43. The individual skills needed to thrive in the future of work | Nathalie Marquez Courtney, Award-Winning Writer and Photographer


Nathalie Marquez Courtney | Award-Winning Writer and Photographer


This week we catch up with Nathalie Marquez Courtney an award-winning writer and photographer who loves getting inspired by creative people and how they work. She writes and shoots stories for Ireland's leading publications and her photography work has been published in a wide variety of national and international publications, including The New York Times and The Guardian. Nathalie is also a self-confessed tech nerd and when not shooting or writing, she can usually be found on a beach in her new hometown of Galway in the west of Ireland.


Nathalie Courtney





[00:00:00] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Passion is more important than intellect. Don't ask yourself, "Am I smart enough?" But ask yourself, "Am I interested enough?"

[00:00:14] - Doug Foulkes
Welcome to Episode 43 of The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future. It's brought to you by WNDYR for their blog Chaos and Rocketfuel. We release two podcasts a month featuring industry experts and thought leaders discussing how work is changing and evolving. You could say that the future of work is now.

[00:00:36] - Doug Foulkes
I'm Doug Foulkes, and this week with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar, we catch up with Nathalie Marquez Courtney, an award-winning writer, and photographer who loves getting inspired by creative people and how they work. She writes and shoots stories for Ireland's leading publications, including The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Image, and Irish Tatler. Her photography work has been published in a wide variety of national and international publications, including The New York Times and The Guardian.

[00:01:08] - Doug Foulkes
Nathalie is also a self-confessed tech nerd, and when not shooting or writing, she can usually be found on a beach in her new hometown of Galway in the west of Ireland. Today we'll find out how Nathalie's Mexican birthplace, growing up in a circus, and her eventual move to Ireland all shaped her outlook on work today. We'll delve into imposter syndrome and see how it affects both men and women, and why visual storytelling is a critical skill for the future. But first, Claire.

[00:01:41] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, the reason why we really wanted to bring you on to the podcast today was because you are one of those human beings that have really just successfully been able to evolve and change your own skillset to match what the market needs, but also very much what you personally need to actually just grow in your career. And I think that is one of the critical skillsets in this new world of work that we find ourselves in.

[00:02:07] - Claire Haidar
And so starting off, you've tried on many careers and you've actually come back full circle to where you started and what your passion is. If you were to explain yourself in a Venn diagram, what would it look like?

[00:02:20] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
It's so funny you say Venn diagram because, I don't know if you know this, but I have a tattoo on my arm that actually looks like three Venn diagram circles. I think even though they all seem really disconnected, and all the different things I've been lucky enough to work on do seem quite disconnected and almost opposite ends of the scale, for me it's the same thing that draws me in over and over and over. And that's usually people and curiosity, just being curious about something, and that has served me so well in terms of just honouring the kind of work that I want to do.

[00:02:54] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Sometimes I felt terrible imposter syndrome entering a new industry or talking about a topic that I knew nothing about or learning about a topic I knew nothing about, and felt daunted by everything I didn't know. But knowing that it was something I was genuinely curious about and being interested in the people working in that space just helped me overcome those fears and sort of push through.

[00:03:16] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I've had this Post-It on my desk, and I think I had it on my desk when I was working with you as well. It was a quote from Professor Aiden Moran, who was one of my lectures in UCD here in Dublin. He was a sports psychologist, and I was lucky enough to get to interview him as part of my job years later.

[00:03:31] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And we were talking about career advice for teenagers, and he gave me this tip and he said, and I'm paraphrasing probably terribly, "Passion is more important than intellect. Don't ask yourself, 'Am I smart enough?' But ask yourself, 'Am I interested enough?'"

[00:03:46] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And that's, for me, become my litmus test. I literally have it on the Post-It of every company I've ever worked at. Whenever I feel doubts about whether I'm doing the right thing it's, am I curious about this? Am I interested in it? And if I am, I know that I will do the work to get to the level I need to get to in order to feel I'm doing well in this particular field.

[00:04:08] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I strive and I don't always succeed, but I try really hard to approach things with an "if it's not a hell yes, then it's a no" mentality. If it excites me and puts a bit of fire in my belly, I will just chase that little rabbit down that hole and see where it takes me. And sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't, and I think it definitely looks a bit like I've come full circle, but I feel like it's sort of full circle with quite a few tweaks, if that makes any sense.

[00:04:30] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And a lot of the work I do is very similar to the work I did maybe four or five years ago, and a lot of it is very, very different. Or at the very least, I feel I look at it with a different perspective, having worked at a few different places.

