Do I need school to be...

a photographer? with Sarah Tulej

March 10, 2022 Alex Villacís Season 1 Episode 27
Do I need school to be...
a photographer? with Sarah Tulej
Show Notes Transcript

It’s that time of the week again and today we are talking to Sarah Tulej, a brand photographer originally from the UK currently living in Rotterdam. From a young age, she had a passion for photography but it wasn’t until she was in her 30’s that she took a career change course in London (trust me, it’s a good story) that she decided to take the jump into professional photography. Sarah’s story is really inspiring and I hope you enjoy it! 

On this interview we spoke about:

  • Her journey to become a professional photographer
  • The particular set of skills that separate Sarah from other photographers (spoiler alert! It’s not tech related)
  • How she build her skills following her curiosity
  • The research she did before taking the plunge into a new career
  • The financial aspect of changing careers
  • Sarah’s experience as a mentor and where she draws the line between mentor and teacher

Want to learn more about Sarah? Here are some links:
Website
Linkedin
Instagram
Pinterest
Facebook
Sarah’s Blog

Sarah’s Top 3 podcasts:
Unlocking us with Brent Brown
Big Careers, Small Children (formerly Leaders With Babies)
Is This Working? Podcast


Sarah’s book recommendation is Playing big by Tara Mohr

In an effort to make this podcast accessible, we make transcripts of every episode. You’ll find the transcripts on our website here

Special thank you to Ro Halfhide for the music on this show and to Immaculate Lemaron for proofreading the transcripts and helping this podcast be as accessible as possible.

Want to support the pod?
Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and support the show on Buy me a Coffee. We are currently looking for sponsors, if you know someone or are a local businesses in the Rotterdam area that would like to know about our sponsoring plans, reach out to us here.

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Sarah Tulej:

It's so important in a, as a in a profession like photography where you're a bit of a lone wolf, to have other people to talk to, to learn from, you know, their years of experience and and feel like you're part of a community.

Alex Villacis:

Hello friends and welcome back to another episode of join me it's going to be the podcast in which me Alex is going to sit down with creatives and ask them about their journey into the creative field focusing on their education, the teachers who shaped them, the box was shaped in the movies in general what their journey was like. If you're somebody who is thinking about entering the creative field, I hope this show will be a resource to you and show you that we all have different paths, and they are all valid. So let's go. Hey, friend, welcome to another week of the show. I am very excited for this episode because I'm talking to Sarah Tooley. Sarah is a portrait photographer from the UK living in Rotterdam. She takes photos of small business owners and freelancers so they can be more visible and tell their story and share their work with more people. Sarah believes that everyone deserves to be photographed, and that too many people accept the myth that their own photogenic. She wants her photos to build people's confidence and to represent more diverse faces and bodies in our online lives. As well as running a photography business. Sara has worked for many years, his inability advising companies in the food and fashion space and is a strong advocate for environmental justice. I know like what a character like she's so cool, and I am so happy that there's no podcast. I am very excited for you to listen to this episode. So here's my interview with Sarah Tooley. And here we are recording like Hi Sarah. How are you today?

Sarah Tulej:

Hello, Alex. I'm really well thank you. How are you?

Alex Villacis:

I am very good. I am very red because I just did my first try out for CrossFit. And it was really fun. Yeah, it was really cool. So we're both in Rotterdam. We are you liking? How are you liking this? Coldsnap the temperature went down really quickly, really fast.

Sarah Tulej:

I am reassured because I am always worrying about climate change. And it felt unnaturally warm at the start of November. So I feel like this is this is the correct weather to be having in November.

Alex Villacis:

Yes, we don't want to wear flip flops in November. That's that's not that's not what we want. No. But we're here now in our podcast talking through a screen because restrictions are happening and also lives. But enough about that, please tell my audience. Well, our audience now who you are and what you're currently working on. Okay,

Sarah Tulej:

thanks, Alex. I'm Sarah Tulej. As you might be able to tell from my accent. I'm British. I'm from the north of England originally and came over to Rotterdam one year ago, more or less exactly. From London. And it was to do with Brexit to do my partner's job. I've come over with my partner and my four year old boy. And I am a brand photographer. I work mainly with creative purpose driven small business owners and freelancers that want to portray what they do. And before that, and still on the side, I work in the sustainability sector, I do consultancy in that as well. And I am a proud intersectional feminist environmentalist. I think about those issues all the time and how I can bring them into everything I do. So yeah, that's a little intro about me.

Alex Villacis:

That is such a jump like we originally met. How can we meet? We met? We were actually through Facebook,

Sarah Tulej:

Instagram, I think I think I followed you. I'm constantly trying to find other Rotterdam small business owners. So I probably followed you, Alex.

Alex Villacis:

Well, yeah, we met there. And we chatted for a bit. And then I told you about the Creative Mornings, you did project. And that's where we met for the first time in, shout out to Creative Mornings for bringing people together. And then you were talking and you were telling me about your journey, how you went from sustainability to photography. Like, how did you get there? Like what triggered that choice? were you always interested in photography? Tell us more about your story.

