Inspirational Woman: Lynsey Whitmarsh | CEO, Hemsley Fraser

Meet Lynsey Whitmarsh

CEO, Hemsley Fraser

Lynsey Whitmarsh, CEO, Hemsley Fraser, has been with the organisation for 11 years and is a key driving force behind its transformation into a holistic, digital-first, learning provider. 

Under Lynsey Whitmarsh’s leadership, Hemsley Fraser will build on its unrivalled, blended offering of ready-made and tailored content, a sophisticated technology stack and people-led services, to deliver transformative and impactful learning journeys. 

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

I have worked for Hemsley Fraser for 11 years and have recently become the CEO. I have had a number of different roles at HF from Senior Designer, Consultant, Director of Innovation, Director of Strategy and most recently the Managing Director.

I love to bring creativity to a role, think differently about how we can solve a problem or innovate new ways of delivering our services and products. Personally I love the theatre and creative events. My education background is in Psychology, I did my Master’s Degree at the Tavistock and Portman Clinic on Psychoanalysis of Groups and Organisations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not at all.  I started out my career in events management and creating events for a mobile providers retail stores to drive footfall. I loved coming up with different themes and ideas and bringing that to life – what really interested me was how this transformed into sales and increased revenues.  The more we did outside the store the more was sold inside the store.

Making that connection early on between marketing and sales was an important connection and how bringing creativity can position a product of service in a new way.  I moved into learning events and organising them and soon became a facilitator and was fascinated with how people learn, group dynamics and how to create light bulb moments for folks.

My focus then was on doing my Masters and improving my consultancy and facilitation skills. 

I have always wanted to push forward, learn new skills and see how all the parts of a business connect.

That curiosity has driven me to explore new roles and always take on the challenge, even if I wasn’t totally confident at times, the excitement of the challenge was always more dominant than the fear.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many!  I am dyslexic, which can be interesting at times when you are trying to communicate effectively. Always needing eyes over my work, an email or proposal is something I have learnt to deal with head on.  When I was facilitating and I had to write notes on a flip chart that was the worst, but I always found ways to cope or just became for confident in asking for help or someone to support me.

There have been some challenges about my age (I’m 37) and if I have the level of gravitas, but I think the workplace has moved on a lot since then.  You look at some of the big tech companies with young founders.  Age shouldn’t be a factor in how effective you are in role, it should be based on experience, passion and expertise.  

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

When I passed my masters was a big achievement for me. 

Another big achievement was when we started to win big contracts and win awards for the digital business that I had set up with another colleague in Hemsley Fraser in 2015. The first few years of setting up that business was incredible, exciting, blood, sweat and tears but worth it for something we are very proud of and really set the organisaation up for its future.

If we hadn’t done that, the business would not have been so ready to meet the challenges of the pandemic. We had a digital offer ready to go and we just had to pivot our processes and marketing rather than starting from scratch in March 2020. 

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

Passion and energy.  It is really easy to give up, especially when there are so many challenges and blockers to stop you moving forward.

You have to be persistent, positive and keep finding a new way forward.

Determination is a key factor and not giving up.

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

I think mentoring is an important part of sharing what you have learnt on the way with others.  I don’t formally mentor but there are a few other females in the business that I mentor on an ad hoc basis.

I have had some great mentors in HF and hope that I can do the same for some of our staff.

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

Questioning the status quo and how things have always been.

Attitudes and behaviours need to be challenged that don’t project equality.

Company policies – are they really driving equality and more than that are they driving equity. How do we call out behaviours that are not right or fair, how to help others see when they are stereotyping or unconsciously gendering tasks?  Figuring out how the enterprise structure should enhance equality and equity is important, rather than it just being a statement, you have to live and breathe it through the whole enterprise system. 

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

Slow down, enjoy the moment, and take it in.

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

I am trying to enjoy the moment of this new challenge ahead as the CEO of Hemsley Fraser.  I am so excited about what the Hemsley Fraser team will achieve together and have great aspirations for creating a business that is a great place to work, that embraces the challenges of today and is always ready for tomorrow.

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