[00:04:41] - Claire Haidar
Just so much in what you've just shared there with us. And just to answer your question, yes, I do know about the Venn diagram and the tattoo, and that's exactly why it's the opening question.

[00:04:52] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Love it, love it.

[00:04:56] - Doug Foulkes
Nathalie, I'm going to jump in nice and early and say hello, nice to meet you.

[00:05:00] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Hello Doug, how are you?

[00:05:02] - Doug Foulkes
Quite often when we ask for a little bit of background and a little bit of your childhood, it's very much of the same, the same. But you were raised in a circus, so I'm really excited to ask you to just share some of those earliest memories about the circus, and obviously how that played out and applied to you as you grew older, and even now in your everyday work environment.

[00:05:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Yes. Well, I need to add the caveat that I had very little to do with my cool circus history, because the joke of the family is that I ran away from the circus as opposed to people who ran away with the circus. I was very much the nerd, my head in books, the first to go to college, but I'm immensely proud of it.

[00:05:47] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
One of my earliest memories, my father's family have a trapeze background, and we were in Mexico and my earliest memory is training for the trapeze. I think I might have been four or five, and he was the catcher, and getting strapped into the harness and holding the bars and having that kind of chalky resin in my hands. My uncles were trapeze artists, my cousins were training.

[00:06:09] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
So it was scary, you're up very high, but at the same time there was this real sense of feeling connected and continuing to do with what your family had been doing. That's one of my earliest circus memories.

[00:06:23] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
To answer the second part of your question, I mean, I feel like I use what I learned in the circus almost every single day. And in many ways it's not too different from somebody who grew up in a family business, this idea of everybody mucking in and doing what it takes to get it done.

[00:06:38] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Whether it's working in a grocers or a B and B, it's the same kind of mentality I think, that kind of "show must go on" mentality. And I credit that with getting me through every single stressful magazine press week, every single deadline that felt unmeetable. Just that sense of rolling with the punches, mucking in, figuring it out as you went along.

[00:06:59] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think that has stood to me probably the best, and it's one of the skills I lean on the most. I think of all the things that have gone wrong, and everything that you could imagine could go wrong in the circus has gone wrong. The wind has blown down the tent, animals have gotten out, somebody has gotten injured, the clown's gone missing, and the show still goes on. That really genuinely is a true thing that circus people have in their core. No matter what, the show will go on. So that has stood by me very, very well.

[00:07:30] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, it's so true what you said because I saw that when you worked with us in those very early days. You came into the company, and it was literally just a raw idea that Tracy and I put down on the table in front of you, and we said, "Nathalie, we don't know where this is going to go, we don't know where it's going to evolve to, but we need you to build the base of it." I think I didn't realize it at the time, but now that you've just said what you've said, I think you literally did that.

[00:07:58] - Claire Haidar
You saw it as a production that needed definition. You brought the players in and you put that production together.

[00:08:08] - Claire Haidar
And it didn't turn out how any of us expected it to, but the interesting thing is, is that that work that you did in that early phase is actually something that we're now bringing to customers. The market is now ready for it, and we're moving forward with it, and we wouldn't be able to do that if it wasn't for that early work that you did with your circus experience.

[00:08:28] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Oh, I love that. Oh, I love that. That's so wonderful to hear, thank you. But I mean, that's what it was. You and Tracy had your tickets, you had your popcorn and candy floss, and I had to make it happen. That's sort of how it goes.

[00:08:41] - Doug Foulkes
Before we move forward, I think in time to get more relevant to the future of work, you mentioned there about being in Mexico, which I believe is where you were born. How does the Mexican side... Obviously you're living in Dublin now, the Irish, right? How does that all play out into your identity today?

[00:08:59] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
It's an interesting one. I don't have nearly enough understanding of my own history. So I was born in Mexico to a Mexican father and an Irish mother, and around the age of six or seven or so, we returned to Ireland when my parents split up. And to a certain extent, that kind of severed a lot of my ties with Mexico. I did study Spanish in university as part of my degree, but I don't speak it very well now, and I haven't gone back to Mexico.

[00:09:25] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I found over the years that I can cook, and I love cooking Mexican food, and it has proved the best way to bring back some of those memories from early childhood. The first time I tasted tacos in Ireland as an adult, it just transported me back to my Abuela's house and running down the streets with a tea towel stuffed with tortillas from the bakery. The food and flavours and smells have been the easiest way for me to connect with Mexico, but that's about it.

