Cat Leaver is Head of Strategy at award-winning digital agency After Digital and Head of Marketing & Communications at TEDxGlasgow.

In 2013 Cat was selected to take part in Special Edition and the following year was named in The Drum’s 50 Women in Digital Under 30, which celebrates the most innovative young women working in the digital space today. When asked by The Drum about her career highlights, Cat singled out Special Edition, calling it ‘the most inspirational experience of my career to date, both from a learning and development perspective.’

We caught up with Cat on her career since Special Edition and asked her advice for prospective Special Edition candidates.

How would you say your career has changed since taking part in the programme in 2013- 2014?

Quite considerably really. When I applied (in 2013) I was managing the marketing function of the business and, whilst ambitious, in retrospect I definitely lacked confidence in my own ability. The Special Edition programme encouraged us to reconsider our perceptions of ourselves and the things which we allowed to limit our outlook. As well as providing practical tools and knowledge, it brought together an incredibly interesting and diverse group of peers, who went on to become close friends and an amazing support network.  This group have helped each other through some major personal and professional changes, including the inception of new businesses, new directorships, new roles, awards and several babies.

What would you consider your greatest learning from Special Edition?

No matter how big or small, and how much money they had behind them, every business faces the same struggles on different levels. The most successful businesses were those that welcomed people into the processes and fostered true creativity. I came back feeling energised and understanding the importance of knowing my own personal values, to better align these with those instilled into the company.

Cat and fellow Special Edition delegates visiting Skype in San Francisco

Do you have a stand out moment from the programme?

There are so many moments that made the programme special (no pun intended). Naturally, the highlight was our trip to San Francisco, during which we attended a record 15 meetings in 3 days and Google put on a networking evening for us.  If I had to pick just one moment, having lunch with Patty McCord (former HR Director of Netflix and a well-known maverick in Silicone Valley) definitely stands out. She didn’t hold back and was incredibly generous with her time, offering true insights into her experience and a bold way of looking at problems. As a group, we still use a few of her encouraging catch phrases.

What advice would you give someone who is considering applying for Special Edition this year?

Embrace this as an opportunity to develop on all levels. You absolutely get out of it what you put in. So openness, honesty and collaboration are key. Your application should truly expose why the programme would benefit you and your business; these details are what will make it so beneficial to you. Go for it!

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