Sarah Tulej:

Wow, okay. How long have you got? The brief version is it all makes everything makes sense in hindsight with careers I think and from a very early age, I was very conscious of environmental issues, blamed my parents recycling the glass bottles, pestering my mom in the supermarket to buy recycled toilet paper, so it was ingrained in me. It was the time of the body shop and acid rain and the rainforest being chopped down. So so that happened, but also ever since I was tiny, I just loved having a camera in my hands. I spent quite a lot of time on afternoon when I was about Seven or eight with my dad's film camera, taking pictures of the tiny little Playmobil toys and creating little scenes. And so they both been really strong interests of mine. But I think I always told myself the story that I couldn't make a career as a photographer, that it was too competitive, that there were so many other photographers, and it wouldn't, you know, be an option for me, I'm still figuring out whether that is true or not, because it is very competitive. And it is not the easiest way to make a living. But it's a passion of mine, and fascinated by taking pictures of people. And I came to a certain point in my life where I was like, right, that's it, if I don't, if I don't give this a go, I'm gonna regret it forever. So that's not really the how, but that's kind of the underlying desires. As to why I've ended up working in sustainability. And now launching a photography business.

Alex Villacis:

That just brings so many questions to me, because you live the reality of going from, like we both did, I remember when I was little, like, my mom would take pictures of us, and then we will go to the store to get them developed. And then we got the, like, pictures in our hands. And my mom has photo album, so photo album, but you live through that. And now you I think photographers especially challenging because we can take pictures with our phones that like right? How, how have you developed your process to separate yourself? Because I know you go into a relationship with the people you work with? And you target very specific people for your photography.

Sarah Tulej:

Yes, so I mean, it's been very interesting with photography, I think I was about 14 or 15, when I first tried using a digital camera, and it absolutely blew my mind. And then in my 20s, we, you know, social media was invented. And, you know, who could have foreseen, you know, what a role visual content was gonna play in everyone's lives. And it's moving, you know, swiftly from photography, well, still photography to videography. Now, something I also need to teach myself how to do at some point. And, and the area of brand photography that I'm working in is a growing profession, because we're seeing so many more people, they have the tools to start their own business to build their own brand. And they need the images of themselves to accompany that. And so you know, one of the things I didn't quite appreciate about photography is how much of it if you're taking portraits is about how you can work with people. And how many people which is most people really are not comfortable at all in front of the camera. And so all these skills that's seemingly unrelated to photography that I've picked up along the way, like taking a brief as a consultant, coaching people, trying to you know, encourage people from being a manager, you know, all of that comes in when you've got someone who's like, quite terrified of getting in front of the camera, finding out what exactly, Alex is pointing at yourself. Yeah. Finding out all about

Alex Villacis:

that a visual medium, but I'm like, yes, me, I see that. Yes,

Sarah Tulej:

I had to scroll a long way down your Instagram to find a picture of you post on my stories, which is a shame.

Alex Villacis:

It's a it was a personal challenge. I will tell you about it in a second. But please keep telling me what other Yes, you have to learn.

Sarah Tulej:

Yes. So that's been really encouraging actually is, you know, this, this skill of taking a great picture is obviously the foundation, but most of it is other stuff. So your people skills, how well you can connect and make someone feels comfortable and safe for a determined amount of time. But also marketing. I mean, so much of it is how you can market your business because it's a very crowded space. And especially as a newcomer to a city, where I don't know many people, that's that is 90% of my work is is getting myself in front of people and trying to convince them to work with me. So. But it's, I mean, I'm someone probably why I'm on this podcast, who loves to learn new things. I think we all do, really, but I really do. I mean, give me a course, I'll sign up for it. Like I've got I've got a bit of a course addiction problem going on. I've done all sorts, but honestly, it's been and we'll come on to this, like the change because of technology, and social media, the ability to come together and teach each other things is just wonderful. Like it's and yeah, I think I've learned so much in recent years for very little money from just ordinary people that have great skills to share. And I think that's just transforming how we learn.

Alex Villacis:

I'm so happy that you say that because that's the entire ethos thesis of these parts. Just about how we can learn, like how creatives can learn now, and how many options that are out there. And the fact that you don't need to have. First of all that degree, it's not going to fit everybody, like a structure of education, it's not going to be right for everyone, because we're all very diverse, we have very diverse backgrounds we have our brains work in different ways that we're all very different in, like, we're very neuro diverse. So the environments gonna be different. And I love that you're saying that, and my next question will be, I guess, like, then your photography skills, you learn them by trial and error, do you learn? Did you take a course? Or was it like, what was the process to? Like you decided I want to be a photographer? Was it all like previous knowledge that you had? Or how did you manage all that part of training yourself?

