What is your backstory?
I grew up in rural Wiltshire, went to an all girls school, took a year out between school and university to work as a volunteer supporting recovering drug addicts in Hong Kong, then went to Birmingham University to study English Language and Literature.
I remember thinking to myself ‘I don’t want an ordinary 9-5 job’
After writing consistently to the BBC in Birmingham to ask for work, I got a job as ‘hospitality coordinator’’ on a daytime TV show, but contributed ideas and researched some items for broadcast.
I left the BBC to go home and help my mum with a tribunal case: she’d been fired because she’s Indian. She won the case and donated the money she won to have wells dug in rural villages in Gujarat.
I got a job with a communications company in Somerset, and had the best boss possible, with whom I’m still in touch. She was an entrepreneur who’d set up her own business and we worked not with local Somerset companies, but with national and global organisations like the NHS, OFWAT, BP, Amoco.
I married and moved to Scotland and couldn’t find a job so temped for a while and then set up on my own in marketing and PR.
As part of this, I held a contract with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, (then the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) as commercialisation manager, with the role of securing additional income streams for the academy. I set up an agency for students and ran drama-based training programmes for the corporate sector.
I was promoted to Head of Development and Public Affairs, responsible for marketing and fundraising and had a team of 5… but I had no experience of leadership at that point, so it was all guesswork.
I left to set up an arts-based training company with a friend.
That was 18 years ago, my company name has changed in that time, but I’ve worked with leaders at all levels in major organisations during that time, in the UK, Europe, USA , Middle East and Far East.
I know this is not an easy job – what drives you?
I’ve seen the impact that my work has on people. The joy of starting to work with someone and having them feel frustrated at the status quo, or thinking ‘I can’t do this’ and at the end leaving saying ‘I can and I will’ will never grow dull.
In turn, they go back and impact on the people around them. I love that ripple effect.
Is there someone who made a big difference to my life who helped me get where I am. What lessons did I learn from them?
My first boss, (now) Dr Lesley Crane
When I was at school, entrepreneurs were people who build chocolate factories in the Victorian era. Or Richard Branson. It certainly wasn’t something women did.
At that early point, Lesley showed me – because she role modelled it – that women could start and run their own business and gain high profile clients wherever they were based.
She started a marcoms company from her kitchen table in rural Somerset. She pitched for – and won – contracts with major organisations Like BP, and the Ministry of Defence in the face of stiff competition from much bigger, established London-based names.
She role modelled what could be done.
How do you push through your worst times?
By this stage in life, most people have been through a lot…and survived.
There’s a hill near my house, and from the top you can see miles of the West of Scotland coastline, across to the Isle of Arran, up towards Jura, over towards Campbelltown and on a really clear day, you can just about see Northern Ireland. I like to go up there and look across at the view: the skyline has been that way for millions of years and it’ll be here long after I’m gone.
I look down at the town and think about all the people there – all the families, the communities, the businesses…. it helps to give me a sense of perspective. That the world goes on in spite of whatever troubles I’m working through. That they’re not that big after all.
I remind myself of how far I’ve come and the tough times I’ve survived: miscarriage, job loss, bereavement, a failed marriage. I tell myself that if I can get through those, I can move forward through anything.
I also consider what’s the worst that could happen…and what’s the best that could happen.
Even when the going is rough, I remind myself ‘this too shall pass’, and I try to think of some of the things in my life for which I’m genuinely grateful: my health, my children, my friends.
I also try to recognise that tough times are part of the human experience. We press on, one step at a time…but we press on.
Because the only way is forward.