Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
More the opposite, I studied law and actively chose not pursue a legal career as it was too structured and mapped out. I wanted more uncertainty and freedom to see how my career would evolve. My motto has been to ‘proactively be in the right place at the right time’ i.e work hard, study, meet people, build your knowledge and connections, develop yourself. Career opportunities and an exciting life will develop from that.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
I’ve faced challenges of projects being cancelled, management being recycled, new leadership wanting to pursue different strategies, complex political situations and company takeovers. Change has been and will continue to be the only constant. I like things evolving. I like trying new things. That helps as does an innate sense of resourcefulness and being able to handle whatever situations arise.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
Be curious, ask lots of questions, be open-minded, seek advice from peers and leaders in other organisations, understand the history but baseline the past and make it clear a new phase is starting. Back yourself. Think of your role as empowering others to be successful and lead from the back, being very supportive and steering where required, enabling the full potential of your team to be strongly developed and on display. Hire people you think are better than you. Then the whole team is set to outperform.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?
I would focus on values and understanding what’s truly important to the candidates in life including their career. I would seek out the strongest match with our actual and aspirational culture.
How do you manage your own boss?
Support, pushing for delegation, being quick & efficient to deliver what’s required, sounding board advice for numerous people and business situations. I will gently and discreetly call out directions/plans which seem off track.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
Emails on the train in both directions!
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?
Let people know your interests and ambitions, management don’t always spot who’s up for leadership development. People must take control of their own careers, not just sit back and wait for promotions to appear because they do a good job. Demonstrate self-initiative, can-do attitude and be reliable. Put your hand up for additional projects e.g strategy reviews, innovation groups, cross-business projects and HR led initiatives. Working on projects, and providing a strong contribution, with senior managers and colleagues from other departments is one of the best ways to get noticed.
How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
Yes I’ve had a variety of coaches which have allowed me to become more authentic and self-assured. I’ve not really had official mentors but I do seek advice from numerous business leaders within and outside of Finance. It’s fantastic how much people are willing to help others and always so good to know you are not alone, especially as you become a senior leader. It’s then even more important to have guidance from outside your organisation.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?
Yes, it’s hugely important, I actually think it’s better not to think of it as ‘networking’, it almost gives a falsehood to it. Just focus on going to events, talking to people in the office, doing extra-curricular activities and meeting people. Chat like a human being about what you do, what you care about, what worries you and what you need/are interested in…then see the opportunities open up. I don’t love walking into a room full of strangers but I do love speaking on panels and presenting. That’s a great way to meet people as they tend to approach you. Otherwise I know I’m best meeting new people in small groups or 1 on 1 so I focus on that when I go to events and partake in the ‘networking’ bit i.e seek out people who seem open to chat and get talking!
What does the future hold for you?
Who knows but I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more along the way!