Sarah Tulej:

Yeah, well, a big part was the mindset shift to go, I could try and be a photographer. And I attribute that in large part to a career change course that I did in 2016, with some an outfit in London called escape the city, which was set up by two former bankers who were like, right, for people who want to create a meaningful career, here's a programme, a process you can go through, which was amazing. There's about 30 of us from various jobs all in our kind of 30s, wanting to make a change. And the real central principle behind it was we're taught that you need to find your passion and follow your passion, and everyone should be able to find theirs. And there's like, No, we all we all have interests, some of us have passions, but it's not about finding your one true passion and going for it. It's about nurturing your interests and your curiosities, and following them, and seeing where it leads in a kind of low risk way. So, you know, like, if you want to be try out, being a photographer, go out and take some pictures of people, like put a gallery up in your living room, like, go and talk to other photographers, and find out what it's actually like to work as one before you quit your job by 1000s of euros worth of gear. And so, based off of that, I had a chat with a friend, Alice Whitby, who was a brilliant photographer. So go and look her up, she did a photography degree with and went to uni with my sister, and I asked her all about it. And I said, you know, what would you say to be, I hadn't had any training in photography, but have a good eye, right. So you know, composition comes fairly naturally. But I didn't know how to operate like a digital SLR camera. So basically, the complicated cameras. And she was like, Well, you have to just understand how it all works, exposure, I'm going to forget everything now. Exposure, ISO, what's the other ones shutter speed, all those things, how they all work together? And so I did a one day long, beginners digital photography course. And took it from there, really? And then I just went out finding people asking, Can I take your photos to build my portfolio, and see whether I liked it, and I really loved it. And then lots of different little shoots come off that right, I need to learn how to edit the photos, I need to learn how to build a website. And then I need to know how to find work. And so I've used loads of different stuff. But initially, I used a platform called Creative Live, which is a subscription based thing. And there's loads of pre recorded content by like amazing photographers, and all sorts of people. So I learnt quite a lot through that. And in more recent times, I mean, most of it has been practice from the technical side, and the odd extra course here and there. And the rest has really been the business of photography. And I've you know, I'm part of a membership now called togs in business, which is absolutely brilliant. It's a whole content hub of everything from figuring out who your ideal client is through to building a website through to running campaigns, and anything you can possibly imagine. Along with the Facebook community where you can ask any possible thing you can think of like, should I put my prices on my website? Who does this? This is a question I asked today, I think. And, yeah, I'm doing another brand photography course with a brand photographer called The Woman in the wolf. And she's basically just saying, lifting the curtain and saying, This is how I did it. This is how I built my brand photography business and sort of saying, This is how I did my pricing. This is how I get clients. This is how I run mini sessions, you know, real ends. And I love that because people are like, happy to share what they've learned so that others can also make a go of it. And so it's really that community based lots of online courses with a Facebook group has been like the model that I've really seen. coming to the fore and So I, you know, I use it daily to sort of figure out stuff. And it's it's so important in a, as a in a profession like photography where you're a bit of a lone wolf to have other people to talk to, to learn from, you know, their years of experience and and feel like you're part of a community.

Alex Villacis:

That's, that's all wonderful. And I love so many things I learned I love. It's something that you got into in your 30s, I think. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's something that you got into in your 30s. Because a lot of people get the the crisis in their 30s. I'm turning 30 Next year, and I'm like, I should be scared, but I'm not. Oh,

Sarah Tulej:

no. Is there a reason to be scared, it's when you're 40, which is where I am. That's when you need to

Alex Villacis:

know, but that's the thing is that you can change patterns at any time. I just I just think I've always thought that it's really unfair to ask an 18 year old, what are you going to do with the rest of your life, like choose a career now and never change your mind? It just feels very unfair. And it's by putting stories like yours out there to tell them like, hey, just because you decide something today, you can switch later. Yeah, follow your curiosities.

Sarah Tulej:

Absolutely. And it's unrealistic to think that if you can just have one job because the jobs that we do now, some of them we would didn't exist when we were at school? Yeah, I think one thing that's really important to say about all of this, which often goes on mentioned is that for people that you see making career changes, or building businesses, often they have unseen financial support, family support, moral support. And that can give a really false impression that, like everyone else is erasing it. And why are you struggling? So like to be completely transparent, the reason I've been able to take this risk and invest a lot of time into my photography, business is because I've had the, the support of my partner in that he wants me to be fulfilled in my career, but there's also, you know, brings in majority of our income at the moment, so I'm not going to like, not be able to pay the rent or go hungry, right? If it doesn't work, I can take that. It's far, far less of a risk. And I think I just really wanted to say that because I think it can really make people feel a bit shit. If they're not, you know, like, because it's, you can't leave, you can't change career without a financial buffer. Like, that's the reality. And some people have a lot more of one than than other people do.

Alex Villacis:

That's what I wanted to say also, that the course that you mentioned about the two bankers, it sounds like practical advice. It wasn't just like, Okay, you have this one passion, drop everything, because if you don't drop everything, then you're not into it. It was it's, it's a saying like, you cannot just drop your life. A lot of people have responsibilities you have, yeah, rent, some of us have siblings, parents, partners, people to take care of, and just dropping everything. It's not it's a if you can drop everything. Good for you. I can.

