Q&A: Emerging 50 2020 mentorship winner Kelsey Wade

This Q&A with Kelsey Wade, the 2020 winner of the inaugural ProPrint Emerging 50 mentorship prize in partnership with The Real Media Collective first appeared in print in the August issue of ProPrint.

Nominations for the 2021 Emerging 50 are now open at www.proprintawards.com.au.

Kelsey Wade, a graphic designer at Print DNA in South Australia, is at the half-way mark of her mentorship with The Real Media Collective so we thought we’d check in and see how it is going.

Q: The mentorship program is now at the half-way mark, how has it been going?
Kelsey: Well, let’s just say COVID has forced Kellie Northwood and I to think outside the box. We have had to communicate through Zoom, over the phone and email predominately, and we are yet to meet face-to-face. Nonetheless, the restrictions and distance between us has not put a dampener on our progress and we have together been able to tick off our goals.

This mentorship has enabled me to grasp a cultivated understanding of my personal development and consider my future aspirations with much more clarity and wisdom. I simply think back to the start of the year and what I have since learned and flourished into. It’s the small things that make the biggest differences, and I think being under Kellie’s guiding wing has encouraged that immensely. Through her mentoring, I’ve been inducted into the broader printing world and have had the opportunity to network with some fantastic people, including Sandy Aspinall, the SA Patron for Women in Print.

Kellie has such a profound knowledge and passion for the industry, and I feel I have inherited fragments of her purposeful and powerful identity. My whole vision has shifted from seeing my individual potential through a narrow lens, to a real projection of passion and motivation that has been sculpted and fine-tuned through discussions, practice, reflection and feedback – my ideal brain food for success.

Q: You recently featured on a Women in Print panel discussing the gender gap in communications. How was that?
Kelsey: I’m not usually one for improv public speaking, and especially in front of an already highly capable audience when I am so young and still learning the ways of the trade. But it was certainly quite an experience and a great initiative to be a part of, collaborating with such powerful voices of some truly admirable women.

Emerging 50
Kelsey appearing alongside other women of the Australian printing industry in a recent Women in Print webinar.

There were such fierce, passionate discussions about our topic of ‘Bridging the Gender Communication Gap’ that truly inspired me and made me feel so privileged to share my perspective on the panel. The topic certainly gave me a lot of room to consider my values and position my conversation to reflect that.
That mixed with what I had learned through my co-panellists on the topics being discussed was enough to make me realise, and since adjust, my own language styles and tonality in my everyday work and personal life to include more inclusivity and integrity. I feel more accepting of my language now because of it.

Q: What feedback did you receive after your appearance on the panel?
Kelsey: I received many positive and appreciative comments from my co-panellists and viewers, and it certainly did help to have the guidance from an incredibly supportive, erudite panel selection and by having Kellie on side to provide her expertise in preparation for the webinar. In general, it was simply great to have had this opportunity. I even received comments through LinkedIn on my contribution to the discussion, which was quite a nice surprise and all the same very comforting to know that I could provide value to the topic with my younger voice.

Q: What have you gained so far from the mentorship program and what do you hope to achieve?
Kelsey: So far, I feel I’ve gained a rich interpersonal insight through Kellie’s mentoring, and I hope that throughout the rest of the programme and beyond I can better develop my skillsets and expand my network and repertoire of resources. My ideal self-outlook is to become a useful example of young success within such a broad-scoped, dynamic and generationally spanned industry. It’s my primary motive and wish to serve as inspiration for younger creatives out there, taking on the knowledge that I’m just a young girl from the country working at a micro business and I have struck gold many times with only three years in the industry.

Q: How has the program helped you already?
Kelsey: COVID has made us consider different modes for this mentorship journey, with most of it having been undertaken online thus far. And so, we have utilised that to my advantage.
Kellie has endowed me with hot tips and feedback while we’ve been forming and fine-tuning my LinkedIn profile. Prior to that I had never considered creating a profile, but now that Kellie has helped me to set up this platform, I’m now mingling with this new network in which I can share my progress and achievements, and it has allowed me to begin establishing connections with like-minded groups and individuals and even higher-level personalities.

Emerging 50
Kelsey’s new look LinkedIn profile.

