A Week in My Life: Hannah Matterson, CEO, Generator North East
Less than a year ago, Hannah Matterson was appointed the new CEO of Generator, the music, digital creative and tech agency.
She replaced Jim Mawdsley, having worked on a range of music projects and culture bodies before taking up her first CEO role. Prior to Generator, Hannah spent time at a Sunderland community music project, the Music Arts and Culture Trust in Sunderland, Sage Gateshead, and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Generator celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, originally launching as a music development agency and growing into a full-scale support agency for the thriving music and creative digital industries in the North East. Their dedicated team is driven by a shared passion for creativity in the region, and works alongside a range of partners to make a real impact on the industry.
We found out what a week in Hannah's life looks like.
Right then - first stop, the kettle. No good week starts without a good cup of tea - milk, no sugar!
Working from home, a normal week usually starts with a check-in with the Generator team to make sure all our staff are OK. Although we are now very used to working from our own homes, it's always great to see each other, even if it is only on a screen and I think it's really important that we stay connected. I'll get an understanding of where many of our projects are at and what all our goals are for the week, so we all know what we're doing, me included!
My day would include updates from partners from our ERDF-funded Supply Chain North East Project, and meetings with other businesses about potential partnership working. This could be around us delivering some digital adoption work together, or maybe just an introductory chat to understand what each other do. The digital creative industries are vast, so the more I can connect with people, the better understanding Generator has and can tailor our work to support that business community.
I'll discuss any news or announcements we need to make with our Marketing Manager and make sure we're all up to speed on what's happening across the business. Mondays are often about getting going, so I'll try to get some admin and emails done too - always good to keep on top of these things!
Our daily team meeting means we all get to see each other's faces in the morning, which I think is nice, except if we're all a bit tired or grumpy! Today's question to the team was: "If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be?" I like these meetings, it gives us a chance to have some fun, at least pretend like we're in our office and sets us up for the rest of the day!
As a music talent development agency, Generator runs a whole programme of Talent Development projects for music creators across the North East. I try to dedicate a whole day each week to working specifically on these projects, as many of them are ongoing. A lot of this programme is funded, so it's important for me to ensure we are meeting our objectives and can report back to our funders on a successful project.
I'll meet with our Creative and Digital Programme Manager and Talent Development Manager to discuss how projects are going, what work still needs to be done and any new ideas. I'm a big believer in working as a team and listening to everyone's ideas for our programmes of support, so I like to hear what everyone else thinks we should be doing and then I can make some informed decisions about the direction of our next new and exciting project.
I'll also meet with music industry professionals, artists, venue management or anyone working in the music industry in the North East to either support their career development, hear their ideas, or find a way to work with them on one of our projects. This week's big project is a Songwriting Residency which I am very excited about!
Wednesday morning means Breakfast Networking (sort of)! It's difficult to stay connected to the digital creative business community during these times, and I certainly miss having a cuppa and a catch-up with old and new faces! But we've been hosting regular Breakfast Networking sessions online to enable people to meet, connect and take some time out of their week to simply have a chat with some people.
All of our Digital Union members are always invited to attend these sessions, but they're open to anyone and you're always welcome! We might give a little update about some upcoming Digital Union events or some business support we are offering, but then we leave you to it!
The thing about networking is that it can be quite scary if you haven't done much of it before. We see lots of graduates or students who want to take their first steps into the digital creative industries, but don't quite know where to start. I'll often meet with staff from universities and colleges from across the North East to find ways in which we can work more closely, connecting those students and graduates with the businesses that are on their doorstep.
Digital Union enables us to do this, and events such as Breakfast Networking can been a relaxed, informal but extremely useful way of bridging the gaps between education and industry.
After copious amounts of tea and one too many biscuits, I start to get my brain in gear to do some business and budget planning. I don't mind numbers, I've just got to be in the mood to look at them! A good time to turn up whatever I'm listening to on Spotify - a playlist I've been adding to over the course of these lockdowns - and get stuck in.
Today's question: "What have you been reading or watching?" We're a creative bunch at Generator, so it's always nice to hear what other cultural things we are absorbing. I've just finished reading Richard Osman's 'The Thursday Murder Club' and I'm currently watching The Queen's Gambit - neither of these things are in any way related to music or the digital creative industries in the North East, and I'm grateful that I can occasionally find the time to switch off from work completely.
Following on from yesterday's brilliant Breakfast Networking, I've got some meetings to arrange and ideas to process - all very exciting! A possibility of a new sponsor for Digital Union, which will allow us to continue to grow our offer and support the digital creative industries to thrive in the North East.
I love partnership working. I find it very satisfying and developing true reciprocal relationships with other businesses that can benefit others as well as ourselves is one of the highlights of my role.
I spend the afternoon working on a funding application. We're a non-profit organisation and much of our income is generated through fundraising. Being able to articulate how we support the digital creative industries in the North East through Digital Union is often a challenge, but one that I love. So no matter if we are looking to provide support for businesses who need to increase their digital marketing capabilities, or for musicians to understand how to live stream, it's important that we get it right.
I finish my day by spending some (a bit too much) time on social media, finding out what everyone else is up to, sharing excellent news, or seeking opportunities for collaboration. I'm not quite sure how it's 7:30pm already, but I really should stop work now!
Friday! Hooray! This week has flown by and I have a nagging feeling that I've forgotten to do something. In reality, there's always just a bit too much to do, so I push it to the back of my mind and get on with today's tasks - I want to finish the week on a high!
I'm spending some time today preparing a paper for our Board of Directors about our Digital Union and Tipping Point programmes. It's just an update on what is happening, but it's useful for them to know these things well in advance. I'm also completing some actions from our last Youth Advisory Board meeting. I set up a Youth Advisory Board last year, as I want Generator to encourage more 18-to-25 year-olds to enter the digital creative industries and the only way we can do that is if we are being helped and directed by our audience.
They're a fantastic group of young people who aren't afraid to speak their mind, something which I really admire them for! I don't think I was always able to do that when I was younger (some may argue otherwise) so it's fantastic to see them get more involved with the business and hold us to account.
I have a couple of artist advice sessions today too. We get lots of music creators asking for help with various aspects of their careers, so between a few of us in the team, we make sure each music creator gets to speak to the most relevant person. I'm talking to a band about funding opportunities today, so hopefully I can help them to raise the money to record a new album!
As we approach 4:30pm, there's a quick succession of messages on our MS Teams chat - after work drink? A resounding yes! It always feels like a nice way to end the week.