Sarah Tulej:

Yeah, exactly. And like coming from a place like London, if you have parents in London, when you're when you graduate, you know, that is just such a huge leg up to like, take on an unpaid internship, or live rent free. And I think it's really having some bad effects in terms of, you know, seeing who can go who can afford to go into the arts, or who can afford to go into the fashion industry. It's people who are from, like, affluent backgrounds, and then that is terrible for diversity, and terrible for the sector, itself, in terms of what it's going to be able to create and, but I do think the democratisation of learning, which is what we're talking about is like, means that actually, you can go on YouTube, and you can basically teach yourself in your spare time, how to, to learn to learn a skill, and that is wonderful. You know, taking Google and Facebook and everyone with a massive pinch of salt, like they do serve a very useful purpose. You know, they are a tool at the end of the day.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, and you also have pages like Patreon, for example, where you pay creators directly in a past episode. With Joshua, he was telling me about how he went he's an engineer, he was trained as an engineer, but he will always had the artistic bug in him. And he when he went to explore it, he said, I'm not gonna go to university for this, I'm just going to find a mentor and he found a mentor on Patreon are really when they have like, one on one sessions, he's helping you like, with production of his own comic book, and it's finding those keys and finding those ways and not not like that's that's the core of this podcast really wanted to be a resource. So people don't say I don't have money for university. Okay, hear other options here. People like you, who made their way.

Sarah Tulej:

Yes, yeah, absolutely. And like while we're on the topic of podcasts, oh, my god, podcasts. It's I think I felt like I was late to the game. I think I only started listening like a year and a half ago. And the amount you can learn while you're, you know, doing the washing up is astounding and just having company it's like being in the company of a wise friend, like someone that, you know, you might have five or 10 years ago asked for a coffee to kind of get an hour of their expertise, and you could listen to them for hours and hours. And get sick of them.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, please. Which is your favourite? Like, what are you listening to right now? Like, what are your top? Maybe? Maybe not five? Like, what are your top three podcasts right now?

Sarah Tulej:

Oh, gosh. I always like really love some of them and then I get suddenly sick of them. Honesty, I really like honesty. So I love Brene Brown's podcast course

Alex Villacis:

of course, vulnerability. Yeah, she really distils down

Sarah Tulej:

the lessons in a way that I love. I really enjoyed a series called leaders with babies. And they had quite practical advice of people who had had children and then were navigating the world of returning to work. And I mean, I I love one called it's the purely for entertainment called My therapist ghosted me and it's two Irish women there by one's a stand up comedian, and the other is kind of a celebrity. But they just yak on about getting going and getting facials and just their ridiculous lives. And it's an area. So I mean, I kind of use it for different purposes. But the one I listened to this morning was called I think it's called is this working with a couple of people from the UK. And that's all about kind of interrogating notions around work. So she, Andrea cordrea Rado, who's the one of the presenters recently wrote an article called Do I have productivity dysmorphia? And it was all about how she published a book and was kind of a bit. It troubled her that she didn't feel the elation and the kind of, you know, excitement that she thought she would feel she was like, Oh, well, it's not a real book. It's a business book. It hasn't come out in hardback. And, and it's different from imposter syndrome, because she's not she doesn't have that. But so they kind of go and they say is, must we have a purpose in our work? Like, because like having a purpose is like the, the mantra? Isn't it around work these days? So, yes, so yeah, but there's millions of podcasts. And I, I want to know what yours are. What are your recommendations? Well,

Alex Villacis:

now that you say that, Hey, friend, it's Alex just interrupting this conversation to remind you that in order to have the optimal experience, and enjoy all the links in the show notes, you can subscribe to the show on any platform you're using to listen to this podcast. And yeah, it supports the show, he will improve the algorithm for you. So he will show you more shows like this one that you will potentially like. And if you wish to support the show, you can follow us on social media. All the links are in the show notes as well as a link to buy me a coffee, which Yeah, we'll help pay for the hosting and I also love coffee. But enough my babble, let's get back to the show. I like so many of them. I have a problem with how many podcasts I like like I'm opening my my app now. Um, so for for entertainment. Let's start with entertainment I like to listen to why won't you date me with Nicole Byer I don't know that one. It's really funny. She's like, have you seen on Netflix the show? Nailed it. No, it's about people who are not bakers and then invited to a show to bake and everything is a mess. And it's amazing. And it's it's glorious. And she's the host has been an actress and a comedian. And she just asked people why she's still single. So it's really funny. They touch on a lot of topics a lot of like living as a creative as an artist. It's really hilarious podcast, I laugh a lot. Then I love this one called the honesty signer show, which is Tom Ross, Lisa Glenn's Ian Barnard, and Dustin Lee. And they they just talk about being creators being creatives and being in the industry and what is that it's like from the perspective of Tom who has a platform for creatives Lisa So the illustrator and Ian and Dustin sell digital products. So they just talk about the process. And then then I have like I have four I have 4 million podcasts. I mean, I have like far too many, but one that I would recommend for creatives is one called the biz buds. It's with Tom Ross and Mike Janda, and they talk a lot about for example, they demystify following They're like, yeah, you can have 100,000 followers. But if you just get 100 likes, you're getting 0.000001% of your engagement. But if you have 100 followers, and you get 10 likes means that 10% of your followers, you should always focus on that proportion and the percentages instead of the number of followers. And they have a lot of like very useful tips like that. So that's a podcast that I recommend to everybody. I recommend that to you. It's really good.

