Sarah E -shot

On International Women’s Day 2016, Discovery launched a blog series on Women In Business, and were delighted to have the opportunity to interview Angela Hiney (Victrex),Sonia Belfield (Johnson Controls), and Kirsty Cocker (Condé Nast). Following the popularity of these pieces we will be continuing the series next week, and hope it continues to offer advice to not just women but all people starting out in their careers.

All three of the women who participated this week emphasised the importance of self-belief, determination, and setting goals. However, what I really loved about their advice, and the experiences they shared, was that they showed that the path you take to get to these goals may twist and turn, and may not reflect the paths of others. As Angela put it, ‘Accept that other people’s circumstances are different to yours, and that you don’t have to follow someone else’s path.’ And with the ‘portfolio careers’ that today’s graduates can expect, flexibility about your career path is more important than ever. The average Millenial can expect to have had 12-15 roles by the time they are 34 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). The key for women is to remember your career is your responsibility not the business you work for. Kirsty is a great example of this in having a clear long term plan.

For me, reading the thoughts of these inspirational business women has also really highlighted the importance of inspiration and support, both in professional success and in life outside the workplace. My career path has been slightly unconventional, in that, apart from a brief stint in Florida working at Walt Disney World, I have been working to grow Discovery for my whole career from being 2 people in small office to where we are now. I quickly realised how beneficial, and indeed necessary, it is to seek out mentors outside of your business.

Throughout my career, I have sought mentors, coaches, and ‘cheerleaders’ from other businesses, my social circle and wider industry networks. Through being part of a Vistage group, forming relationships with clients, and, of course, taking an interest in the careers of my friends, I have developed a broad network of inspirational people who have influenced my career. Kirsty’s interview was a testament to the benefits that a mutual, trusting relationship between a mentor and a mentee can bring, but, perhaps more importantly, demonstrated how mentoring relationships can grow and change over time.

Sonia also made a fantastic point when she advised young women not to ‘stop being feminine even if you think the environment is very male because it is that diversity which is so valuable in the workplace’. This sentiment really resonated with me, because my career has been all about spotting potential in people, and I firmly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be spotted.

This in turn prompts the question: how can you add value to the organisation, to your colleagues, and to the other people in your life? Who could you be a mentor for? For example, there are formal initiatives between university students and schools, businesses and universities, and many more, which provide an excellent, structured mentoring opportunity. It is also important to take a big-picture view of the value you can bring – be supportive of friends and family, help them celebrate their career successes, and support them through the harder times. As Angela said in her interview, ‘we judge ourselves and we judge each other, when we should be being supportive of other women’s decisions’.

With that in mind, my key piece of advice to young women would be this: ‘Don’t underestimate the value you can bring to people’.

Written by Florence Sturt-Hammond