I graduated with a degree in biomedical and physiological sciences and went straight into Technology.
When I was tasked with migrating the website of a national newspaper in 2006, I got a learn-on-the-job crash-course in all things digital, and found my home. I went from portfolio management to product management, becoming director of product and finally looking after delivery and product for a global agency. After a failed startup on my first maternity leave (every founder has one!) I found Nic Ponsford my co-founder in 2018 and we spent 2 years researching and writing a framework and leadership training, for gender equality and inclusion, in education and business.
Once it was finished, we got seed funding and then entered lockdown where we developed our app whilst homeschooling our kids and drinking a lot of gin (not at the same time). We launched The GEC App in September 2020!
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes! When I was 9 years old, I went to ask the woman in the wetsuit at Sea World Florida what her degree was – she said Marine Biology. I was convinced I would be riding an Orca for a living…until I watched Free Willy and completely changed my mind. Lucky that I did really, because not long afterwards, I accidentally touched a starfish with my foot and realised that I was terrified of the sea – and all the creatures in it.
My actual career has been a collection of random coincidences, networking and ambition. Not necessarily in that order. I couldn’t have planned it if I had tried – the technology I have worked with in my career didn’t even exist when I was younger!
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
It drives my husband mad but I am definitely the sort that gets very itchy feet when things get too easy and unchallenging so I seek out challenges on purpose. I work best when I am brought in to fix badly broken stuff, completely transform stuff or solve big problems.
One of the worst roles I had was one in which I overcame the challenge after 5 months, and looked for the next only to find that they were happy with the status quo and wanted me to look after a smooth-sailing ship. I wanted to give them a full year so I stayed for another 7 months under utilised and bored out of my mind – that perseverance, for me, was the bigger challenge.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Career-wise launching a business of my very own, is everything I ever wanted – and more. With The GEC, our frameworks, our training and everything in between is entirely reflective of our own values. It’s absolutely incredible to get to work according to our values every day. Plus we have met some incredible people and supporters – more and more every day. I’m just thankful to past-me for being brave enough to go for it!
And personally, although I am yet to make an edible roast dinner, or remember how to knit long enough for me to actually complete something, my one domestic triumph is my kids. Those three are truly my greatest achievements.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Probably pig-headedly marching out of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m mostly completely terrified inside when I do it – but I was raised to believe I could do anything I put my mind to and not to waste time doubting myself. I mean, my mum applied to be the manager of Manchester City at age 45 – she was in recruitment and didn’t know a thing about football! She said (after we had stopped laughing and cringing long enough to hear her), that it was all about “people management and motivation” and “you didn’t need to be an expert”. I definitely inherited her gung-ho spirit, albeit geared slightly more towards “playing to my strengths”. I think that, plus resilience in the face of the failures, blunders and rejections (that are inevitable with that sort of attitude) have been my success factors.
I want to look back on my life and be able to say “I definitely gave it my best shot”.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentoring is great – for me it has evolved unofficially. I have a couple of unofficial mentors, who I hugely look up to and respect. They have been a source of great wisdom, support and cheerleading for me. I’d love to be a mentor one day, I’m still working on my wisdom though – I do try, but I fear being mentored by me is a bit like being mentored by an enthusiastic golden retriever…if you’re into golden retrievers, definitely let me know.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I’d get every leader to sit down and educate themselves on gender equality and privilege (luckily that’s the aim of The GEC). It’s not about sitting in a 30 minute training session or saying “I believe in it”. It’s about actually believing it in your bones.
Without those leaders at the helm, everything will take so much longer. But those leaders are out there – I have met so many of them, and more are educating themselves every day. Gender Equality is about incremental gains and for those of us working in it, it’s very much about patience and perseverance.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Look for the good in everyone, it’s in there, your job is to find it.
And please, stop plucking your eyebrows – eyebrows are big again in the 2010s!
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We are currently testing our frameworks for anti-racism & racial inclusion, anti-ableism and disability inclusion and LGBTQ+ Inclusion, ready for launch in a couple of months time.
After that, and alongside all of the other incredible organisations we work with, we’ll achieve gender equality in the UK – and beyond!
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