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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on January 3rd, 2020

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Brave Career Decision - BBC's Katty Kay Takes a Work Sabbatical

Motivation | Katty Kay | Women's Issues


KATTY KAY made a brave career decision in 2019. She took time off from broadcasting – taking a work sabbatical from the BBC and MSNBC. Katty's husband Tom, who runs the Washington, D.C. office for Africaworks, was setting up a non-profit in Senegal and it represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go and help out and also do research for her next book. Katty also brought her 13-year-old daughter Poppy, who attended school there. “She had an amazing cultural experience...and I think we’ve given our daughter the best education we could give her,” Katty said.

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Kattty returned from three months in Senegal on Thanksgiving Day. Shortly after returning she appeared on MSNBC with Mike Brzezinski to talk about the decision to press the pause button on her career. Katty also talked about the release of her newest book in November, 2019, The Confidence Code for Girls Journal. The book is an interactive follow-up to her New York Times’ bestseller, The Confidence Code for Girls.

The decision to take time off from her work ties directly into the confidence theme, said Katty. Here’s a great NBC News article where Katty recounts her fears and concerns over her decision. She was worried. “Stepping off, not being on television in three months — will there be no job for me anymore?’” Kay remembered asking herself. “I was fortunate that the BBC and MSNBC gave me this time to do something really different.” Not only did the trip help Katty overcome her career fears, but her daughter gained a unique perspective during a critical time in her life - shaping her worldview in a way that was truly valuable.


The idea for The Confidence Code for Girls was to try and reach girls before their confidence begins to seriously erode, which is typically between 9 and 13 years old. Much of the work done by the first book, The Confidence Code, was remedial – trying to shore up the confidence of women who’d lost it. What if you could intervene at the crucial moment in life before that happens?

“When we brought out The Confidence Code for Girls, it was a book with all of the research and it was done in this fun way, but we realized what's so nice for girls is to have something interactive.” The journal is different. Katty explains, “We all love doodling or putting our thoughts down, and this is all of the information about confidence and perfectionism and trying to please people, but we've put it all in the form of quizzes and games and scenarios, and there's lots of pages where you can draw things or write or just think or doodle, do whatever you want. But it's super concrete and practical.”

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Katty believes there's something about writing it down in a journal that is meant to be private and without judgment. That process helps girls think through what they're going through. The quizzes will ask them things like, "You love a book in class and no one else seems to like it. Do you just keep quiet about it or do you make the case for that book and why you like it?" Or, "When was the last time you said something mean about someone in a text that you wouldn't have said in person?" It's personal, but it's also universal because everybody's going through these things. “We've all done things where we weren't particularly confident. We've all tried to be perfect at times,” Katty says. This journal helps them explore it by actually writing it or drawing pictures or having fun.



Following her return from the sabbatical, Katty says she came back with renewed perspective which is vital in her work as a journalist. “I learned a lot about Africa, but I also had that space to think, okay, this is what this story looks like from abroad, from thousands of miles away. This is what's going on in lots of people's lives. How do I make this story more accessible to people as a journalist?”

As I was writing this blog I noticed a news item about another high-flying woman who hit the career pause button for two years. Last fall, Deanna Mulligan returned after her break to assume the role of CEO at Guardian Life Insurance. Here is her interesting story. Could it be there's a trend afoot? Are more confident career decisions on the horizon as more women share their experiences like Deanna and Katty have done?




Katty has returned to the career she loves with renewed vitality and perspective. Besides her work as a BBC World News and MSNBC journalist, Katty remains a popular keynote speaker on the topics of Washington and global current events and the issue of confidence and women. Fully half the talks Katty gives each year are on the topic of confidence – both for professional women and also for girls. Of course, with the 2020 presidential election looming, Katty will also be speaking on the campaign and global affairs (Brexit, trade issues, world trouble spots, etc.) – providing audiences with a valuable update on state of the candidates and the global condition. 


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About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Mariana Atencio, Chris Barton, Lisa Bodell, Geoff Colvin, Daryl Davis, Suneel Gupta, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, Ken Schmidt, and Bob Woodward.

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