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How Black British Business Awards finalists use valued experience to their advantage

Netflix's Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch joined Netflix in 2018 and is now a senior manager in the streaming giant's global creative marketing team - Black British Business Awards

In his journey from nightclub promoter to a senior manager in Netflix’s global creative marketing team, Aaron Lynch has learned how to leverage his unique experiences as a black man.

“Black culture is mainstream culture right now and it’s driving things that make my experience all the more valuable,” he says.

Embracing his differences has helped Lynch navigate the TV industry, where minority ethnic groups represent only 15pc of workers across Britain’s eight largest broadcasters, according to Ofcom’s diversity data.

Lynch joined Netflix in 2018, after more than seven years with the BBC and Channel 4.

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He says that when he joined the streaming giant “it felt like a start-up” - but its “entrepreneurial, scrappy spirit” provided the space and freedom to make choices he felt were right for the business.

This has included leading efforts to spotlight black British stories that shatter stereotypes and instead celebrate new voices and experiences.

His recent work includes Netflix’s revival of Top Boy, the east London gang drama praised for showcasing up-and-coming black British talent and the country’s vibrant rap culture.

Lynch is among the finalists for this year’s Black British Business Awards, an annual event celebrating some of the country’s top professionals and entrepreneurs.

LinkedIn's Tobi Demuren
Tobi Demuren, LinkedIn's global head of advocacy marketing - Black British Business Awards

The Telegraph is the national media partner of the event, which is celebrating its 10th year.

Tobi Demuren, global head of advocacy marketing at LinkedIn, is another finalist in the media category.

He says: “The advertising and marketing industry often perpetuates social homogeneity, equating success with not just skill, but also presentation and conformity. As a black person, you have a choice: conform or leverage your distinct viewpoint.”

Being able to communicate these unique perspectives clearly and with conviction is among the soft skills needed by professionals hoping to succeed in the media industry, Demuren adds.

This may involve stepping out of your comfort zone, which Demuren actively encourages.

“I started my career in advertising at a creative agency, and I remember throwing myself into the process of pitching ideas to clients, again and again. It was terrifying but very exciting – and that’s how I started to feel confident in my abilities,” he says.

Demuren has since launched LinkedIn’s Big Minds Collective, an online forum for leaders in media and advertising to share new ideas, strategies and perspectives.

“The sector has made progress over the years, but we have a long way to go to close the inclusivity gap. My advice for young black professionals starting their career: The ad industry is craving for talent and innovation, so embrace your uniqueness,” he says.

Sky Sports' Charlene Gravesande
Charlene Gravesande started her career at Sky as a production runner in 2008 and is now an assistant producer - Black British Business Awards

Fellow finalist Charlene Gravesande also encourages the next generation of black professionals to always unapologetically stay true to themselves.

The Sky Sports assistant producer says: “I would tell my younger self that she should never be afraid to use her voice and stand up for what she believes in, even if she is the only voice doing so.”

Fresh out of university, Gravesande started her career at Sky as a production runner in 2008. She recalls feeling “extremely intimidated” by her first job interview at the broadcaster and suffering from imposter syndrome.

“When I arrived in Sky 15 years ago, I didn’t see many people that looked like me whether on screen or in post production, and I felt that immense pressure to get the job,” she says.

Gravesande has since worked alongside the Sky Sports F1 team during its Bafta-winning coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

She was also named as the 2022 Gamechanger in Sport at the Great British Businesswoman Awards in January, just months after returning to work after recovering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There’s still an immense stigma in regards to mental health and the portrayal of mental illness in the media remains negative,” she says. “I want people to recognise that those with mental health struggles can have successful careers and can be award winners.”

Having recently joined the broadcasting union Bectu’s Black members’ committee, Gravesande hopes to increase opportunities across the sports media industry for underrepresented communities.

“I’m hoping the next generation don’t have to feel that pressure of being the “only” in these working environments. My hope is that those following me, can enjoy going for an interview at a large corporation and live in the moment rather than having the weight of an entire community resting on their shoulders,” she says.