Lucy Parsons is the founder of Life More Extraordinary, where she coaches high-achieving 15 – 18 year olds in how to get top exam grades and get into the best universities.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was brought up on sheep farm in the village of Welford in Northamptonshire. On a family day-trip to Cambridge, when I was nine, I decided that I absolutely had to study at Cambridge University. There was just something about the atmosphere of the place. I went to my village school and two local comprehensive schools that didn’t know a lot about getting people into Oxbridge. However, I made it my mission to achieve my dream and eventually earned five A grades in my A Levels and a place at Newnham College, Cambridge to read geography.
After graduating I was head-hunted for my first graduate role with Tesco.com. I then returned to Cambridge to train to be a teacher. I taught in secondary schools for four years before starting my family (I have a six year old and a four year old). I invented my current role, as an Academic Coach helping 15-18 year olds to get the top grades and into Oxbridge and other top universities as a way to inspire others with my passion for education whilst working from home so I could be very present for my family.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No! I did have a vague idea in my first three years out of university that I’d like to be a director at Tesco, then an MP, then finish my career as a teacher. It didn’t work out that way. I’m sure I’ll never be a director of a FTSE 100 company but I may still become an MP and I’ve been a teacher.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
My biggest challenge in achieving my dreams was getting the help I needed to get into Cambridge. The school I went to for sixth form was very supportive but the previous school was a bit clueless. In my current role my biggest challenge has been learning everything to do with running a business, from sales and marketing to websites and book-keeping!
On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?
I get up a 6am to meditate and exercise. This is my precious time, my power hour and I guard it fiercely for myself. It sets me up for the day.
I often work in the evenings, working one-to-one with my private clients coaching them with study skills or helping them to perfect their university applications. However, I always have an hour between work and bed. In this time I catch-up with my husband, read and just relax. It’s important to let my brain wind-down so that I get a good night’s sleep.
Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?
After I had my first child we moved from Berkshire to Northamptonshire to be closer to family. I left my teaching job half-way through maternity leave. I wanted to work part-time but couldn’t’ find part-time geography teaching roles within a reasonable distance of my home. I was left with no choice but to invent my own role, as an Academic Coach, which I could do from home. My work enables me to take my children to school, pick them up, take them to various clubs and activities, put them to bed and fit all my work around their needs. It’s ideal for family life – I just wish I got to see a bit more of my husband in the evenings, because that’s the time that I work with my clients.
Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?
When I was in my first role with Tesco.com a couple of the directors took a strong interest in my career. I really appreciated their time and learnt a great deal from them. However, since then, I haven’t had a mentor or sponsor.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I would love all women to be able to work as flexibly as I do for myself. I know this isn’t entirely possible in careers such as teaching where a certain amount of timetabled face-to-face time is an integral part of the job, but employers can be a lot more flexible around the edges of this so that women aren’t being forced to choose between work and family.
If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?
My book will have been published, I will be famous in my field of work for the quality and results that I achieve and women (both the students that I work with and their mothers) will look to me as a role-model for how to successfully combine rewarding and gratifying work with being very present and involved in their children’s lives.