[00:09:52] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And since my son was born, and he's carrying both my husband and my surnames, so he's carrying my Mexican surname, I felt a stronger pull to try and more deeply understand that part of my ethnicity. I've always dreamed of going back to not just to visit Mexico itself, but road tripping around the US. I have so many extended Mexican family members dotted around the US. And luckily because of the circus connections, lots of cousins have come and gone, but it's definitely, I think, something I haven't connected with as strongly as I would like.

[00:10:21] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, you've travelled as a photographer to Gaza to document a circus training event. Tell us a little bit about that project, given that Gaza is as fraught as what it is right now, and specifically how creativity teaches and prepares youth for their future careers.

[00:10:43] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I'd love to, that was an incredible trip. Circus, no matter where you are in the world, is all about silliness and fun and bringing joy and bringing wonder, and genuinely about connecting people. And I feel it's so important when helping communities like the residents of Gaza that we focus not just on the much needed humanitarian support and not just on documenting the challenges, which is so, so important, but also on giving visibility to the communities, to the potential for fun and joy and creativity, and the right of every child to that joy and to play.

[00:11:19] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
As I've had my son, I've learned more and more about the importance of play and deep play. And as a photographer traveling there, I actually felt that it was as important that I document that because that is also what is under threat, that you document the smiles and the laughter.

[00:11:36] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And the training was such a respite for so many of the kids who participated, and seeing Henrik, who was the clown who was with us, just juggle and the ball would hit him on the head, that kind of slapstick comedy is universal. You don't need to speak each other's language to get the fun and the humour of that.

[00:11:54] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think there's just something so magical and so deep about being able to connect on that level without speaking each other's language or knowing each other's history, and I think circus does that. Henrik, one of the collaborators on the project, he's part of Clowns Without Borders and he's travelled all over the world doing this. And it's just the right to joy and the right to play, and that's kind of what it's all about, I think.

[00:12:18] - Claire Haidar
So true what you're saying, is that play is such an essential ingredient in the skillset that people require to be successful in their work today. Turning to a little bit more of a serious topic. If you look at each of these questions as we're going through here together, we're talking about very real skills that people need in today's world of work.

[00:12:48] - Claire Haidar
You've started a project called The Impostor Project. It's a big topic that you're diving into here, and it's something that I know that you've grappled with. You've even mentioned it here to us. Share with us a little bit about the project, but more importantly, I think I'd like you to share with us about why this is an issue, especially in work settings today. And what can individuals do about it?

[00:13:13] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
The project itself is a tiny bit dormant at the moment. It's a collaborative project, a little side project between me and two other very talented humans, Clio Meldon and Danielle Morgan, and we all have a lot of life going on. But at its core, it's a documentation project centered around impostor syndrome. Our goal was to profile inspiring women that we admired, that we thought were, god, are they amazing? Look at what they're doing, and talking to them about how they experience, handle, and own their imposter syndrome.

[00:13:44] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And almost most importantly, and this is what really kind of came out of it that we were most surprised and delighted by, how they harness it to help them create great work. It started out as let's just give visibility to imposter syndrome. Let's just talk about it. But actually through each of the interviews, more and more it became like, wow, they really harness this. This really helped them push through.

[00:14:06] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
So it started out... I was very, very lucky in my career to spend a long time working in a predominantly female space, working in lifestyle magazine publishing. Obviously like any work space it was not without its challenges, but for the most part I felt supported, accepted, encouraged by my colleagues, by my editors. It felt like a very safe, very familiar space.

[00:14:29] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
So when I stepped away from that and I entered the world of tech, specifically SaaS and software development, very traditionally male spaces, it was a really eye opening experience for me. And although I loved technology and I was so curious about it all, I was completely new to the industry and just constantly dealing with just tiny, subtle, often unconscious signs, not deliberate signs, that these spaces were not intended for me, that I was not meant to be here. And it was really challenging.

[00:15:01] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
It was actually in the middle of a particularly bad day when I really felt like, god, I'm such a fraud. I'm not meant to be here. I'm not good enough for this. Any minute now someone's going to walk up to my desk and go, "We're really sorry, it hasn't worked out. Take your complimentary coffee and please leave." And that day I registered the domain on my lunch break, and was like, I just need to do something about this.

[00:15:25] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And I discovered that women, and it does affect men as well, but the original research was done on women, and it does seem to predominantly affect women in all kinds of careers, regardless of how successful society perceived them to be, had harboured fears about being found out, feeling like their accomplishments were a fluke. I think Meryl Streep is one of the most famous quotes about feeling someone's going to walk up to her and ask her to leave.

