Writer, broadcaster and podcaster Pandora Sykes has become a luminary voice in British media.
In an exclusive virtual event for members last December, AllBright’s co-founder Debbie Wosskow OBE hosted Pandora for an intimate conversation to reflect on a year of challenge and transformation.
You’re in luck if you missed out on What A Difference A Year Makes With Pandora Sykes – here are my top takeaways.
(And if you want to watch the replay yourself, you can do so here!)
1. Quitting takes courage
Debbie opened with a tough question for Pandora: with the undeniable success of The High Low podcast, co-hosted with Dolly Alderton, spanning 150 episodes and earning 30 million downloads – why end it?
“To be truthful, The High Low was a really successful business,” said Pandora, thanks to co-owning it with Dolly at a low cost of production. However, the pair had always planned to close The High Low after four years.
“That was a hard thing to come to terms with. Especially in your thirties, you build a business, you get more people liking your business and you make more money, so to walk away from it did seem antithetical in that regard.”
2. When one chapter ends, another begins
Moving on from the podcast has allowed Pandora to pursue other interesting projects, like The Missing about long-term missing people and Pieces of Britney, a podcast about Britney Spears for BBC Radio 4.
“That work is really meaningful to me, I really enjoy it and I wouldn’t have been able to do it alongside The High Low,” she said.
3. Passion pays
Exploring Pandora’s entrepreneurial journey further, Debbie asked whether she always intended to run The High Low as a business.
Pandora describes herself as commercially savvy but risk averse: “I like to look at what I think is missing – that’s always how I’ve approached my career… we definitely didn’t start it as a business. I honestly think that starting anything as a business puts a completely different pressure on it, particularly creative [pursuits].”
4. Make space for sisterhood
Debbie asked Pandora about the female cheerleaders in her life. “I try not to be competitive. What supporting other women means to me is not all trying to inhabit the same space. There’s a lot of oxygen in the room, even if we have been led to believe that there isn’t,” said Pandora.
5. Forge a path of purpose
When considering whether an opportunity is the right step for her, Pandora admits she does consider what others might think. “I’ll be like, ‘Should I do that job? Is that what people think would be the right job for me to do?’ I definitely need reminding that I have a very strong instinctive gut and I have to follow it without wondering,” she said.
Ultimately, her guiding light is a sense of purpose and impact to her work: “I’m really curious and I just like telling stories, to be honest. There has to be a purpose, it has to be meaningful. That’s all that guides my work, really.”
6. Set yourself free from social media
“It’s now very rare that I monetise or do work specifically for social media. That has allowed me to have a much more flexible relationship with it. Sometimes I’m like, God, it would just be so nice not to have it,” Pandora revealed.
“But what I love is that not only is it platform to spread my own work, but I love young brands and debut books, and what an amazing opportunity to post about a book and someone might go and buy it.”
7. Remote work is inclusive work
On her book tour for How Do We Know We're Doing It Right? going virtual, Pandora said: “Initially, I was really disappointed because I was meant to be going all around the UK. In hindsight, I think it probably wasn’t a bad idea. I was quite exhausted from work, and I had a young baby.
“Zoom has been quite liberating for people who travelling is harder for, if you’ve got young kids or if you’re heavily pregnant. I remember doing The High Low tour around the UK when I was eight months pregnant and that was really uncomfortable. I’m just amazed by women who do it.”
8. In the hob of life, you can’t cook on all burners
Citing David Sedaris’s Laugh Kookaburra in the New Yorker, Pandora said: “It’s having an awareness that there is simply not enough time to do everything and we do have mad levels of expectations for experiencing everything and engaging in everything.
“If a woman chooses to opt out of something, whether its social media or playdates or looking nice or keeping a nice home – let her turn up like a bag lady if that’s the only way she can make stuff work!”