• Make sure you find a great partner and have your kids as soon as you want them.
• Focus on the long game, take risks, learn as much as you can from everywhere and everyone.
• Be kind, build networks. It’s a small world.
Conservative thinking, low risk takers. Can you move industry? You haven’t worked in it before. Can you become HRD? You have not done it before. Can you lead that project? You haven’t done the same one before. You’re too young … etc etc etc… Stay true – follow your dreams.
Phil Jennison at B&Q and Kingfisher – he gave me my first break. At 24, he made me the Head of Resourcing for B&Q. Priscilla Vacassin at Kingfisher and BAA and now Founder Director of Indigogold. She gave me my first HRD job.
Rachel Robinson UK MD of YSC – we both started out together as young women and I’m really proud she has done so well, stayed true to her values and is awesome at her job. Some of the trans women I work with in Vodafone – the bravery, professionalism and determination they show and share, makes me feel very proud of them and want to help all women be who they want to be.
• Say yes to opportunities even if they seem daunting.
• Ask for help – it’s a sign of strength not weakness.
• If you’re not having fun at work, you’re in the wrong job.
• Don’t put up with bad behaviour at work – culture is defined by the worst behaviour a leader is prepared to tolerate.
Imposter syndrome – I didn’t know it was “a thing”. Having my third child, (a girl) helped me overcome it as I realised I wanted the best for her and therefore had to do it myself.
My mother – who told me to be the best that I could be and to never make my life decisions based on what someone else thought was the right thing.
Four tips come to mind straight away: work on your confidence, build your network, don’t put up with any nonsense and put your family first!
That’s a difficult question to answer. I am sure I have encountered barriers throughout my career, however, I like to think of them as challenges and try to turn them into opportunities to my advantage or for the benefit of the cause I am supporting. I am a strong believer that with hard work, passion, determination, focus and drive anything can be achieved.
I have been blessed with lots of help along the way: one boss who gave me constructive feedback that helped me to step up, one boss who gave me opportunities to stretch myself, men and women with a strong moral compass who taught me about the importance of culture and values, men and women who have inspired me to succeed and never give up. If I had to mention one person only who has shaped my thinking, my approach to work and life, my career decisions, a real role model, that would be my father.
I would tell myself to worry a lot less about what other people think of you and how you do what you do – and instead to focus on doing things that will give you a “no regrets” life.
The biggest barrier I overcame was myself and a lack of self belief – aka imposter syndrome. I am now very comfortable in my own skin, bringing my whole self to work each day and have much greater self belief that I can do what I need to do to be successful.
No one person but instead a collage of people around me who have helped along the way. From my mother who brought myself and my sisters up to believe in the art of the possible, to my husband who makes it possible for me to do my role without needing to worry about making our home run smoothly, and my children who daily keep me grounded. At work I would thank Mike Roemer who taught me a lot about living values of care for the people who we work with, Jes Staley for providing the inspiration and encouragement for me to carry on being me at work and Mike Ashley who constantly is a compass reminding me to do the best work I can do.
Grayson Perry’s advice is pretty sound: “turn up on time, be nice and put in the hours”, and I would add: “be brave and be kind”.
Being shy (still working on it…).
Inspired by my first boss, Mandy Warnford-Davis; most helped by the male colleague who suggested to the then CEO that I might be worth considering for the GC role.
Keep a broad perspective – there is learning and value in all experiences, especially the ones that don’t go to plan.
Learning to have confidence in my ability to stretch and learn and to therefore put myself forward for opportunities when I didn’t meet 100% of the perceived criteria.
People who had a passion for their area of expertise and who were generous with their sharing of experience and nurturing of others. They were a number of individuals ranging from a Year 10 geography teacher who was inspiring and engaging, such that this became my major area of study at University, through to a number of business executives who encouraged and supported me to “take a leap of faith” at critical junctures in my career.
• Take your work seriously, but not your work-self – you should never let it define you too much.
• Listen more, listen better, pay attention and remember.
• Respect yourself – successes and failures are related to how we feel about who we are.