[00:15:50] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
So it was very important for us to just give a visibility. In a way, one of the reasons I think the project has sort of stalled was because when we started it, it really felt like there wasn't a lot of discussion and conversation around it. In the year since it feels like there has been, and I think that's amazing.

[00:16:07] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And that's all I was hoping for, was that I would like to see more conversations about this in the world. I would like to see more people feel like it's okay to say, "I was scared going into this," or, "I didn't feel like I was good enough, but actually I pushed through." That's kind of where that's at at the moment.

[00:16:23] - Doug Foulkes
I'm just going to take a short break to mention our sponsors, WNDYR and Pattyrn at WNDYR. They teach you how to work smarter using tools that enhance collaboration and identify unnecessary barriers, breaking legacy behaviors before they destroy your team's professional productivity and personal health.

[00:16:42] - Doug Foulkes
Pattyrn is their new product that identifies trends across multiple platforms - email, calendars, tasks, video conferencing, workflow management - and it combines them to help each team member learn and grow as individuals, as leaders, and in comparison to their peers in the marketplace overall.

[00:17:02] - Doug Foulkes
You can check them both out at wnydr.com. That's W-N-D-Y-R.com. And lastly, just before we rejoin Claire and Michael, if you are finding this podcast of value please follow us on your platform of choice. Remember we have new content published twice a month.

[00:17:19] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, I don't know if you can even remember that we had this conversation, but when it was just an idea in your mind before you had actually even put any piece of work out there for the first time, you actually came and you spoke to me about it. And I went after that conversation that we had, and I went and I actually researched it for the first time ever in my life.

[00:17:38] - Claire Haidar
I knew what it was with my psychology background. I'd studied imposter syndrome at university, but I'd actually never looked at the real data and the research that has been done around it, and I was stunned at how many people struggle with this.

[00:17:57] - Claire Haidar
And as you say, it is really skewed towards women, and it's an issue that really needs addressing. And I remember walking away from reading the data and actually being very grateful that you were starting the project because it's one of those things that, like a lot of things, it kind of takes that one person to highlight it for the first time for it to become a thing and for it to become spoken about. It's a frightening thing that a lot of people in work today are struggling with.

[00:18:26] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Absolutely, especially as people diversify and they might be taking their skills to new environments or to new industries, and that's where it tends to strike the worst. I think even just to be aware that it happens, just to be aware that everybody feels that way, I think is sometimes all you need to be able to walk into that room and feel like, okay, it's okay for me to feel like this.

[00:18:50] - Claire Haidar
I can honestly share with you that post having that conversation with you, it definitely changed the way I manage people in that I now come into meetings and I come into team all-hands, for example, with that tucked into the back of my head to go, there could be some people in this room right now, in this Zoom space, in this online meeting, that are struggling with this right now.

[00:19:20] - Claire Haidar
And there's a responsibility on managers to be aware of that and to realize that there's a critical need for it to be not necessarily brought to light, but to be managed in a very particular way.

[00:19:35] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Absolutely, and actually, that's such a good point. It's so important for managers and C-level people who might feel very comfortable in their role, or very confident in their role, or maybe it's their company, to realize that people they're working with who they trust, who they think are phenomenal, who they picked specifically because they think you can do this thing, this is why you're here, are feeling not good enough or feeling that they're not delivering.

[00:19:58] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think it's particularly now with remote work, mentorship has suffered so much for that, and a lot of people would be suffering alone. You won't pick up the cues that you might have picked up, that somebody might not be feeling like they're bringing their A-game. So that kind of encouragement and that support, and just that little reminder that you are here for a reason, you're doing a great job, it can just counter so much.

[00:20:19] - Doug Foulkes
It's quite interesting because so often we hear, "Fake it till you make it." But it's very much a case of don't fake it, but make it.

[00:20:29] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Absolutely, and that's so funny. That was actually one of the tags of the project was, 'don't fake it, still make it'. It is okay. The "fake it till you make it" thing has its place. It absolutely has its place, and it has definitely gotten me through some nervy moments. But at the same time, I think it is also okay to be a little bit vulnerable and to be open about the fact that okay, you feel out of your comfort zone in this space, or even just to know that others have come before you and also felt this way.

[00:20:58] - Doug Foulkes
I'd assume that you can't fake it if you're a trapeze artist, but I'll move on.

[00:21:02] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
No, there is no faking it as a trapeze artist.

[00:21:06] - Doug Foulkes
Unless you've got a huge net.

[00:21:07] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
You just go down straight to the net.

[00:21:10] - Doug Foulkes
Okay, so let's move the conversation on a little bit. So we've spoken a lot about a lot of the skills, a lot of things you're involved in. What other individual skills have you had to master to build the thriving career for yourself that Claire alluded to earlier in the podcast?

[00:21:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Yes, so I've been working as an independent freelancer... Well, I'm an independent freelancer now, and I've been working remotely on and off since around 2015. And a lot of the time I've been working on deliverables-based projects, as opposed to time-based projects where someone is paying me to be somewhere for a set amount of time. It's somebody has hired me to do this specific work by this specific date.

[00:21:51] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And for me structure has been hugely important, and my initial perception of freelance life was the opposite. It was working whenever, wherever. That Instagram hashtag, digital nomads fever dream. But for me that actually just turns into working everywhere always.

[00:22:12] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think this is an important scale that anybody who works remotely needs to have, to create a sense of rhythm and structure to your week and to your day. And ironically, once I have that and once things are kind of mapped out, that's when I feel the freest. That's when I feel that I am in control of my day. That was a steep learning curve for me, was realizing that I still need the structure, even though I am working for myself, making my own hours.

[00:22:40] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And the other one as an independent freelancer, cash flow is a very steep learning curve, especially working as an editorial photographer and I predominantly like to work with small independent brands. So every publication, every company has different payment systems, and just really realizing what I need to do in order to manage my cash flow and to feel on top of things was a big learning curve as well.

[00:23:05] - Doug Foulkes
That's interesting, that's probably two of the biggest things that I find for myself working for my own small little company. So I'm not really necessarily a freelancer, but certainly cash flow and having structure. If you can get that right, it frees you up to actually enjoy what you're doing rather than panic about the end of the month coming around.

[00:23:24] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Exactly. It's ironic because it really sounds like it's one of the things you're trying to get away from. You're trying to get away from the sense of nine-to-five, clocking in, clocking out. But actually having that little bit of structure and that rhythm to the day, I find, makes you feel more free.

[00:23:40] - Doug Foulkes

[00:23:42] - Claire Haidar
And the interesting thing is, there's only ever been a tier stint in my life where I've worked as a true freelancer. This is startup number four for me and if I think about every single startup that I've been involved in, those were the two things, cash flow and structure, that were the foundational pieces to actually being able to get the company to a point where it grew beyond me in the very early days and grew into that first initial team.

[00:24:13] - Claire Haidar
And then beyond that, the foundations of actually being able to scale it to a point where it's not dependent on me anymore. So interesting it spans both the entrepreneurial journey and the freelance journey.

[00:24:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Yes, absolutely. And if you want to hop from one to the other, then if you've already developed those skills you'll be able to just extend them if you decide to launch a project or a company.

[00:24:37] - Claire Haidar
While you were working with us in the very early days of Wnydr, yourself, Evan, our designer at the time who you bought in, and Lisa Talia, all worked on that project for us around the future work skills, and that research between what essentially differentiates man from a machine, or a woman from a machine, in the context of work.

[00:25:02] - Claire Haidar
And visual storytelling, we identified in that research that you guys did with Lisa at the time, that visual storytelling was one of the most critical skills in the future, but also right now, particularly in this remote world that we're currently functioning in. It's something that I believe from having worked with you, but also having observed your career as it's grown beyond the time that we worked together. It's something that you do extremely well.

[00:25:29] - Claire Haidar
Would you agree with that statement? And what I'd also like to hear from you is, do you agree that it is a critical skill that people should have? And I'd really like us to make this applicable to the average knowledge worker who spends anywhere from 8-12 hours a day sitting behind a computer screen. How does visual story telling not only become a critical skillset to enhance their careers, grow their personal careers, but also make them better at what they do?

[00:25:59] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Yes. I mean, I definitely consider myself a very visual person and if I spend a long time not working with visual projects, I feel like a withering flower. I definitely get quite down if I don't do it. But I do also really believe that we are all very creative, visual people, and it's all about looking in and looking out.

[00:26:22] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
First, I think inputs are hugely important, not just in work but in life. Refreshing your inputs if you feel stuck, the things you read, the visuals you engage with, is like flushing your brain with beautiful new information and allowing your brain to make those glorious random connections that really differentiate us from machines at the end of the day, whether it's deciding to walk to a different beach or visit an exhibition or read a beautiful coffee table book.

