Guest Blog: Tess Coughlan on How to Be an Imposter at Cannes Lions

F3F regular Tess Coughlan-Allen wrote this for us after her recent trip to Cannes Lions. Sounds like a brilliant experience and we were really pleased she took this opportunity:

It is quite easy to get bitten by imposter syndrome in Cannes. It can feel like everyone else there has more experience, a larger network, superior creative excellence and a more legitimate right to be there.

But the reason I was there was different to most. I was one of the winners of the GoDaddy scholarship for Women in Tech, in association with Campaign.

I wasn’t in Cannes to showcase my work or to share my insight. I was there to address the issues of diversity and equality and explore ways to improve them.

Be inclusive

Any feelings of imposter syndrome that I had were probably correct, because the festival, and the creative technology industries, are dominated by white men. As a woman, I was already an outsider.

The trip gave me the opportunity to hear from the brightest creative minds from around the world. During the talks, there was a running discourse about diversity, particularly relating to gender inequality.

This is a great start, but the focus on gender needs to be extended to a wider focus on diversity next year. It is important to be inclusive of people of any ethnicity, religion, background, sexuality or circumstance and make the festival accessible to all.

At the festival, I represented Mind Doodle, the start-up I work for and the brand that is closest to my heart. At first I was curious as to why I wasn’t meeting other start-ups, but the festival is very glamorous, and despite my scholarship allowing me to enjoy the opportunity free of cost, I was aware of the large price-tag for everyone else.

So it’s no wonder that it is almost impossible for small businesses or start-ups to attend Cannes Lions, without the benefit of a platform like the one I was offered. It is not inclusive. Not yet.

Be open

The problem wasn’t just as simple as financial, though. There were occasions when I was chatting with other festival attendees, only to watch their eyes glaze over when I said I worked for a start-up. When I felt them disengage, I realised that they were part of the problem.

Despite these few experiences, there were many people with careers that span far beyond the general understanding of “successful” that gave their time to speak to me, one on one, and share their stories with me.

Better yet, many of them made it clear that they honestly wanted me to achieve my goals. This empowered me. Representing women and start-ups in a male-dominated world of big brands, I felt like I deserved to be there.

Believe in yourself

It’s thanks to Women’s Tech Hub Bristol that I had the self-belief to put forward my application for the scholarship. Their support during co-working sessions and practical skills workshops drives self-confidence, transforming self-doubt into self-worth, which is a concept that Dame Helen Mirren was discussing in her All Worth It campaign at Cannes.

Dame Helen Mirren said: “Sure, you’re insecure, but so is everybody. You need to get on with it.” Women’s Tech Hub Bristol helps women in tech do just that. They offer practical solutions that build up skills and increase self-assurance so women have the confidence and abilities to further their careers in the tech industry.

Be kind

One of the most wonderful things I saw was whilst in Cannes was Richard Curtis CBE walking down the street with a golden LionHeart trophy in hand, which he had just received onstage, hover at the side of the road so that he could give money to a homeless man.

Richard Curtis CBE, as many will know, is a screenwriter and director who brought us Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bean and About Time (to name a few). He is also co-founder and vice-chair of Comic Relief and co-producer of the BBC’s Red Nose Day, which recently raised over £1 billion for projects in Africa and the UK.

This genuine act of kindness showed Richard for what he is; sincere. Sharing success, whether in the form of wealth, knowledge or experience, is what we need at Cannes Lions and across the creative and technology industries.

Whether you can directly help the less fortunate, reach out with an opportunity or inspire others with your kindness and support, you should do it. Most importantly, don’t just talk about a problem. Be like Richard Curtis and practice what you preach. Be like Women’s Tech Hub Bristol and find practical solutions to help the people around you.

So, how to be an imposter in Cannes? Be anything other than white, male and some sort of Chief Exec. But if you’re going to be an imposter in Cannes, you should probably do it quickly, because if the rest of us have anything to do with it, things are going to change.

Tess Coughlan-Allen | Marketing Manager Mind Doodle
tweets @tessc_a  and @MindDoodleCom

Tess was introduced to Women’s Tech Hub and Girl Geek Dinners when she met Serrie at a Bristol tech event. They were the only two women in attendance amongst 100+ registered delegates.

Working for a software start-up based in Bristol, Tess has been attending Free Three Fridays (F3F) with Constance and other women in tech at DeskLodge regularly, whilst planning a product launch for Mind Doodle, a free online mind map for teams.

Tess is responsible for marketing, digital communications, social media strategy and community building, as well as gathering user experience feedback and software testing alongside her team.

Mind Doodle is in Beta phase and you are welcome to sign up for free at:

You can also read Tess’ piece on diversity as a creative advantage in Campaign here: