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How I Got Here: Positive Feedback’s Director of People and Projects on making it as a music industry professional

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“Learning to back myself is a skill I’m still mastering – and probably will forever.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While the internet and social media might have us believe that our ideal job is a mere pipe dream, the individuals who have these jobs were, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasising over someone else’s seemingly unattainable job.

But behind the awe-inspiring titles and the fancy work events lies a heck of a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?

Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, Positive Feedback’s Director of People and Projects, Ella Petite, tells us how she made it as a music industry professional. Ella started out studying journalism in Australia before moving to the UK and interning at a PR agency – an internship that quickly turned into a full-time role. After learning the ins-and-outs of the PR industry, she returned to Australia and landed her first job in music, working for a small PR company in Brisbane.

Through this role, she met her next employer, The Mushroom Group, and eventually moved to Melbourne to take on the role of Publicity Coordinator for the company. Over the next few years, she, in her own words, “worked my butt off”, eventually becoming the Head of Artist Relations for all domestic artists in Australia.

After seven years at The Mushroom Group, she relocated back to Brisbane and struck up a friendship with Monique Rothstein, the director of Positive Feedback, a boutique communications, creative and brand agency. The friendship soon turned into a working relationship, and Ella became the Director of People and Projects earlier this year.

Over the course of her career, she’s worked with some huge acts – Violent Soho, Julia Jacklin and DMA’S to name a few – but imposter syndrome and fear of failure have been challenges she’s still learning to overcome (something many women can relate to).

Learning to communicate with people from all walks of life and being open and flexible change are two skills that have served her well throughout her career in the industry, and her passion for helping artists tell their stories to the world is what makes her so skilled at what she does. Here’s what she’s learnt along the way.

What do you do and what’s your official job title? 

I am the Director of People and Projects at Positive Feedback. We are a boutique communications, creative and brand agency specialising in music and culture. We are lucky enough to work with some of the most incredible and creative humans in the world and together we all make cool stuff happen!

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

I studied journalism at UQ in Brisbane and moved to the UK as soon as I finished my last exam (for love). In Manchester, I started as an intern at a PR/advertising agency and was offered a full-time job after 2 weeks. After returning to Australia a couple of years later I got my first job in music for a small PR company in Brisbane. Here is where I met my next employer, The Mushroom Group, who were a client of mine. I moved to Melbourne to take up a job with Mushroom as Publicity Coordinator. During my time at Mushroom, I worked my butt off to eventually reach the position of Head of Artist Relations for all domestic artists. I was lucky enough to work with artists including Vance Joy, Jack River, Violent Soho, Julia Jacklin and DMA’S. Seven years later, I decided it was time to return home to my roots, moved back to Brisbane and began working with some of my own clients on a freelance basis. During this time, Monique Rothstein (Director of Positive Feedback) and I struck up a conversation and a friendship and decided we needed to do cool stuff together. I moved into my current position in March this year. I am surrounded by a team of wonderful humans and couldn’t be happier.


Ella with The Mushroom Group team on International Women’s Day

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular? 

Oofft! There have been so so many challenges and hurdles but I really think it depends on how you look at them. As clichè as it is, each challenge teaches you something new about yourself and your job that you didn’t know you were capable of achieving. I think for me personally the most challenging thing I’ve faced (and I’m still learning to deal with) is getting out of my own way. Self-doubt, fear of failure and imposter syndrome, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes stop me dead in my tracks. Learning to back myself is a skill I’m still mastering – and probably will forever. On a wider scale, equality in all of its forms is a challenge we all must own and strive to correct. No one person is more valuable than another and as humans I believe it is our job to try to be better, to be kinder to one another, to speak out for what is wrong and to protect our planet.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role? 

Success in our industry is a marathon, not a sprint. Storytelling is at the core of everything we do in this industry and being able to help artists to tell theirs is so amazing. I believe a successful career in music, whether as an artist or an industry professional, doesn’t come overnight or easily. It takes time and a lot of work. It’s also about surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and can help you on the path to a long career – not a quick win!

What’s the best part about your role?

There are so many things that make my role amazing. I have two “best parts”. Number one is that I am surrounded by a dream team. They’re a tight-knit group of incredibly talented, kind and inspiring individuals. Number two is the amazing artists and creatives we are so lucky to work with every day. I am constantly left in awe of their strength and courage to lay their hearts and souls on the line via their art. It’s incredibly inspiring to be on the ride with them and having a small part in telling their story.

What would surprise people about your role?

It’s certainly not as glamorous as it seems and it takes A LOT of work.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

Learning to communicate with people from all walks of life and prioritisation. Communication is key in my role. Daily I speak to my team, artists, managers, media, brands, organisations and so much more, all with diverse backgrounds. It’s so important to meet people on a human level and understand how to communicate with each person. Each day I work across a silly amount of projects and so ensuring I know what needs to be done as priority is so important. It’s definitely a skill I’ve developed over time.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

Stay inspired and take time for yourself. Try to zoom out. There are a bigger picture and a bigger plan at play. Back yourself. Try to remain open and flexible to change because it’s inevitable. Be present – you can’t move forward without first arriving where you are.

What about a practical tip?

If you don’t want to do something (hello procrastinators!) do it for five minutes and then decide if you still don’t want to. Chances are you’ll want to complete what you started. If not, walk away and put it on the to-do list. This is a new tip I’ve learned (literally in the last month) that is serving me beyond measure!

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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