[00:26:49] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Whenever I feel stayed or stuck, it's usually because I'm engaging with the same type of content over and over and over and expecting it to affect me differently. If anybody wants to infuse their workday with more visual creativity, I think you need to learn to notice more and learn how to see the world through your eyes and with your heart.

[00:27:12] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Photo prompts are an amazing, easy, simple, and completely free way to do that. Just small, accessible visual challenges that you can work into your day that will encourage you to notice more of the world around you.

[00:27:28] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I did a course a few years ago called Photo Meditations, and you can find lots of different prompts online. Sometimes they're seasonal, sometimes they're themed. But this one that I did and loved, one of the first prompts was to take a picture of everything that I stood on that day, everything my feet touched that day. Just using my phone camera, no fancy equipment. Just doing that really simple exercise got me thinking about all kinds of things.

[00:27:54] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
So what grounds me? Where I'm standing where I'm feeling happy, where I'm standing where I'm feeling stressed. What my shoe choices tell me about the life I'm living and what my mood is and what I'm doing.

[00:28:05] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And I think prompts like those help us notice more. They help us tune into the day better, and I think ultimately will lead us to naturally find ways to infuse our work with more visual storytelling, and to find opportunities in whatever kind of work you do to make it more visual and to feel more effective of you.

[00:28:26] - Doug Foulkes
Nathalie, you've just emphasized just how deeply you are embedded in arts and the creative industry. But I also know that you're someone who calls yourself a work nerd. You love tech and you love gadgets. What would you say the top skills that creators are going to need to master fast in order to thrive in this new working reality that we find ourselves in?

[00:28:48] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
That's an amazing question. I think for people working in creative industries, it would be about holding on to the skills you already have developed as much as anything else. So in a world of constant interruptions, protecting your flow, your ability to dig deep into the work, is going to become more and more important.

[00:29:09] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I often think of someone who is, say, a potter or a ceramic artist, and how quickly and dramatically their work would suffer if every time they sat down with a lump of clay to throw at the wheel, their phone pinged and they stopped to look at it. My work is not that hands-on but I think the effect, things going wobbly and quickly losing their shape, is basically the same.

[00:29:33] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Similarly, holding on to the drive to do the work for the love of the work and the love of the process and its ability to help you share what's inside of you instead of, say, worrying about what kind of art is being celebrated on Instagram or what's selling well, that's really challenging.

[00:29:52] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
That's going to be something that is going to become more and more important to hold on to because we're living in a world that more and more values authenticity and values individuality. And yet you see a lot of the times, especially in the visual or creative world, things start getting more and more familiar and similar.

[00:30:09] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And then finally, and this is completely practically coming as a photographer, as an editor who works with a lot of craftspeople who want to reach a wider audience or who want their art to be seen by more people, taking the time to share and photograph your work is absolutely key.

[00:30:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
It comes back to that point about all of us just being visual people. As a magazine editor working in Ireland, we have an incredible heritage of creative craftspeople making beautiful work, but so often the images I would get would just not do the work justice.

[00:30:44] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And especially now we're missing that lovely tactile sense of going in and picking something up and having a feel of it. You need the image to do that more and more now, and I think a lot of businesses are understanding the importance of having strong, engaging imagery.

[00:30:58] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And a lot of independent creatives are also realizing how important it is to document their work, and not just their work, to document their process. If someone's making something from scratch, it's important for you to know that, to know that this has been made by this human, and what's this person's story, and why do they make things the way they make things?

[00:31:18] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
That's the beauty of creative work, and I think it's really lovely when you get to see that when you visit someone's website. You get to see, well this is my studio, and these are my materials. All of that kind of under the hood-ness, all of that how the sausage gets made-ness that you don't think is as pretty or as polished as the final piece, is actually just as important.

[00:31:38] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And it's what draws me to buy things when I see how it's made and how much they cared about the materials and the time they took to make it. Documenting that, I think, is going to become more and more important.

[00:31:49] - Doug Foulkes
It's an interesting point actually, because in my life as a videographer, the creative side is on taking the images but also then obviously on the editing. Where I'm going with this is, in essence you're saying to be proud to show your work. That may be for an experienced creative is all part of the game.

[00:32:11] - Doug Foulkes
But do you think it's something to be said about people new into the field might feel almost like they're bragging or showing off or trying to push themselves too far forward or too quickly? Is there a line there to draw?

[00:32:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think a lot of the time, especially with photography and videography and stuff, there can be a lot of, funny enough, imposter syndrome by sharing work and sharing projects. I love reading and coming at it from a perspective of this is what I did and this is what I learned.

