How the in­ter­net made this young Brit rich and suc­cess­ful


Emma Gan­non was in her mid-twen­ties when she landed her dream job work­ing for a glossy magazine at global me­dia com­pany Conde Nast. It was, she says, “the one place where I had al­ways wanted to work”. But she was soon feel­ing un­ful­filled and mis­er­able. This, surely, was not what she had spent her whole life graft­ing for.

Gan­non be­gan to busy her­self with side-projects. She started a blog, a pod­cast and then a con­sul­tancy com­pany. “I had all this knowl­edge and no one was ask­ing for it at work,” she says. “So I thought, ‘Fine, I’ll make a busi­ness of it on the side.’”

I’m sure you can guess where this story is go­ing. Gan­non even­tu­ally quit her job to pur­sue these side-projects full-time, and the re­sults have been ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Her pod­cast, Ctrl Alt Delete, in which she chats to celebrity guests, in­clud­ing Greta Ger­wig and Lily Cole, about their re­la­tion­ship with the in­ter­net, has been down­loaded more than 1.5 mil­lion times. She has pub­lished two books, the lat­est of which, The Multi-Hy­phen Method, ex­plains why we should all be seek­ing busi­ness and cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties away from the of­fice. Or as Gan­non puts it: “Turn your side-hus­tle into a ca­reer.” And this year, she was in­cluded in the pres­ti­gious Forbes “30 Un­der 30” Europe list in the me­dia and mar­ket­ing cat­e­gory. Amazingly, walk­ing away from that “dream” job was the cat­a­lyst for all this.

“It is about em­brac­ing the fact that you’re a jack-of-all­trades,” says Gan­non, who is speak­ing about her lat­est ti­tle at the Shar­jah In­ter­na­tional Book Fair on Mon­day. “His­tor­i­cally, there has been a stigma at­tached to this – there is noth­ing worse than be­ing av­er­age at a lot of things. But ac­tu­ally, by be­ing a ‘mul­ti­hy­phen’, I’m earn­ing five times more than I did in my of­fice job.

“I’m now hap­pier and health­ier, and I don’t ac­tu­ally work as much. Hav­ing a port­fo­lio ca­reer can be very re­ward­ing and it al­lows you to fu­ture- proof your­self. You can’t do just one thing any­more.

“My Conde Nast job might have looked good on pa­per, but I was un­happy. What does that say about our so­ci­ety and the way in which we re­ward peo­ple for hav­ing these shiny jobs? What I do now isn’t in­stantly recog­nis­able as ‘suc­cess­ful’, but you have to be brave enough to work out what you want.”

Gan­non, who is still only 29, will also be dis­cussing her first book, Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up On­line. Her gen­er­a­tion was the first to re­ally in­cor­po­rate so­cial me­dia – re­mem­ber Bebo and Mys­pace? – into their lives from a young age. It wasn’t a blip. The rise of the smart­phone has en­sured that in­ter­net use is now more pro­lific for all ages than ever be­fore.

“Peo­ple as­sume that it’s just young peo­ple who are ad­dicted to their smart­phones when ac­tu­ally the par­ents are, too,” says Gan­non. In a lec­ture last year, she ad­mit­ted: “I spend more time in an on­line world than the real world.” Truth is, most of us do. She is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned with the im­pact this is hav­ing on young peo­ple and, on Mon­day, will ex­plore how best to deal with this prob­lem. “The in­flux of per­fect lives and images pro­jected onto screens [via so­cial me­dia] is a real prob­lem,” she says. “We know that the more time you spend on­line, the more your men­tal health suf­fers. And then there’s bul­ly­ing. The in­ter­net didn’t in­vent bul­ly­ing, but sadly it does make it more per­va­sive and in­tense.”

Gan­non is aware, though, that much of her suc­cess has been built on the back of the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia. She has nearly 34,000 fol­low­ers on Instagram, which has been the key tool in­cre­at­ing and grow­ing her per­sonal brand. “So­cial me­dia al­lows you to take more power over your own voice,” she says. “Hav­ing this plat­form means I can tell sto­ries in my own way.”

Gan­non, then, is a rare ex­am­ple of some­one who has man­aged to har­ness the power of the in­ter­net with­out let­ting it dam­age her. It is all about cap­i­tal­is­ing on the ben­e­fits, while also hav­ing the strength to re­sist so­cial me­dia’s Siren call. That may not sound rad­i­cal, but how many of us can re­ally say that we, too, have worked out the right for­mula?

In her ap­proach to the in­ter­net and to the ways in which we struc­ture our ca­reer, Gan­non, not yet 30, is al­ready prov­ing to be a very mod­ern rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

Ru­pert Hawk­sley

Emma Gan­non will be speak­ing on Mon­day at 9.45am at the Lit­er­a­ture Fo­rum, Shar­jah In­ter­na­tional Book Fair

Gan­non Emma

Emma Gan­non will dis­cuss her books at the Fair on Mon­day

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