Vanessa is the Founder of www.mindflexgroup.com and is a founding member of Sistr, a platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.
Find out more at sistrapp.com.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m a Psychologist and founder of Mindflex Group (www.mindflexgroup.com) who has two amazing kids, is passionate about enabling Psychological Fitness, and likes to do silly physical challenges that push me out of my comfort zone! I provide support across the mental health and psychological landscape, working with individuals and businesses to improve and maintain their everyday ‘psychological fitness’. Having worked in marketing during my 20s, I decided to retrain to be a Psychologist. Having had someone tell me to do my Doctoral thesis on something I was passionate about due to the level of blood, sweat and tears that would be involved, I researched veterans who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and their experience of stress in Afghanistan or Iraq. This lead me on acquiring a lot of experience in the military community, working in the mental health team at Headley Court (the previous rehabilitation centre for The Ministry of Defence) during the Afghan conflict, Combat Stress, the Veterans mental health charity, Help for Heroes as their Head of Psychological Wellbeing and working with Walking with the Wounded, on their South Pole expedition with Prince Harry. I am also currently working as a consultant on a joint MoD and Royal Foundation project to promote and educate on the importance of maintaining Psychological Fitness.
I also work as a one-to-one therapist, executive coach and provide psychological consulting, workshops and organisation performance delivery.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I did my Psychology degree many moons ago and I’ll be honest I seemed to create this view whilst doing my degree that all Psychologists wore white coats and worked in labs doing research (which is obviously completely wrong!). I wrote off being a Psychologist, finished university and fell into the marketing world having no idea or expectation what it was going to be like. I had some fun, worked my backside off but never felt passionate about what I was doing. Not knowing what you want to do is quite de-stabilising and I spent many years in my 20s thinking “if only I could work this hard doing something I love then I’d be on to a winner”! I finally followed my nose back to Psychology and managed to commit to a 5 year Doctorate which enabled me to practice finally as a Psychologist. So in a word….no – I didn’t plan it! I sort of ‘found’ it in the end. I am a true believer that in the end the answer will emerge but you do have to be proactive and go searching.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
As mentioned above, working in something that I wasn’t able to find any passion in was difficult for me. We all have a part of us that wants to achieve and achieve in something that holds meaning for us, so I suppose I felt a bit like a failure during my 20s, albeit I was doing really well in the industry I was in at the time. Taking the plunge and leaving that industry for something totally new (especially aged 30) was also a challenge. I had to back myself and adapt my way of living to get through the course. And also muster up a lot of persevearance and grit. It was a hard course but it was all worth it in the end to be able to be doing something I love.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement will always be having my two amazing little boys. Being a Mum is definitely the most challenging thing I have ever done and I like to think I’m doing OK at it (despite the ever present mother’s guilt with working). But also, completing my Doctorate was such a personal achievement for me. I felt very proud of myself – for many reasons it held real meaning and purpose for me. And it reminded me that no matter what, if you just keep going, so much is possible.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Having the right people around you to support you and champion you. Being part of a supportive network which you feel safe and secure turning to when you need something, be that practical or emotional is so critical. Also, being around gritty people (which I have loads of being part of the Sisterhood!) not only drives you to stick to your goals, but also teaches you to accept your vulnerabilities which is also key to success.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I love the idea of being a mentor! I have taken on mentor roles in the past and for me it is obviously important to ensure the boundary is not crossed in terms of mentoring and therapy. It is such a good opportunity to be able to support those who need some direction or help, and exactly why I’ve signed up to be a mentor on the new platform, Sistr…where I’m pledging time every month, to offer advice or support to other women needing insight from my experiences. I had (and still have) a Professor of Psychology who I call my Merlin (mentor to the Knights!) and I think we should all have someone we can turn to and feel safe doing so, without being judged. My Merlin has motivated me and made me grow in relation to my career which I am hugely thankful for.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Alongside making companies accountable financially for the pay differentials of male and female staff at the same level, companies need to invest into the development of women to help them overcome issues like imposter syndrome which creates barriers for women seeking what would be fair pay.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Don’t devalue your needs over other’s needs.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Career rise my challenge is to try to convince the world that we need to be focusing more attention to the prevention space of psychological health and that we all need to pay attention to how we keep ourselves Psychologically Fit, not just how we provide treatment support when things develop into psychological illness. I am hoping to provide more educational and practical workshops to more companies, individuals and schools, to give individuals the best opportunity to keep Psychologically fit, day in day out.
Personally….I swim the channel as part of a Sisterhood relay team in mid-June. And I really hope we make it