Dynamic duos: Sally Christian and Nancy Lan

In this new column for Mumbrella, Starcom’s national head of strategy, Sally Christian, and Sydney managing director, Nancy Lan, talk about the power of partnership, and a friendship that started more than 15 years ago in a
pre-Facebook world.

In this new column Mumbrella will each month ask two members of the same organisation that share a professional and personal affiliation, to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly work-from-home world.

Sally Christian: We met about 15 years ago. We were at Telstra when Nancy joined my team. It was small, just three of us looking after media sponsorship. Fresh from university Nancy was young, but I remember her as fearless, determined, and in many ways more grown up than I was at that point. It’s one of the values we now have at Starcom – ‘Fearless Growth’ – but I think it’s something that’s innate to her.

I remember we both had the same black dress and ballet pumps. I was envious of how Nancy always looked so neat. She has this wonderful Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy type style. On occasion we still turn up to the office in the same things, but my hair is wild, I can never quite achieve her grace.

I was surprised when Nancy went to London. I’m not sure I imagined her there, but both there and during her time in Shanghai she clearly thrived; she found her media home in agencies.
Our work paths crossed again when Nancy joined Starcom. However, it’s really only the last two
years that we’ve worked so closely again.

We work well together, she understands the value of strategy, is always looking for ways to strengthen our agency and work, and whilst she’s an amazing all-rounder she listens and appreciates craft expertise.

Since we first met, we’ve gone from looking after campaigns to looking after people and business.

The industry has changed a lot in that time, we met in a pre-Facebook world, but one thing remains the same, our industry is still all about people. It’s one of the key things that differentiates one agency brand from another.

The relationship Nancy and I have is additive. It’s very open, we’re honest and challenge each other, which makes for better work. Ideally, every relationship we have should be like this, both in the work that we do and the way that we enhance and grow each other.

Nancy is still as determined as when I first met her and she’s incredibly hard to say no to. She also has this wonderful heart. I’ve heard her fight for her team, it makes me honoured to be her colleague
and proud to call her my friend.

Nancy Christian

Nancy Lan: I was an enthusiastic, eager to please, graduate fresh out of university. Sally Christian was quietly confident, exuded quintessential polite yet authoritative Englishness. She was the most stylish
person I had ever met, and she was my first boss.

I knew instantly that when I grew up, I wanted to be like Sally. Sally was running the media sponsorship and content team when I joined Telstra and over the course of 18 months, at a formative stage of my career, I learnt much about respectful leadership, resilience and hard work.

A decade down the track, following an adventurous tri-continental career journey, I found myself
once again working with Sally at Starcom. And she has firmly become a trusted partner.

I think what makes our partnership work is the implicit trust that Sally and I have developed. We both have a similar view of the world and similar experiences having both worked on client side, with media owners and finding ourselves settling and thriving in the agency world.

We both have high expectations of ourselves and I know that if Sally is on a task, it will be a task that will be thoughtfully and meticulously delivered. She is a deep thinker but also a roll-up-her-sleeves doer.

Together, we get things done for our clients, our teams and for each other.

I bring understanding of client business challenges and Sally identifies the growth opportunities and
human understanding to solve those challenges. Sally and I debate the current and future state of our
agency and she aims to resolve gaps through craft and product, while I bring structural and commercial enablement.

We talk at length about how to develop our teams to be masters of their crafts and agitators for client growth and career growth. In our unique roles, we both feel the weight of responsibility but also the privilege of leadership.

Agency life is dynamic and tumultuous at times, never more apparent than trying to drive business transformation in a lockdown world. I am grateful that I have amazing partners at Starcom to
navigate this complex reality, none more so than my strategic partner, my friend, Sally.

Nancy Lan

Sally Christian on Nancy:

Most memorable moment with Nancy: It would be the same as Nancy – doing the flowers for her wedding. It’s such a special day, it was a privilege that she put her faith and trust in me to play such a significant part in it.
Best word to describe Nancy: Giving
Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: She never misses a deadline!

Nancy Lan on Sally:

Most memorable moment with the Sally: Sally did flowers for my wedding. Like her, they were spectacular in a quiet and sophisticated way.
Best word to describe the Sally: Intuitive
Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: She is always the smartest in the room and always wears it better!

If you and a colleague would like to submit your story to Dynamic duos, please email anna@mumbrella.com.au. 


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