[00:32:43] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
If you're sharing what you learned, you're never showing off. You really are just opening up the process for other people and helping them get something from what you do. And it doesn't matter if you are Annie Leibovitz's assistant or if you are just starting out with a Polaroid camera, just being open about, I was working on this project and here is what I learned.

[00:33:05] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And if you come at it from that place, I think you will both be able to share what you're proud of, but there will also be the sense of humility and openness. Someone might leave a comment and say, "Oh actually, did you know you could use this tool to do that?" Then your journey will continue. Especially with photography and videography, you are never done. This is lifelong learning we're doing here. We're never really going to feel like we've truly mastered it, I don't think.

[00:33:33] - Claire Haidar
Can you maybe give some advice to somebody who is a frontline worker in a hospital, or who is sitting in the admin back end department down some forgotten hallway in a hospital building, having to churn out invoices on a daily basis as their job. How do they bring visual storytelling into their job?

[00:33:56] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Yes, this is a beautiful question. And it reminds me, actually, of this little activity I set up for my son. So he's three, and he loves looking through things. He has a little toddler camera, and we got him a magnifying glass, and he has these coloured paddles, and he has this little bug viewer.

[00:34:19] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I was reading a beautiful post explaining why it's so important for children to have these tools and what these tools teach them. And it explained that tools like magnifying glasses or kaleidoscopes show children that there are different ways of viewing the world, and that the way we see it everyday isn't the way everything is, and that you can look at things closer. You can look at things further away, you can reframe it, you can change the color.

[00:34:48] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And I think that is just as applicable to us as grownups. Even more so if you work in a world where you feel like you're seeing the same thing day in, day out, or you feel like there isn't a lot of creativity or visual storytelling in your day-to-day. Again coming back to this idea of okay, where can you notice this? How can you look at this differently?

[00:35:12] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
When you're on a 15 minute break, can you go for a walk down a street you've never walked down before? Can you put your camera into macro mode and shoot the little weeds that are coming up through the pavement? Or can you put it into ultra wide mode and point it up at the sky and look at the shapes that the buildings make in the sky?

[00:35:32] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think if you look to do it in your work, I think you will struggle. If you look to do it in your life, it will naturally start happening in your work. You'll naturally find ways to bring it in.

[00:35:41] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
A good buddy of mine is a doctor and she took up photography on the side as a visual release, as a creative outlet, and got so much for the experience. I think it became this river that flowed back and forth and enriched her work life and made her look at her work life through a new lens.

[00:36:00] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
But also her work life helped her truly appreciate the beauty of something like just walking down the road at the end of a long day and looking at the sun setting and seeing how golden hour was affecting the street that she might have walked down a thousand times before. I think it all comes back to noticing because it is already there. I hate the idea of feeling like you need to go and spend a fortune on a creative retreat, or that you need to not be at your job or get out of this space.

[00:36:27] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think you can find creativity and meaning and fun.

[00:36:31] - Claire Haidar
Moving on to slightly heavier topics, but nonetheless, really, really critical. There's a few causes that lie very, very close to your heart. Feminism, supporting local business, uplifting and exposing the work of local designers and talent, remote work. I see a golden thread running through each of those issues. And for me, that golden thread is work, which is again why you're so applicable to this audience and to our podcast. Talk to us about why these are hot battles for you.

[00:37:04] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Those are all things I'm very passionate about, and part of it is that I'm very lucky to live in a part of the world with a wealth of local knowledge and a thriving, beautiful craft scene. And I get to see people who have made it their life and get to see this, I guess, alternative way of living. To me it's only natural that I would look to ways of documenting and promoting and supporting that.

[00:37:29] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Remote work and feminism, in particular for me, have the potential to make magic. For too long, mothers specifically have been forced to juggle and to try and find different ways of working. I think it's become clear that this whole time that they've been ahead of the curve, and that the hunger for a more flexible approach to work is continuing to grow.

[00:37:55] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Hopefully we'll see more and more situations where, for example, both parents are taking responsibility for the child-rearing, and both of them are integrating family life into their work life, and family and personal life feels more like it's living more holistically alongside work life.

[00:38:12] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And I do think that they are all really, really connected actually. They seem kind of disparate topics, but actually, I do think if you look at independent businesses, that often means that that person is able to make their own hours and to have their work life and their home life be more in tune with each other. That's something we could strive for at all levels, not just at the smaller, independent level.