Sarah Tulej:

Okay, what was it called again?

Alex Villacis:

The biz buds.

Sarah Tulej:

The biz buds.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, I'll send you the link. And I will probably like also, like, put it in the show notes because Mike Janda, but they're both great, guys. But I'm, we're in contact with Mike because his goal is to be the mentor to 100,000 people. A Wow. So if you like message him a question. You DM him on Instagram, he will most likely reply to you within 48 hours and record. And yeah, because he really wants to be the nice guy. He wants to like help people one on one. So it's really cool. And it's getting that. And but to go back to the podcast, you mentioned how important the Facebook group is. Because it's peer to peer learning. It's learning from your peers. Would you consider them teachers as well? And on that topic, what teachers have impacted you you're like you already mentioned to the photographer's Yes. And then the two bankers and

Sarah Tulej:

who Well, I didn't meet the bankers. So I wouldn't, I wouldn't class them as my teachers. It was I love that question, actually, about the teachers, I mean, to answer your question about the Facebook group. And one of the things that often demonstrates when I ask a question is like, there can be 10 different answers, and none of them is right. And you have to figure out what is right for you. And that's why it's really important in those groups to have a very experienced moderator, which is definitely the case in the togs and business. So she kind of comes in and goes, actually, I would recommend this and her her authority is like several times higher, but it's, it's great. And I do learn things, definitely, I'm just reading through other people's questions as well. But in terms of my teachers, I think a common thread in terms of people who have taught me things in my working life is that it's the people that take a real interest in you and should and recognise your potential and want to help bring that out. That's been, you know, in university, and in my first two, like important jobs, they could see that I was had potential, but I was maybe lacking confidence or needing a bit of guidance and mentoring. And in one of them was a man called Pete, I worked in a government housing body in the UK, in my 20s. And, you know, one of the things he did was asked me one day to chair our team meeting, and I was absolutely terrified, but he clearly recognised a, it's something I've learned to do, it's gonna be very useful to me, which it has been, and it's really going to stretch me and, and I was so like, I'm terrified and kind of like, honoured to be asked, I mean, it's a really minor thing when you think about it, but I think when we work with people that are younger, we often forget, like, how much you need to give people opportunities to try things out and be crap at them to start with. And often it's the people in senior positions that kind of always occupy those roles. And I think that's such a wasted opportunity for learning. So yeah, and then a man called David when I worked in sustainability, he you know, really would go to the trouble of explaining like, why his thinking behind why he was doing things and then giving me things to do that were outside my comfort zone, but he would kind of guide me and kind of give me you know, feedback and support and that's just been really invaluable and I think it's that that's how I want to be with people that I'm that are less senior in inverted commas than I am kind of spotting opportunities for them and helping them to grow like that's what it's all about with teaching for me. And then in more recent years as we've moved online I you know, there's been a few people I've met through Instagram well and sort of semi on online offline, kind of like me and you we've kind of seen each other like,

Alex Villacis:

what it's it's that thing where you meet somebody like online, they are in the real world. They materialise in front of you and you're like oh my god, you exist. Yeah, this impressive.

Sarah Tulej:

Yeah, yeah. And it's always like a there's this weird kind of like slightly celebrity factor. If you first saw them online, and then you meet them in real life, one of those people, I actually did meet her in real life first, but then we never saw each other. But I followed her online, it's someone called Lauren curry. And she runs an organisation called upfront. And it is all about changing confidence. It's aimed at anyone who identifies as a woman. And it's about trying to teach people that to be more confident, and rooted in the fact that like, it's the context that we're in that makes it difficult to be called to be confident. So I'm probably going to get this stat wrong but this she she often quotes a United Nations statistic, which is 92% of people are biassed towards women. And you know, I don't know if you've heard that story about a man who, on unknowingly, was working alongside a woman, they shared an inbox. And he didn't realise that one week, her signature automatically went on to his emails, and he started getting treated terribly, like no one would accept what he was saying they were questioning every decision, they were like, asking to speak to someone more senior. And it was just because he had a woman's name on the on his signature. And anyway, I digress. But she has taught me an awful lot about speaking up and sharing your ideas, putting them out there. Kind of word confidence basically. And that's been really has really transformed how I think about things because a lot of people think I've got nothing to say no one will want to listen to me, I am not going to get this job like and this is trying to like, you know, change that which is really, really powerful. And then the last person I'm going to mention is there's someone called Nova Reed, who I found through Instagram, and she is a UK based, anti racist educator. And she recently published a book called The good ally. And she she has a course which I've done which is about learning how racism shows up and trying to actively change the way that you kind of think about it, how you act, uncovering what your biases are, and, and all of that sort of stuff. And during the early pandemic, I was went on furlough, which I don't know if that word makes any sense here. But it basically the government paid people to stay off work when the kind of the work dropped in our organisation, but they needed basically government financial support for me to sit at home and do nothing, which was great. And so I put in,

Alex Villacis:

like unemployment,

Sarah Tulej:

no, no, I was still employed. But they there wasn't work for me to do. But the government paid my organization's to pay me in during that time. So they didn't have to make me unemployed. Okay. It's kind of like, yeah, that sort of thing. So I offered during that time, as I like to be busy, I did the coaching course online. And I also contacted Nova and said, I really like what you do, can I help you in some way. And so I did some research for her, I helped her figure out like her business model, we did some business model work. And, and I followed her ever since but she's just a constant reminder of, you know, the importance of, you know, in the way you approach your work, the way you move through the world, there's things you can do, if you are have privilege, white privilege, in my case, class privilege, as well to try and level things up more or to kind of act against things that might be I'm not expressing myself very well. But basically, you know, being more actively anti racist.

