Future Talent Conference 2020: one more time with meaning

I was delighted to be invited to last week’s Future Talent conference, which focused on the theme of purpose, meaning and culture. Thanks to a line-up of fantastic speakers and panel discussions, the two-day event was incredibly engaging and thought provoking. This left me excited to see where this new work landscape will lead us. 

Fantastic speakers

Dr Margaret Heffernan, author of five books and former BBC producer, urged us to move forward and accept the new mindset. This crisis has presented an opportunity for companies to drive change – real change that will involve an element of sacrifice but with purpose and meaning as the driving force. 

A fantastic panel discussion on why acting on Black Lives Matter takes courage urged us to replace lip service to diversity and ensure measurable change and efforts to address racial discrimination and fuel inclusion. Yet another policy will simply not do. We have to do more. 

British astronaut Major Tim Peake gave an insightful presentation into what it takes to prepare for space travel through incredible images and stories. It was hard not to notice a comparison of life in space and lockdown – both isolating and yet full of self-discovery.  

Finally Bear Grylls concluded the event with a handful of key learnings from his adventurous life. He reminded us that failures will always teach us more and push us harder than anything else. It’s through courage, resilience and determination that we can truly understand our potential and continue to grow and develop. 

Thoughts from the M People

It was an uplifting virtual event, which had me think about the things that I’ve learned through this lockdown. It inspired me to touch base with some of the team at Magenta and get their thoughts on what they’ve learned and how that learning has injected more meaning and purpose into their lives. 

Here’s what I found out: 


I learned how to harvest honey in the summer. Okay, so it’s not exactly a critical life skill but I’ve developed a greater appreciation of bees and their role in maintaining the biosphere. I’ve got really good at it too. You could even say I’m the bee’s knees.


I’m a big planner. I love planning adventures, whether it be city breaks, far-flung trekking trips or local walking weekends. Since Covid, I’ve learned not to hold too tight a grip on what I want to happen and to live more in the moment.


Thanks to Covid, I am now a domestic goddess. Sheer boredom during lockdown prompted me to start cooking. I made 2.5 litres of bacon, leek and potato soup the other day, just for fun. Well, and for eating too. And at the weekend I treated my bubble to a banging roast. I’m even considering baking a cake. Those that know me well know that this is a BIG deal. I mean, I used to use my oven for storage – now look at me. What’s more, I actually enjoy it. It’s my way of switching off. So, there you go. I’ve learned a life-long skill and, if that wasn’t awesome enough, I’m much healthier as a result. 


I’ve learned to be mindful and slow down. We miss so much when we’re full steam ahead all the time, always thinking about the next thing. We need to be more present more often. For me, that involves thinking about the task in hand and not 500 other things at the same time, as well as answering the phone! Taking time to pause, think, unwind and reflect makes us better at what we apply our minds to. Learning to integrate more mindful activity in my day like yoga has definitely made a calming difference.


I would say something I’ve learned is to make time to think about how others might be feeling, responding and behaving. In a work context I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation where empathy and wellbeing have been such an important part of our day to day. It has provided a real opportunity to develop these softer skills and put them into practice. Magenta has always been amazing at looking after the team’s wellbeing and the events of this year have helped me to take a more conscious and proactive role in understanding individual experiences and supporting the team.

Lockdown lessons

And what have I learned? Lockdown with two small children has meant developing skills I never imagined! Whether it’s building DIY Lego spaceships with my son to save Luke Skywalker and his band of rebels, or working up a sweat dancing away to Just Dance with my daughter (think karaoke but instead of singing along you dance along). My kids have reminded me of the joy of being a child in the moment. And it turns out I’m pretty stiff competition when busting out the dance moves (although I should probably confess that it’s against a 10-year-old). It’s been a good reminder that the best learning is when it doesn’t feel like learning at all.  

So thank you Future Talent conference for creating the silver lining in these crazy times and for reminding me that actually we are in living through the most unbelievable time that will forever change how we work and live. I certainly can’t wait to see how it all pans out and at least I know when we our new normal is here I can hit up Simon for some homemade honey and a home cooked meal from our new budding chef MD. I may even bring along Just Dance. 

Katina Byford-Winter