[00:38:37] - Doug Foulkes
Nathalie, I've got just one question left. You started to go there, we're talking about remote work, and maybe there might be a couple of things you can add. But back in 2017, obviously pre-COVID, you wrote quite a comprehensive article for Increment where you took three different people from different parts of the world and you documented how they structured their workweek working remotely. So this was four years ago. The data that you showed there, how different is that looking today?

[00:39:07] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
It's funny, many of the challenges of remote work that the people I interviewed, what they outlined, they're still very, very relevant today. Things like tackling isolation, establishing good remote work processes and habits, helping people master remote work tools. So many companies during COVID were stuck trying to build the remote work boat as they were sailing it.

[00:39:32] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
A lot of places are still playing catch up. And I think a lot of the challenges that the people I interviewed outlined are still very much challenges today, and we're still just catching our breath and going right, okay, this is here to stay.

[00:39:46] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I think one thing that the article didn't get to really explore and that has become clear, I think the BBC did a survey, was that remote work in the way we had to do it in response to the pandemic definitely affected mothers the hardest. They were one of the hardest hits, and they were ones that took the brunt of being flexible, of working in common spaces, of not having the time and freedom to do that deep work. That's definitely something that I feel has probably worsened rather than improved.

[00:40:16] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
At the very least, I definitely feel there's more of an openness. I remember when I wrote that article, and having some drinks with some friends and talking about remote work, and even when I was working with Claire talking about remote work, and so many of my friends saying, "Oh, god, that sounds great. It wouldn't work in my industry. It wouldn't work in my industry. I don't think we could make it happen."

[00:40:33] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
As we saw, so many industries who thought it was impossible realised, oh wow, there is a way for this to work. Even if not to the full extent of being 100 percent remote, there is a way to be more flexible. There is a way to allow people to work from home at least some of the time in almost every single business. And that, I think, is one of the few silver linings that we have seen when it comes to remote work over the past 18 months or so.

[00:40:58] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, and that actually does bring us full circle. This is why I chose to keep this as our very last question for you is exactly because of what you've just highlighted. The last two years have very clearly shown us that mothers have been the most impacted by the pandemic. And there's a lot of really hard, deep work that needs to be done from a company perspective, from the freelancing side of things.

[00:41:30] - Claire Haidar
Everything related to work in terms of how motherhood, but also expanding that out, as you say, to fathers as well, is this juggle between parenting and work and really making that work. There's a lot of growth that needs to happen in that area. Tell us a little bit about the newsletter that you've recently started called The Motherhood Sessions and why you care about this topic.

[00:41:55] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Like so many of my projects, it started because it was something I wanted to see in the world and something I couldn't find. Conversations about how motherhood affects your work and your creativity in so many different ways, I think are so important to have, and there just weren't enough of them out there.

[00:42:13] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
From the very real changes that your brain undergoes, to societal expectations, to how the world of work so often doesn't do enough to support families and mothers, and how your own personal outlook and priorities can change. So many of those things were things that I started becoming more and more curious about.

[00:42:31] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And I realized that like so many big life experiences, motherhood is one of those things that you don't necessarily read things that resonate with you before you have gone through it. So I realized when I was thinking about this and talking about it, that actually there is a treasure trove of articles, stories, blog posts, photography projects, exploring this space—motherhood and I say creative work, but I think it really applies to all kinds of work.

[00:42:58] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
I've just loved digging out these gems and sharing them with subscribers. It's one of the projects I feel I'm proudest of, mainly because of the number of emails I get back talking about, wow, that really resonated with me.

[00:43:13] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
And most of the time, just to give a little bit of context or explain, the newsletter isn't my personal musings. It's a short introduction, and then I'm sharing some really interesting articles that explore motherhood, creativity, and work in different ways. And some of the articles might be 11 years old, some of them might be brand new data that has come up about brain changes in the postpartum period. Just getting those emails back is just so gratifying. Just hearing from other parents who are going through the same thing and who this is really resonated with is just something I'm immensely proud of.

[00:43:49] - Claire Haidar
Nathalie, thank you so much. I know that our audience is really going to get a lot out of this. And thank you for just bringing yourself to the conversation and sharing so much with us.

[00:44:01] - Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Oh, it was an honor and a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:44:05] - Doug Foulkes
Thank you, Nathalie. Great insights from an individual who has obviously used her passion and uniqueness to take advantage of her work environment. We hope you've enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we would appreciate that you follow us on your preferred platform and share with your friends and colleagues. Just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and their new product Pattyrn, you can visit their website. That's W-N-D-Y-R.com. And so from me, Doug Foulkes, and Chaos and Rocket Fuel, stay safe and we'll see you soon.

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