In the latest in our series of interviews in collaboration with WOD – Women in Office Design, we speak to Liz Walker, marketing manager at Orangebox, an office design firm, about her career path that began as a PA at Humber Accessories and takes in roles in customer services, logistics, showroom management and marketing, and she tells us how and why the industry can get better at promoting social mobility.
You’ve had a variety of roles within the furniture design business: how do you feel that’s influenced the role you do now?
Its given me a real scope and understanding of the industry from the admin, accounts and logistics to project management, marketing and design. I always wanted a job with longevity and looking back never realised I would be able to carve a career in the way I have.
What do you most enjoy about the work you do? And what’s the biggest challenge you face or have faced in your career?
The variety and dealing with interesting people every day. Being a working mum is a constant challenge; my priority is my family but I have a job that’s very important to me, I am constantly juggling, however, I want to be a good role model and ensure my children understand that a good honest work ethic is key and not necessarily just the financial rewards.
From your perspective and with your experience, what do you think makes a furniture brand successful?
Being brave, taking risks and having a very clear idea of where you want to be.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
Fight for what you believe in, even if everything is stacked against you; rely on your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.
I’d love to hear about your work with charities focused on social mobility. What made this area your particular passion?
I have teenage kids and I live in inner London within a solid family network and it is apparent that there are a lot of young people who don’t have that, nor do they have access to the opportunities and experiences my children have and are encouraged to seek. This can be for many reasons and after working in a commercial environment all my life I felt I could give something back. By volunteering some time and being able to mentor and help empower young people to believe education, university and work are things they can aspire to have is exceptionally rewarding. Myself and Orangebox are able to provide a great platform for productive work experience for young people; we are a successful business with a great culture and we work in an inspirational space with a a wonderful mixture of talent and experience from all sorts of backgrounds, which I am proud to expose young people to.
Do you think the design industry is improving in terms of social mobility, and how do you think it could do better on this front?
I have first hand experience of this within Orangebox who have a great history of driving people and aiding career progression. Orangebox stems from a family business so it is recognises the importance of family and I have really benefited from this attitude. The industry in general is changing but the changes are slow, there is always more to be done and there should be greater flexibility within the workplace and this should be for those with or without families.
Liz Walker of Orangebox talks about her career and her work promoting social mobility within the design industry