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What I’ve Learnt: Kate Harris, Regional Director at NABS


Kate Harris is Regional Director at NABS, the support organisation for the advertising and media industry.

Kate manages NABS’ operations in Manchester as well as Scotland, building partnerships with senior leaders across the regions and supervising their events and educational programme.

She’s previously worked across some of the world’s leading agencies, before serving as NABS’ CEO for five years until 2005, after which she started her own marketing and communications recruitment firm, and took up the Regional Director role.

We found out the things that matter to her.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Drinking lots and lots of water.

What’s been your luckiest break?

I was CEO of NABS before moving to Manchester as NABS’ regional director, and I’d say becoming CEO back in 2000 was my luckiest break. It was perfect timing.

Having worked all my life in ad agencies, I needed a change. The role was brilliant; I felt as though I achieved things, and I met and worked with some fantastic people who are role models in the industry and big influences on me. It has been a real privilege to work with NABS for so many years, and to have played a part in helping many people in our industry.

What’s your best failure?

I was told in my early career as an account manager that I “wasn’t strategic enough.” 

Despite that, I went on to work on and be instrumental in producing some famous and award-winning campaigns and ads, including the BBC’s Perfect Day film, and the global campaign for Patek Philippe watches with the slogan “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for another generation”.

I also repositioned and rebranded NABS as one of my first jobs as its CEO. 

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Setting up my own headhunting business, Harris Talent, alongside my NABS role. It took a huge investment of time and it stretched me financially until I made my first senior placement.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Not perfect, but I’m working on it.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’d always say ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but that’s just because it’s one of my favourites. I find giving recommendations difficult, because we all have different tastes.

Another memorable book for me is ‘The Bridge’ by Iain Banks. I cried when it finished, just because it finished. I also love ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. A very moving and life-affirming story.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Have the strength of your own convictions, don’t miss any opportunities that come your way and be yourself.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

That’s a hard one because there are many. Early on it was Mike Parsons, MD of a lovely agency called Humphreys Bull & Barker. He became a lifelong friend. Later on, I’d say Tim Delaney, chairman of Leagas Delaney, even though I was scared of him. His standards pushed me to be better at my job.

From NABS, it would have to be my two Presidents, Jeremy Bullmore and John Bartle. Both were so smart, kind, funny and supportive. I learnt so much from them.

I also have to mention my family, friends and not least, my husband. They are the people who always believe in me. Sorry if that sounds like an extract from Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous Oscar speech!

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I used to work for Paul McCartney. I was a secretary at his production company, MPL. I met him and his wife Linda (both of whom were absolutely lovely) many times and also George Harrison, among many other famous people.

MPL was and still is based in a lovely building in Soho Square in London. When I resigned, Linda called me and asked if I wanted to be their private PA. I politely declined because the call back into the world of advertising was too strong for me.

What does success look like to you?

Being happy and fulfilled in what I do, and with who I am, which for the majority of the time, I am.

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