What has been your biggest challenge?
As I have now been employed through three or four recessions, including of course the recent challenges for the City, actually never being made redundant and staying in a job has been pretty challenging in itself. Although no-one can ever make themselves indispensable it’s important always to be invaluable. I think we will see a different culture of work coming through in my children’s lifetime where periods of unemployment or more flexible working becomes even more common and we’ll have to get used to planning our lives differently to accommodate this.
What are the rewarding aspects of a career in your industry?
I don’t think in this respect my industry is different from any other. For me it’s about recruiting, building and managing high-performance teams who can really deliver which I am clear goes back to my engagement with the process of managing and leading others.
What do you do to ensure you get a break at the weekends?
This is a good question - I guess I’ve really enjoyed watching and supporting both my daughters play cricket to a high County (and beyond) standard at weekends and we love good holidays in fantastic hotels!
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
It may sound simple and obvious - but it was to try and do something I enjoy. We spend a significant proportion of our time at work - it’s an area of life we can use to fulfil achievement, potential and intellectual stimulation, and if we don’t enjoy it, it makes for a pretty disappointing forty or so years. I’ve been lucky to have interesting work all the time and my job continues to grow, develop and become more fascinating and demanding all the time - you can’t ask for much more than that.
What have you had to sacrifice/risk to get to the position you have?
For many years work, my husband and my daughters have been my almost-exclusive focus. A demanding job with significant overseas travel means a lot of sleep sacrifice (getting up at 3am to travel to attend a meeting in Brussels for the day is routine for me) and a lot of ‘me-time’; sacrifice. I fully intend to redress this at some point in the not-too-distant future!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was younger I was really interested in languages and was planning to be an interpreter - I thought this would be both intellectually challenging and involve some glamour and travel. This was progress from as a small child when working behind the biscuit counter in Woolworths had looked appealing. I am sure this progression in this regard was of some no small relief to my parents! So I think your plans and ideas can easily develop over time although I equally know some people who had a clear picture of what they wanted to do at an early age and have stuck to that as well.
What differences do you believe being a woman has made to your career?
I started my career at a very different time from today’s graduates - being a women and developing any kind of career in any industry, but especially mine, was pretty challenging. I’d be surprised if the majority of women in my generation have not all experienced some form of discrimination or been passed over for promotion at some point simply because of our sex. We’d be fools to imagine this doesn’t happen any more at all but I hope it is becoming less frequent. I do think there are many more positives now for young women entering the workforce and I look forward to graduates blazing a trail in taking up more leadership roles in our leading companies as their careers develop.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring graduate women who are pursuing a successful career?
I think I would give them the same advice I was given - do something you enjoy. If you find yourself in a career or an organisation which is not exciting you or taking you where you want to be, go find another. Life and a career is short. All jobs have elements which we’d sooner not be doing; sacking people, making difficult strategic decisions, reporting to head office, whatever it is for you, but try not to spend too much time doing something you hate and if you can work and get paid for something you love doing then that is a real privilege in life.
What has been the most exciting element of your career so far?
As soon as I went into a management and leadership role ten years ago I have really enjoyed my career even more than before. So managing and seeing people develop as well as being responsible for shaping strategy and direction have been - and continue to be - the highlights for me.
What is your greatest achievement?
I certainly felt that being appointed as a Company Director of a substantial business for the first time was a great achievement. We are all driven by different things and for some people it may be starting their own business or coming up with a new idea which generates significant revenue. For me, reaching the top of a large organisation was a real achievement at a relatively early stage in my career.
Who is, or has been, your role model and who is a strong role model for young women starting their career?
I cannot think of anyone who was a role model for me specifically - of course this has changed in Banking to a degree and there are now some women in senior roles in the major Banks, including the BBA headed up and run by two senior women and the recent appointment to the Santander Board of a woman. Until there are a significant number of women in senior Board roles it will remain challenging for women to reach the top of their profession.