Alex Villacis:

This is not life. Don't worry about it. I can edit this out if you want. It's okay. Um, but no, I love that. I love the level of diverse lessons. And these are all soft skills. Yeah. And I think we take those for granted many times we education focuses so much on the hard skills. Yeah, forget how important soft skills are. Yes. And and sounds like your teachers were more people that were challenging you were putting you in situations that were a little bit of comfortable for you but also guiding you through the process.

Sarah Tulej:

Yeah, and they were mentors as much as teachers, because, you know, we can learn information but to use an overly quoted Maya Angelou quotes, you know, we forget what someone said, but we never forget how they made us feel. And those people have made me feel like I could do things that I didn't formally believe that I could, or I did even, like, consider them as options. And it's that it's like helping someone raise their level of ambition, which is one of the best things a teacher can do.

Alex Villacis:

I have a question real quick, where do you draw the difference between mentor and teacher? Because I have found that everybody has a different idea of what a mentor is. So where is where is that for you? Personally,

Sarah Tulej:

I think it's about the intention behind it, I see the teacher as being quite like neutral. So I'm here to teach you some skills, or how to do things. And don't get me wrong, like teachers in schools are hugely invested in their students. But from and I'm sure the line crosses over, but I think with mentoring, it's like you. Hmm, it's a good question. It's more about transferring your experience and also being? I don't know, that's a really good question. Having more care for them? Or? Actually, I don't know. I feel like it's more maybe it's more career based. It's more about how to, because it's not just how do you do something, but it's things like, it's the wisdom, the received wisdom as well, and letting people in on the process behind doing a job. Like, I think as a mentor, I have been a mentor, things like saying, Look, when I was your age, I didn't know what I was doing. And I was completely terrified most of the time, like, that's not teaching someone something, but it's letting them in on the fact that that what they're feeling is normal, and, you know, kind of helping them feel, I don't know, more supported and more like they're not, you know, a weirdo.

Alex Villacis:

Don't make you feel like they're a weirdo. I love it. I honestly don't think there's a right answer to it. I think it's a very personal thing. And I mean, you can quote some Simon Sinek and say that a mentor somebody that they are learning as much from you as you're learning from them. Yes. And then other people will say that our mentor offers a more holistic experience. Other people have told me that a mentor is more somebody who is a master of their trade, that you need to be a master of your trade to be a mentor. So I think it's very personal. And it depends on what you need as a mentee. I think that's mentor mentee, right?

Sarah Tulej:

I think yes. Yes. And I one thing I heard, I think it was it was on a Brene Brown podcast was the idea of reverse mentoring. I don't know if this has come up.

Alex Villacis:

i That has not come up yet. Okay. Yes,

Sarah Tulej:

I'm the first I'm basically having been paired with someone less senior than you in your organisation. And then basically giving a feedback to you about, you know, how they see it from their perspective and how they feel their managers can be better managers from the perspective of someone who's been managed or who is in a less senior role. And there's all sorts of stuff that goes around that is like, how do you make it so the person feels like they can safely feed back honestly, without there being repercussions. And you have to have like, a process and a structure around that. But I thought that was brilliant, because, you know, let's be honest, there's there's quite some quite strong generational divides that need to be bridged in our society. And that, you know, it's always top down at the moment in, you know, 99% of the time. So I thought that was brilliant.

Alex Villacis:

That That sounds really great. And that reminds me of, I think, one of my first episodes with Jean, we ginger, no capitals, Coons, who is the curriculum director for graphic design at the villa mechanic Academy. And she was telling us, she was telling me about these teaching techniques that they use that as students, we think like, oh, no, we have to work in groups. But the idea of working in groups is that you're forced to explain to somebody that maybe doesn't have your skill level about something and then you have to process yourself the information again, something that is automatic to you. is completely new for them. You have to figure out okay, how am I explaining this and sounds like reverse mentoring, mentorship in which somebody is telling you Okay, when you explain me this, you went too fast. I didn't fully understand it. Yeah, it'd be great if you like went slower. Yeah. Another guest of mine army actually, he was telling me about the the rubber duck technique, or I don't know that one that apparently, in the coding world and people who do programming, they forget that other people don't know programming. So these one programmer had a rubber duck on his desk, and he would have to explain code to the rubber duck. Like okay, he knows nothing. They know nothing. I have to figure out how to explain it to it. And then through that he understood his own train of thinking.

