IWCEP - Cultural Education Partnership Ident - Teal, Pink and Fern
Fulfilling the creative potential of young people on the Isle of Wight

Martha Henson – Digital Consultant

Employer: Self Employed
Primary School: Carisbrooke Primary
Secondary School: Medina High
Where do you live and work now? Isle of Wight

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Was there an experience you had at school that made you want to go into the area of work you are in now?

I didn’t have any idea that I would end up doing this work, I wanted to be a scientist or archaeologist. But now I look back, I can see that the early adoption of computers (BBC Micro’s and then PCs) at Carisbrooke and Nodehill and the enthusiasm of teachers who would encourage us to programme and play was a big factor in my becoming interested in technology. In both places we were encouraged to bring technology into extra curricular activities such as making short films or playing through a big text adventure and me and my friends made the most of this opportunity.

What are the main roles and responsibilities of your job?

I freelance for lots of different organisations, so it varies a little each time. I offer them advice on digital projects such as websites, digital products, games or apps. I often carry out lots of research with their existing or potential users to help them understand what will work best for them or what isn’t working about what they currently have. I sometimes take a producer or product manager role, overseeing the whole process of development. This involves making sure that everyone is clear about what we want to achieve, bringing the right team together and keeping communication flowing, developing a schedule and helping everyone keep to it, and generally managing the process to make sure that everything that needs to happen does. Sometimes this can involve making lots of creative decisions.

Could you briefly share a bit about your career journey? (What did you study? How did you end up where you are today?)

I studied archaeology and anthropology. But subjects without many available jobs! But at the time (early 2000s) there were lots of archaeology programmes on TV so I decided to try to become a researcher on these programmes and joined a TV company as an admin assistant. I hoped to get experience that would take me into more of a production role. Through a combination of luck and some judgement I did get that experience, and over the next few years moved about in this area. I worked for various BBC departments, where I got some camera training. I answered an ad to go make a documentary in Ecuador and got the job. That taught me how to edit video, so I became a freelance filmmaker for several years (as well as occasional voiceover, and overnight digitisation jobs for a post production company). 

I had also been making websites for several years on the side, and brought the digital and video areas together to work on an interactive project called BBC Spooks interactive as production coordinator (we won a BAFTA or two!). I moved to the Wellcome Trust, where I was for 5 years working on film, web and game projects as Multimedia Producer, and became interested in the user research side. Since leaving to go freelance again 12 years ago, I have done some of all of that, but have moved towards more senior roles in digital development and consultancy.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety! When I get to help people create brilliant things online, that entertain or educate or allow people to do their work more effectively. Working in good teams where everyone knows their role well. Helping people become more confident about their digital abilities.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Uncertainty. I don’t always have as much choice about what jobs I accept as I would like, and I am often brought in at too late a stage (e.g. after funding has been secured and a plan agreed, which sometimes isn’t a very good plan, but it’s much harder to change it then). 

What skills or attributes do you believe have been crucial to your success in your career?

Overall, an affinity with technology and a willingness and desire to keep learning and challenging myself. A degree of confidence in my abilities. 

If you could give advice to someone aspiring to have a job like you, what would it be?

Don’t hold yourself back! Take opportunities when they come up, talk to people in the industry and make connections, keep learning and practising, and expect to work hard. Ask for feedback and take criticism onboard to learn from it. If you have a financial safety net, that will help, people are often underpaid in the early stages of TV especially (it’s not fair, it has gotten better, but it still happens). If you don’t, you may need to have something else you can rely on financially whilst you are learning.

What do you think was a benefit about growing up on the Isle of Wight?

Freedom. Space to explore and be creative. 

What was the most difficult thing about growing up on the Isle of Wight?

Limited horizons and jobs and opportunities , but it’s so much better now

What do you want to do next?

Combine my interest in nature with my skills and experience in technology. Keep working with interesting people.

How can we connect with the work you do?

www.marthahenson.com and my consultancy

website is www.techworksforus.com

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