Birmingham Young Professional of the Year: A Winning Formula

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Ahead of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year 2017, BPS Birmingham Future’s flagship event, we catch up with some of the previous winners to talk about what the awards mean to the city, the impact it’s had on their careers and their advice for finalists.

Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Awards is one of the biggest business celebrations in the city. Every year, BYPY celebrates emerging talent across the business professional services sector. Alongside 2016 winner Abby Corfan, we’re joined by six previous recipients of the award who have reunited ahead of this year’s ceremony.

Each winner comes from a different professional service industry, but they all have their own experiences of BYPY. “When I went to my interview I didn’t have any sense of what it would be like,” Abby says. “I went in quite cold; I felt like because I came from a sector that was out of the norm I didn’t really stand a chance. I decided that I was just going to go for it and see what happened.”

It’s a good job she did as Abby went on to pick up the biggest award of the evening, and not even a year later she’s joined the board of a national organisation in her sector, that’s given her a new wave of confidence.

BYPY makes us more visible to the outside world because it shines a light on the city.

And she’s not the only one; director of Node Urban Design Katie Kershaw tells us that BYPY has also had a huge impact on her development skills, especially when it comes to public speaking. “Before winning I was a bit of a wallflower but BYPY absolutely draws that out of you,” she says. “By the end of the year I felt better equipped for public speaking.”

BYPY creates a platform for young professionals work to be recognised, as 2014 winner Sales Director of JC Social Media Jodie Cook explains, “the winner is someone that represents the young professional sector in the city and understands the instrumental part they play in growing Birmingham.”

The process begins with a application or nomination before each candidate goes on to be interviewed by a panel of judges, which includes the previous year’s winner.

Everyone seems to have the same advice when it comes to acing a BYPY interview, ‘be yourself.’ “I’ve been on the judging panel and you see those people who are genuine and passionate about what they do and what they can do as part of the city, you can’t prepare that,” says Clare Edwards. “Talk about what gets you going, be enthusiastic about your subject,” she adds.

BYPY is something that we can be immensely proud of, I don’t see many other cities doing it.

We want to know what winning BYPY is like. It’s not just the immediate effect of collecting the award, it’s everything that comes after. Business Development Director of Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy Suzie Branch-Haddow, says “You go from doing your job to being on a stage in front of thousands of people, and actually that’s quite nerve-wrecking.”

Independent Creative Producer Clare Edwards adds, “BYPY makes us more visible to the outside world because it shines a light on the city and who’s out there working in your sector. I think people external to Birmingham have a particular view of the city as being very industrial and BYPY helps to change that perception and shows that there’s something interesting going on in the professional services.”

When asked about what BYPY means to the city, Managing Director of Rewired PR, Ruth Pipkin, tells us, “We’re a city that celebrates its young talent and nothing is more important than that. BYPY is something that we can be immensely proud of, I don’t see many other cities doing it. The fact that Birmingham and the companies here take the time to invest in young talent and celebrate that is really special.”

BYPY awards take place on 18 May 2017. Get your tickets here!

Karl George MBE, winner 2002
“I spent a year as an ambassador for Professional Services.”

Chris Robertson, winner 2003

Victoria Garrad, winner 2004
“Winning the title gave me confidence and opened up the door to lots of opportunities.”

Stefan Lewandowski, winner 2005

Ruth Pipkin, winner 2006
“BYPY gave me the confidence to believe in myself.”

Clare Edwards, winner 2007
“The following year I won Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year for the UK.”

Anthony McCourt, winner 2008
“Winning BYPY might get you to your goals quicker than you imagined possible.”

Suzie Branch-Haddow, winner 2009
“BYPY has changed my life and opened up so many doors for me.”

James Villarreal, winner 2010

Hilary Smyth-Allen, winner 2011
“It gave me a self confidence and a purpose to explore new avenues and take risks.”

Aktar Islam, winner 2012
“BYPY brought me closer to the professional community of Birmingham.”

Sean Sales, winner 2013
“After winning I was given the opportunity to relocate to our Florida office.”

Jodie Cook, winner 2014
“JC Social Media has grown massively since I won BYPY.”

Katie Kershaw, winner 2015
“It led us to winning Practice of the Year at the National Urban Design Awards.”

Abby Corfan, winner 2016
Since winning, I joined the board of the national membership organisation that represents my sector.”