Rising Star Awards: What happened next for Alex Canavan

Alex Canavan

WeAreTheCity’s Rising Star Awards are now in their eighth year.

The Rising Star awards were introduced to showcase the UK pipeline of female talent below management and to create female 100 role models across 25 different industries and professions.

Over the year’s, the awards have recognised over 700 women across the UK and India.

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a Rising Star award.

We spoke to Alex Canavan, who won a Rising Star Award in All Other Industries, in 2021.

Upon graduating from University of Surrey in 2013 with a BSc (Hons) in Economics & Finance, I combined my passion for the automotive industry with an enjoyment of Finance to start my career on the Graduate Scheme at Ford Motor Company.

During my time at Ford, as well as obtaining my CIMA qualification as a Chartered Accountant, I held several roles in Product Development, Business Planning, Cost Transformation and Treasury. I was also an active member of the Finance Diversity Team within Ford of Europe.

I joined BT in December 2017 within the Corporate & Public Sector Finance team leading on Commercial Initiatives and the Cost Transformation agenda. Within this role, I took on additional workload reporting on our headcount and resourcing costs as well as undertaking a project on IFRS15 for our EE business as a result of new accounting standards. After 18 months, I moved to a role where I was the Finance Manager for our Police Sector and had the opportunity to work on a number of projects for various forces across the UK. I was promoted in April 2020 and I am currently the Senior Finance Manager for our South & Wales BTB customers with ownership of our Product P&L. My role covers financial responsibility for our business with c. 12,000 Private and Public Sector customers across Southern England and Wales, delivering £0.5bn of revenue into the business each year.

Outside of the day job, I am a key advocate for Team engagement within our People Plan, leading on various initiatives around Diversity & Inclusion, Wellbeing, Fundraising and Volunteering. In 2018, I was successful in my application for a BT internal development program called TechWomen, aimed at developing women in STEM careers. I am passionate about using my experiences to inspire others through mentoring and role modelling leadership values.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a Rising Star award?

I was in complete shock and disbelief but once it sunk in, I was on Cloud 9 and full of excitement!!  I felt so privileged that out of all the amazing bios I had read throughout the process that I was one of the winners and I felt immensely proud to be amongst such inspirational women, not just in my category but across the board.  I was travelling for work at the time and was refreshing the website and my emails to check for any news as I walked to the office – as soon as I saw it, the first thing I did was to ring my parents and was lovely to hear their excitement and for them to tell me how proud they were of me.  I then let my manager know and by the time I was in the office, the news had already spread like wildfire with people sending their congratulations – it was so lovely to hear such nice words and really gave me a confidence boost in my own potential!

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the Rising Star award?

Following winning the Rising Star Award, I was featured on our internal social media channel by our Internal Communications team including taking part in a video with my CFO to talk about the awards, my career and advice to others.  I’ve also been inspired to continue being a role model for Women in Finance – as well as conducting careers talks at schools and colleges to encourage pursuing STEM careers, I’ve also continued mentoring at Brunel University and their Women in Engineering programme (now in my 3rd year) and it’s empowered me even more to share learnings with my mentees, support and inspire them to believe in themselves and strive for their goals.  I have also expanded my mentoring within my organisation and been approached by several individuals who have wanted me to mentor them after seeing I had won the award, including those who sit outside of the Finance function.  The process also gave me the confidence to apply for a new role and I was successful in moving from Senior Finance Manager to a role as Head of Commercial Finance which I started in June 2021.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

It is easy to be humble about your own achievements but don’t undersell what you’ve accomplished – talk to someone who knows you well such as a manager, coach, family or friends and ask them why they think you’re a Rising Star – there’ll certainly be things you wouldn’t have thought to include that highlight how brilliant you are!  I’d encourage you to share your success in being nominated, shortlisted or being a Winner across Social Media – it’s a fantastic process to be part of (and a great opportunity to network with so many other brilliant nominees across the board), plus sharing with your networks along the way can gain support.  Finally, enjoy the journey – it’s so easy to listen to our inner critic at times instead of our inner fan and it’s a phenomenal achievement to be nominated, knowing that someone recognises your brilliance and thinks of you as a Rising Star!

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers? 

My three top tips for people looking to enhance their careers would to be ACE: Authentic, Consistent and Explorative.  Being your true authentic self is a huge asset and your diversity of thought or personality is what makes you unique and can bring a different perspective to solve problems or complete tasks.  Be consistent in what you do, no matter how small or big a task is in demonstrating your reliability, trust and capabilities.  And finally, don’t be afraid to explore new skills, challenge your learning and step outside of your comfort zone with different roles – it’s always nerve-wracking to do so but it’s worth it!

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