• Don’t put up with bad behaviour – if it really doesn’t feel right – get out and drive on.
• Fear of not having everything under my control, fear of admitting weakness – clearly not conducive to trusting and open working relationships.
• Meeting my husband and having two little girls – against all the odds – made me realise it is possible to have balance in my life which in turn has led to success and happiness.
• My father’s mantra – you can back up but “we” don’t “do” giving up..
• The late Peter Evans who I worked with at Russell Reynolds for many years – he never lost his cool, never threw anyone under the bus and consistently saw the good in people while also being a brilliant head-hunter.
• Leanne Cutts, Group Head of Marketing at HSBC inspires me over and over again – she is the embodiment of bringing her whole-self to work and creating an environment which supports this – she has extraordinary courage and energy.
Believe in myself and get a mentor – I didn’t have one until later and it was invaluable.
Self-belief – I remember when I got my first senior role, I had convinced myself I wouldn’t get it and was delighted but surprised when I did!
There are various people who have been a mentor to me and helped steer me throughout my career, again invaluable.
Don’t be held back by fear of failure. Try anyway and then turn mistakes into a positive learning experience.
Developing credibility as a young woman in an older man’s environment.
I was fortunate to have two (male) bosses through the years, who championed me and inspired me to believe I could achieve anything I wanted.
Have more fun, work fewer hours, no-one went to their grave saying they wished they worked harder! Ask for help, and listen to your heart and your head, happiness comes when both are aligned. However, if someone tries to reshape your personality, dampen your passions or mould you into a shape that is not authentic to you – resist. Always stay true to your passion and core values.
I could point to other external factors like discrimination and not having the right connections at the Bar when I first started my career. But if I have to look at a barrier: it is self doubt. I failed to advocate for myself, allowing others to make me feel inadequate (when my gut told me I was a perceived threat). Allowing others to take the accolades for my ideas, thinking it didn’t matter as I rationalised it on the basis that it was for the greater good. Actually, it does matter when it comes to remuneration and progression. It is not crass to advocate for yourself, it is necessary when you are surrounded by high achievers or those wishing to step over you to get ahead. Sometimes it can be easy to be generous outwardly and yet be ungenerous to yourself. Create time for yourself: “put your own oxygen mask on first, then help others”.
Michelle Obama inspires me and moves me to tears regularly. She shines a light on key causes, is empathetic, smart, resilient, courageous, humorous, inspirational, a great orator and a great mum! I heard Poppy Jamon OBE speak recently – she was truly amazing and inspiring. Amongst lawyers – Lesley Wan is an incredible humanitarian! These quotes from women and men, past and present have helped to shape my thoughts and actions and who I am today. In many ways, the quotes remind me of what’s important and how one should live life. What I admire is the bravery and foremost desire to further mankind and making a positive difference to the lives of others. My parents’ pioneering spirit and lives are an inspiration. Madeleine Albright – “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see.” Michelle Obama – “Success is not about how much money you make, but the difference you make in people’s lives.” “When they go low, we go high!” JK Rowling – “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” Early days: Thurgood Marshall (US Judge & civil rights campaigner) and Martin Luther King (civil rights campaigner) – great orators and humanitarians. Rosa Parks – human & civil rights activist
• The knowledge that you can successfully have a family and a career.
• Generally worry less and relax into learning at each and every moment, rather than working so hard.
Misogyny and politics – some people do play a game; learning to be myself, rise above, see it for what it was, and don’t be fearful of them.
Several people: my grandmother was a single parent bringing up two boys during and after the war. She worked in an armaments factory, became the supervisor and shop steward, she was awarded the British Empire Medal on her retirement. Hard work, no-nonsense and lots of love. Anything was possible.
Some of my bosses – at GSK I was promoted whilst on maternity leave; at AstraZeneca, I had fantastic male and female client bosses who were inspirational and inclusive; at Ferguson, I’ve managed to bring nearly 30 years of experience together, and I am very comfortable in my skin and in my position on the Executive Committee.