make it because if you’re still hungry, if you’re still energised and interested in what you’re doing, then that’s surely got to be the biggest factors in whether you’re going to make it in the future.
In what ways would you like to see Manchester businesses giving back to the city?
I think everyone has to do what feels authentic and right for their organisation. From a personal perspective, I would really love to see us push sustainability even further than Manchester is already doing. The North has done a huge amount to become more sustainable and I’d love to see us doing that more broadly across the city, so we genuinely become the greenest city possible.
What industries do you think will be booming in Manchester over the next 5 years?
I think Manchester has all the ingredients to continue to grow. Creative and digital is the fastest growing sector having doubled in the last five years. I think our healthcare sector is absolutely amazing. I think you only have to look at what goes on at University of Manchester to see where the future with the advanced materials progressing. We have such strong research and expertise in this city; I think any of those areas will massively thrive in the next five years.
‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’ sees some of Manchester’s most inspiring professionals talk about the future of our city and share their career journeys. If you’d like to get involved with 2019’s ‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’, please email email@example.com.