Cilla Snowball

Governor, Wellcome Trust


Cilla is an independent director serving on the boards of the Wellcome Trust and Derwent London plc. She’s chaired the Women’s Business Council, the GREAT Private Sector Council and the Advertising Association and has served on the boards of Comic Relief, Macmillan Cancer Support and Business in the Community. She started her career in advertising and ran the Abbott Mead Vickers Group from 2006 to 2018. AMVBBDO was the largest UK advertising agency over that time. She was made a Dame in 2017 for services to advertising, diversity and equality.

1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given 

‘Business is about relationships’. Building relationships of influence with colleagues and customers is at the heart of most organisations and, particularly in a service business, defines their success. The best leaders I’ve worked with and for have been dedicated to their colleagues and customers and effective not only within their own organisations but in building external partnerships and networks that make a difference.

2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given 

‘I want never gets’. My late mother said this repeatedly to us as kids. We were either very needy, greedy or impolite or quite possibly a combination of all three. Anyway we heeded the advice and never dared utter those words. She was right about unselfishness and good manners of course. But I think it’s bad advice to avoid asking for what you want in and from your career. It’s so much more productive to be direct about it and for others to help you understand whether what you want is workable. It saves an awful lot of time. Delivered in the right way, ‘I want’ can serve two important purposes – getting personal clarity on what you really want from your career and allowing others to help frame and/or deliver your expectations.

3. What would you tell your younger self? 

Keep learning, because you develop faster the wider your career and personal interests. Your reach should exceed your grasp. Keep listening, because the answer always comes from others, rarely you. Seek out those people who share your values as you’ll do your best work and have more fun.

4. What excites you most about the future of your industry? 

I’ve been lucky to work in several industries. I’ve been inspired by the power of creativity to move people and drive economic growth. By the office of the future delivering greener and more flexible working. By the capacity of science to solve the urgent health challenges of our time through scientific discovery in infectious disease, mental health and climate change.

5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My three kids, growing up magnificently. At work I am inspired by the incredible scientists working so selflessly and collaboratively to find solutions to world problems, at speed. The speed and rigour of the global vaccine development programme on Covid-19 has been nothing short of remarkable.

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