Q: What made you enter the Emerging 50 Mentorship Prize?
Kelsey: Well, all thanks goes to the LIA SA President, Gordon Wilson, who put me up for nomination. After some research I discovered how well-regarded the awards were within the print industry and was simply blown away by what it meant to be nominated. I knew then I had to use this chance to put myself out there. Having already accomplished and partaken in many awards and experiences beforehand, I simply couldn’t pass up an opportunity such as this.

Q: Where do you see your career progressing?
Kelsey: I’ll keep coming back to COVID, because that, as we all know, has changed our world forever. Same could be said for my career future. At this stage, the future is unpredictable and the goals we have in place can easily be interrupted. Had there been no worry of this, I would have loved to travel around the world for the mere pleasure of doing so and to visit other print and design establishments to engage my passion.

But at this stage, my focus is purely on skill-building. While I’m still young and fresh in the industry, my future outline is to better my current trade skillsets and develop newer skills in management, marketing and communications. The print industry is a vast and diverse playground of knowledge, so there will always be new tools and tips to learn, new technologies to master and new ideas to imagine.
My goal is to simply see how much I can soak up and use to better myself, the industry and future creative generations.

This mentorship has been a great starting point for that.

Q: What interests you about print?
Kelsey: This is as hard as answering what do I love about food. Okay, maybe not to that extent, but you get the point.
Ever since I first set foot in little ol’ Print DNA in Renmark I have been amazed about what we do and how we do it.
I’ve always been a creative soul, even from a very young age, and never really knew how I could express or harness my creativity in a job.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect when the apprenticeship opportunity came up after I completed Year 12, as I originally had half a goal to get a graphic design qualification somewhere, somehow.
Print was never a consideration. In fact, I had never even considered it as part of a graphic design pathway at all. It’s funny how naive we are when we’re young and inexperienced.
That’s to say, print has become one of my joys of life. It is the true art of all things, to be able to create something on a screen using my own imagination and expertise, and then to see it in mass production and eventually in the hands of the client. I get a buzz every day doing this, because every day I am part of the chain that creates these products.
I’m sure many others will nod their head in agreeance with me when I say there’s no greater satisfaction in the world than hearing of a happy customer and knowing you had a part in it.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the programme?
Kelsey: The biggest thrill I’m waiting for is the chance to attend PacPrint. Having been exposed to PrintEx in 2019, I’m excited to return and participate in the Women in Print Breakfast event with Kellie. Beyond that, I’m excited for every opportunity and challenge that Kellie throws at me.
I thrive on the provision of knowledge and skill-building, as anyone who knows me well enough would know.

Q: Will we see you in Sydney for the 2021 ProPrint Awards?
Kelsey: I’m very eager to attend. Having been an awards recipient almost every time I’ve been to a presentation night, it would be such a rewarding experience to be a part of this year’s event as the first winner of the ProPrint Emerging 50 Mentorship program. Let’s just hope COVID behaves itself between now and then!

Now it is time to hear from the mentor, Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood:

“The program has been an exploration of what Kelsey needs in the short-term and what we can continue to build on,” The Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood said.

Emerging 50
Power 50 2020 winner Kellie Northwood, The Real Media Collective


“We immediately identified Kelsey’s intelligence and ability, however the opportunity to build a profile and gain industry networking skills has become a unique offering of the program. Creating LinkedIn profiles, developing a professional brand and building communication skills across the industry have been the most significant development I’ve witnessed for Kelsey.

“Many of us who have worked in the industry for several years and have built networks of colleagues, peers and stakeholders. As a young entrant into the industry this network is limited, so assisting in accelerating that network development through opening my own was an obvious mentoring opportunity.

“The next biggest program will run across PacPrint with the opportunity for Women in Print Breakfast networking, introductions and one-on-one time with TRMC Board Executives and Industry Leader workshops to help Kelsey further develop her interpersonal skills at an executive level and with key stakeholders she can continue working with in the future.

“I personally have thoroughly enjoyed the mentoring experience. Kelsey is a wonderful young talent and building a program that suits her needs is delivering wonderful outcomes. I want to thank Ian and PrintDNA for their continued support of Kelsey and the program, they have a reputation of nurturing incredible young talent across their organisation, and I congratulate them for that.

“To Kelsey, this journey has only just begun. I look forward to watching your career continue to evolve and grow.”

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