Sarah Tulej:

Yeah, well, it was just yesterday, I think and I don't know where I read it. Someone was like, if you can't explain how you do your process, then you don't know it. Like you don't know what you're doing. And but the having to explain it to someone is such a good discipline because yeah, it means you have to really think hard about the essentials and, and how to make it intelligible for someone else, which is, you know, yeah.

Alex Villacis:

And you understand that yourself fully, because then you can explain it in different ways. And yeah, to an adult, to a child to someone to a senior to a junior, then you have to understand it. I've been on clubhouse for almost a year now. And there are so many groups about Bitcoin, blockchain and fts. And there's always like the expert of the group. And because I am who I am, I like to go and say like, Okay, explain it to me. As if it was a two year old. Explain, take, explain it to me with Legos how they work, and after yet find somebody that can explain it in a simple way. That I think I think that's key

Sarah Tulej:

that never invest in something that you don't understand. Exactly. Exactly. Correct. So is, is a prime example of that for a lot of people.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah. But then, to continue, you mentioned that you are a mentor, like, what's, what's that experience? Like? How do you? How are you as a teacher? do you how do you see yourself as a teacher? How did that mentorship start? Did somebody approached and said, Okay, do you want to be my mentor? Or did it happen organically? What was it like?

Sarah Tulej:

So I offered myself as a mentor. The reason being I was working in, at the time, an organisation, it was predominantly white, middle class, Oxford university educated a lot of people. And we tried a different approach to recruitment and someone who just graduated, she is from she's like, a British Asian background, from Birmingham from, you know, very normal sort of background and was, I kind of saw her come in, and I thought this could be quite tough for her in some ways, and she'll hope she's supported well, and then I thought, well, I can just be that person. So I said, you know, if you ever want some light mentoring, let me know. And so we did it. But what was really interesting was during the time I started mentoring her maybe had three sessions. And then in the middle of that, I trained to become a coach, I did a, an introductory coaching course. And it's the shift was huge, because it went from me kind of going, like how can I sort of like, instil my knowledge in her, and it was falling flat. Sometimes it was kind of okay, but there wasn't a huge level of commitment. But then I was like, right, start again, going to use a coaching approach. And then it was very much about Okay, so what's important to you? Tell me, what are the things you want to work on? Okay, helped us set a goal around, it helped her explore options. I wasn't telling her anything, I was just asking her the questions, and then playing them back to her. So and coaching and mentoring is one of those ones, where what's the difference? But I think mentoring is often about people saying, well, I this is how I did it, the coaching is coming from the standpoint that the person is has the capacity themselves to work things out. It's a question of giving them a space to explore that in an in a structured way. And, you know, it was amazing, because I really saw a huge difference because she was personally invested. It wasn't going because you know, it's like someone's you say, Oh, I've got, I can't sleep as all this, right? Well, what you need to do is you need to have this team, you need to spray lavender on your pillow and do yoga, and you're like, I've tried all those things, or like I'm allergic to lavender, like they don't, I haven't taken the chance to like, explore, you know what they did or where that one came from? I love lavender. And that was a difference, like you're coming up with your own ideas. And then and then after that, I could say, Do you would you like me to share something that I've learned, and then inviting her to do that. And I think that's also really important to that invitation, rather than kind of forcing your ideas on someone kind of saying, Okay, we've explored, you've explored it now. I've got some thoughts do you want them and then they're in a kind of receiving mode because they've got all their own kind of ideas off, you know, out, and they can then go Oh, and here's some other options, take it or leave it and and that was really, really valuable to have had that training and then to be able to practice it with with my colleague. And

Alex Villacis:

so we have made it to the point in the podcast in which I asked a question about the future of creative education and where do I think it's going you have had the good amount of experience with it with mentorship and online trainings and creating your own syllabus. So where do you think it will go in the future?

Sarah Tulej:

