Disney may be known as the creator of Mickey Mouse but Divya Sachdeva did a host of other roles at the company before moving into animation.
She first gained valuable experience working as a presentation scheduler and programme co-ordinator for Disney Channel and Disney Junior, before taking over as a programme planner for Disney XD Channel. “I worked across Disney Channels in the UK and across Africa and the Middle East, strategically planning new content across the Disney Channels portfolio and working closely with marketing, promo teams and media planning,” she explains.
But she was always curious to learn more about storytelling and writing, and so took a plunge into the world of animation five years ago, becoming a coordinator of animation and digital at the company.
She was suddenly reading outlines, premises and scripts and providing editorial feedback to writers on series. She also analysed animatics and animations, providing feedback to studios, assessing voiceovers and music, and learned the start-to-end process of animation.
It was a full-on learning experience, even though a great one. So she was delighted to discover a support network in the shape of Animated Women UK and its Helen North Achieve programme.
The programme is an intensive introduction to strategic career management for women in VFX and animation. Backed by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund with contributions from UK animation productions and with additional support from Escape Studios, the programme addresses real challenges and barriers in order to help women fulfil their potential.
“Each week had a core theme, such as developing strategies on negotiation, presenting ourselves and setting long-term goals. We also assessed ourselves on the Myers-Briggs spectrum,” says Divya. “We conducted group role plays, set targets, were set homework assignments, read interesting articles from business people and watched YouTube videos on topics like presenting with presence.”
During the course, participants were strongly supported by the coordinators, Jan and Marianne. Divya felt she particularly benefited from pitching in front of the group. “It was tough, but encouraged me to reassess that part of myself,” she confides. “I also enjoyed the negotiating session and putting those skills into a practice session.”
All these skills have helped her greatly in her new role as a writer's assistant at Blink Industries TV, where she supports the head writer, showrunner and writers on their series.
“I feel much more confident and reassured of myself in the workplace. Where previously I would beat myself up for making a mistake, now I learn from it more quickly and move on,” she explains. “Most recently I have used the skills I learned on the programme to negotiate my pay. I no longer feel as shy to have that conversation and understand that timing is critical. I am still evolving and nurturing those skills, but the course has given me a stronger sense of direction and purpose.”