Stacey Olika on balancing work as a BBC production assistant with multidisciplinary personal work
Stacey Olika is a young multidisciplinary designer currently working at BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit in Bristol. Six months into her new role, Stacey has taken a deep dive into the world of production at one of the biggest television and radio production companies in the world. How did she get there? After an interest in curation led Stacey to put on a few exhibitions of her own, her work caught the eye of some members of the BBC, who she kept in contact with. And eventually, Stacey was offered a position she couldn’t refuse. Today, she works to support the team with everything from schedules and budgets to management. Alongside her work at the BBC, Stacey is also a designer and speaker, with a focus on subjects such as racism and representation. Here, Stacey talks to us about securing a job in TV without any experience; the importance of passion, and why being too critical of yourself can hinder your progress.
Production Management Assistant, BBC Bristol (March 2020–present)
Freelance Multidisciplinary Designer
What I do
How would you describe what you do at BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit?
I work as a production management assistant in the Natural History Unit’s digital team; it’s a great starter for anyone who wants to work in production at the BBC. In my role, I provide admin and production support to the team in order for things to run smoothly. I am the key point of contact within the team and I also support the production managers and coordinators with preparing schedules, budgets and overall management. It really has given me insight into how I could progress, and an overview of how production works.
How else would you describe your practice outside of your role at the BBC?
I label myself as a multidisciplinary designer and my practice ranges from digital design to creative production and curatorial work. I touch on work that focuses on decolonising standards in an era of neo-colonialism, and my design work really focuses on Black storytelling. My practice is a reflection on what I would like to see in the world and the experiences I have had.
“What I love most about my practice is being able to work across a range of mediums and projects.”
I am also a speaker on subjects that can affect young people’s access into the creative industry, like racism and representation. Outside of that I co-present a radio show on Ujima in Bristol called The Chart Show. What I love most about my practice is being able to work across a range of mediums and projects. I’ve always been interested in more than one thing at a time, so being able to touch on representation and identity across mediums has been amazing.
If you could pick one meme to describe what it’s like to work at BBC Studios Natural History Unit, what would it be and why?
What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
I’m working from home at the moment, and I’m loving my iPad because I’m re-watching all of Desperate Housewives on it, whilst illustrating.
What recent project at BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit are you most proud of?
Since I have been at the Natural History Unit I’ve been really involved in the Diversity and Inclusion team. We organised our first event during lockdown which I co-curated alongside my colleagues. It was an outreach event for people that wanted to get their foot in the door with no TV experience; the exact same boat I was in six months ago. It was a huge success with over 750 sign ups! I was so shocked, but it was my proudest moment to date.
What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
In my work as a multidisciplinary designer, it is important to have tenacity and passion. I say this because when I started off as a freelancer, it was incredibly hard to keep motivated. Things aren’t always consistent and there are slow days, but then there are incredible days too. With continued patience, it will all be worth it.
In terms of my role at the Natural History Unit, entering as a production management assistant, I didn’t have any experience working in TV, but I had the skillset to be a part of a production management team. I had curated my own exhibitions and events, and I’ve handled all of my finances and admin – so I was very well suited to the role.
“I mentioned that I wanted to work at the BBC, and we kept in contact... I’ve now been at the BBC for six months.”
How did you land the job?
I curated a creative event at the Arnolfini in Bristol about a year and a half ago called Agents of Change; Think, Create, Play and I think because I worked on it for so long, networked and had a great team, a lot of people heard about it.
Soon enough, the word got around and a couple of people that worked at the BBC happened to be there and we had a good conversation. I mentioned that I wanted to work at the BBC and we kept in contact for a while whilst I continued to work in Bristol. When the time was right, we connected in person and everything felt like it was happening so quickly! I’ve now been at the BBC for six months.
How I got here
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I wasn’t getting a lot of work if I’m honest, but I started curating my own exhibitions and inviting everyone to them, as I just wanted people to see my work and the meaning behind it. I think starting out as I did really helped me because I wasn’t focused on a particular path, I was able to explore different disciplines in the creative world first.
If you could pick one thing that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would it be and why?
One of the first things that inspired me was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read this as part of my final year project and it opened my eyes to identity, religion and power struggles. This book introduced me to the impact of colonialism.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge has always been with myself. I am overly critical because I have an exact vision of how I want things to play out. That has led me to experience burnout and breakdowns before, but I have continually told myself that it is ok to experience failure because failure encourages growth.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Starting off as a creative freelancer, I learnt how important it is to have things documented and in writing. This includes contracts, invoices, business plans. Not only does this help you out financially, but it will also help build your reputation.
At one point I was working part time at UWE (University of the West of England), tutoring kids on maths and English, and delivering parcels. I began to acknowledge that there is no shame in having to do something else in order to support your dream.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
“Genius is not enough, it takes courage to changes people’s hearts.” (Quote from the film, Green Book).
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I would say “Create like nobody is watching”.
Introduction by Siham Ali
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