Well, without saying the obvious about it online being the future, I think one of the qualities people need to have to thrive in the future will be about self directed learning, which is basically understanding what do I need to learn and having the discipline to go in, find ways of getting that learning. And, you know, I think it's not obvious, there's a million options. So it's kind of being able to find something that's good quality, that's, you know, going to give you what you need. It's going to be peer to peer, it already is peer to peer. But I think that's going to be even more important and accepted, hopefully, as a valid way of learning in the workplace. And I think another thing that's become really important, and it always has been, but it's become really obvious as I went from working in NOC organisation to working as a freelancer is that your network is everything. So your ability to be recommended, be taught to find out about opportunities to ask questions to people that are a bit further along, or you know, that can help you and helping other people is going to be at the centre of it, because we know most jobs aren't advertised. More and more people are going freelance. And one of the things I haven't mentioned, which has been really instrumental in helping me succeed, as a freelancer has been a WhatsApp group or several WhatsApp groups. One of them is called more than money. And it's a group of women mainly in the UK. It's a WhatsApp group. I'm not sure how many people, but it's all about how come it was set up by two people. I won't mention their names. So I don't know if they've ever gone public about this group. But they sort of called it a feminist union. So what people will say is like, Oh, I'm dealing with a ad agency, and they're trying to ask me to do this for this much money, is that a good amount of money, and everyone will pitch in and be like, No, you need to be charging triple and telling them this and and then, you know, I asked I about Day a day rate for a certain job, and someone's like you going in way too low, this is the way that you should pitch it to them. And it's amazing like to have this wisdom, people that are like really quite high powered people being like No, and so a bit of a diversion there. But I think networks are everything. And we have the tools for great networks now. And I think the future is also about the soft skills. So technical skills can be learned. But things like being able to collaborate with other people being able to work across cultures and cultural differences. Being flexible. And then another thing that I think is we need more people able to do is to be able to convene, and hold space, and facilitate and bring people together to come up with ideas to agree things. I mean, it's just been cop 26 in Glasgow, the climate change conference, and you know, that is like your, like epitome of like a failure of leadership, it hasn't been a complete failure, it's actually been better than I was expecting. But that's a very low bar. But that ability to kind of, you know, to do that, and not just creative education, but I think like the world of work as a whole, we need to stop expecting people to have degrees to do certain jobs. I get it, if you want to be a doctor, or a dentist, what, you know, a psychotherapist, definitely an engineer, we don't want bridges falling down. But if it's, you know, experience is more important, I would say lived experience. And it cuts out so many people from opportunities because they haven't had the background to be able to go to university or to get certain, you know, types of qualifications. And again, your years of experience as well shouldn't be the only thing like a lot of people are caught in a trap of not having the experience, not been able to get the experience and they get stuck, especially when you graduate or you come out of school and I think just accepting that there are different types of wisdom and education that are equally valuable. And we need that because for all sorts of reasons, but that would be one of the things that I think needs to change very quickly. In a lot of industries,

Alex Villacis:

I love that I think you pointed so many important things. I mean, and especially going beyond this technological positivism that we fall in thinking like technology will be the solution to everything. But in your idea, it's more, it's more human. It's more let's use technology to make us more human into. Yes, you like connect work and networking, networking is so important. Yeah. And I think also, what you mentioned that I loved, is not only networking within your industry, but also into other industries. Yeah, thank you so much for these conversations are it's really insightful, in deep and dynamic. And we found out that you love lavender, if nothing else, we find out that you really like,

Sarah Tulej:

I know, I'm going to go to bed in about an hour, and I'm going to spray all over myself for

Alex Villacis:

so now that we're at the end, is there anything you want to promote or anything you want to recommend? It can be a book or movie, an artist? Your own work? Is there anything you want to point at?

Sarah Tulej:

What a question? I mean, obviously, if you need some beautiful photography to represent your brand or your business, then do check out my website in the show notes. But I would say a book that I'd like to recommend to the women listening is a book called playing big by Tara Moore. And that's all about taking more bold risks with your career, and, and unlearning some things like that we are taught in school, which is like learning for the test, impressing the teacher retaining lots of information at the expense of being confident, improvising, trusting that you can come up with a good answer without having to prepare for three hours. And that was really has really helped me gain some confidence. So I would really recommend checking that book out playing big. It's a good one, and it's not very long.

Alex Villacis:

That is I love it. Well, thank you so much. All right. Thank you for joining me on the podcast. I'm so happy that we met online men in real life. And now we're back online for a second.

Sarah Tulej:

Yes, we must meet offline again. Yes,

Alex Villacis:

before the lockdown revelations lock us up again. Yes, I

Sarah Tulej:

hope thank you so much for inviting me. I've really enjoyed it. It's so much fun to have people ask you questions, and then be interested in your answers like so I've really enjoyed myself.

Alex Villacis:

You know, a lot of people say like that, that talking to people is hard. I just keep telling them people love talking about themselves. Like people really like talking about themselves. I really do. Yeah. Yay. Happy, happy. Yes, happy. Nice. Perfect. Well, thank you so much.

Unknown:

Thank you.

Alex Villacis:

And just like that, we have made it to the end of another wonderful episode. I hope you really enjoyed it because I enjoyed recording it. Since I enjoy Sarah so much. We did hang out again, we hang out because we're friends in real life. And I just showed her this really cool coffee shop in not a coffee shop a cafe in Russia a few weeks ago. And yeah, we'll definitely meet up again soon. And maybe I'll let her take my picture. Maybe she'll help me find my fears. I don't know. I hope you enjoyed this. Her journey is so amazing. And you'll find links to her to her website to all her resources to the podcast recommended. There's so many links in the show notes. I'm sorry, there was just so many cool things and I couldn't contain myself. But okay, really. I really hope you enjoyed it. And as we come to the end of the show, I want to say thank you for joining me on another episode and giving me your time. I hope you're enjoying these conversations. Please subscribe to the show, give it a review or give us feedback. It's always welcome. Are there questions you would like to ask Creatives or do you have somebody you would like to recommend for the show? You can reach out to me on social media or email which is all linked in the show notes. Also special thank you to Anne, Catherine and Marcus for supporting the show through buy me a coffee. Love you guys and I appreciate the encouragement. Also, thank you to roll health Haida for the music for this show, and to immaculately Marin for her help proofreading the transcripts and helping keep the podcast as accessible as possible to close. Thank you for listening again this week, and I hope to be back in your ears very soon. Until then, keep learning and stay curious. Bye