Inspirational Woman: Liz Cox | Partner, Cecil Wright & Partners

Liz CoxHaving fallen in love with the French Riviera and yachting in the early 1990s, I am delighted to have been able to spend my career combining my passion for both.

My skills in the yachting industry were honed across a raft of roles, starting out in crew recruitment before moving into the brokerage division, both with Camper & Nicholsons where I first met Chris Cecil-Wright. I subsequently chose to specialise in yacht management and after having spent time in the early days of Hill Robinson, I then assisted with the set up and running of the management division at Edmiston.

After having worked with Chris on so many projects throughout my career, I jumped at the chance to work with him again when he chose to set up a discreet brokerage of his own in 2013.

Over my 20+ years in the industry I have learnt that in order to be successful in a senior yacht management role you have to flexible and wear many hats. When a client briefs you to build a yacht for them, it is important to have an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the process from the structure of a deal, to finance, negotiation, law, tax, insurance, design, administration, onboard operations, rules and regulations; to name but a few. And at times, you also need to take on the role of mediator and that person to keep things on an even keel during meetings when faced with so many differing personalities, specialisms, and viewpoints!

Our clients expect the best of everything and trust us to deliver on time and on budget, which we pride ourselves on achieving. Working with a handful of key clients, we ensure they receive a bespoke level of senior expertise with a personal touch.

One of the projects I am most proud of is the creation of SHERPA which was completed in 2018. When you personally work on something and pour your heart and soul into it, and see the finished product, you will always remember the work with pride especially when you can see the client is blown away by the result.

I am lucky that my job is my life but in my down time I love to travel and am passionate about diving – I can think of nothing more spectacular then exploring the underwater world and swimming with manta rays in the beautiful waters of the Maldives!

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Being in a boutique business and having been involved in lots of aspects of the yachting industry my role is very varied!  One minute I will be talking with a client about the best Captain for him (or her), the next I’m preparing a multi-million dollar budget or comparing insurance quotes or jetting off to a shipyard (pre COVID obviously) for a progress meeting, or negotiating on a charter contract or assisting with legal issues with a colleague.  But that is what I love about my job – you never know what you are going to do or where you are going to go next.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never!  I never knew what I wanted to do apart from have a year out – and the rest, as they say, is history.  For me, the best education I have had is life-experiences and I have always had this to fall back on (mixed with a little common sense and lots of perseverance).

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many.  Coming from the centre of England, sailing has never really been in my blood, unless you count canal boats.  Also, being a female in a very male dominated industry has also had its challenges.  I remember once being told I wouldn’t get any in my career as I didn’t have “a sea beard”… imagine that in the 21st century!  But, luckily for me, I didn’t let that hold me back and in a strange way, it made me stronger and more determined.  I have found that once people experience my dedication, knowledge and work ethics, whether I’m male or female becomes irrelevant.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

So many highlights (and of course, my marriage and daughter) but my biggest work achievement would have to be making Partner:  having all those years of hard work pay off and to be acknowledged by your peers.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Perseverance (and being ever so slightly stubborn).  Not letting the knocks get me down for too long but always being honest and true to myself.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think it is really important in our industry but working at smaller companies, I’ve never had the opportunity to truly mentor someone, in the proper sense of the word. When in management, crew could call me “Auntie Liz” as we would discuss their career options or if they just wanted some help with a situation onboard.  And during the last newbuild I did, the crew and I built up a great relationship.  Some of the interior crew would ask me “how did I get to know so much” and “what path should I take to do what you are doing?”.  It was humbling to think that others saw me as a successful female in yachting.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Wow.  That’s hard.  But if I had to find one thing, it would be the mentality of senior management.  Everything is communicated from the top down and I don’t just mean mission statements but attitudes and behaviours.  There is nothing a female worker can’t do (if qualified and experienced) that a male counterpart can.  Senior management, be it ashore or on yachts, must acknowledge that reality and change their perceptions of females in the workplace.  Luckily our founder, Chris, is hugely supportive of this which is reflected within the company.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Stand up for yourself more, without getting emotional!  Let your voice be heard and don’t allow yourself to accept the stereotypical roles in the workplace.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To learn to grow into my new role, and how to meet my colleague’s expectations as that role unfurls.  You should never stop learning, about the job, about the wider industry and about yourself.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

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